Nothing you do not need
April 11, 2009 1:53 PM   Subscribe

TattooFilter. Looking for a poetic version of the phrase "Nothing you do not need."

I am getting a new tattoo to act as a constant reminder of the way I am striving to live. In the past year I've worked towards a more modest life. I've minimized my expenses, eliminated all but the smallest of luxuries, and I'm giving to charity the money I've saved. (Though the irony of spending money on a [seemingly unnecessary] tattoo is not lost on me...)

The phrase "nothing you do not need" is constantly running in the back of my mind and I'd like to get a tattoo of it, though I'm looking for a more poetic version.

I like the way the phrase sounds and feels; the cadence. It's just not as poetic as I'd like. 'Nothing' and 'need' are the main words that resonate with me and I'd like the phrase to include both, though it's not absolutely necessary.

I'm also open to quotes you think might work, though I'd like to keep it to just a few words. Any ideas?

Thanks, as always.
posted by anthropoid to Religion & Philosophy (31 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I'm no poet, so I won't attempt to rearrange the words you like, but this Latin phrase stuck with me a number of years ago and has a similar meaning:
Omnia mea mecum porto
posted by carsonb at 2:02 PM on April 11, 2009 [9 favorites]

'Need nothing' might be an option--it's about the shortest meaningful phrase that has both of the words you want in it.

When you say that you like the sound and feel and cadence of the phrase, and that the words resonate with you, but then that it's not poetic, I guess I'm a little confused, because those things are such a big part of what makes poetry. Is it just that 'nothing you do not need' is too long? Or do you have some other problem with it?

I'm pretty heavily tattooed myself, and my rule of thumb is that if you're not sure, you should wait. It sounds like you're not sure. (And, as you note parenthetically, one thing you do not need is a tattoo about not needing things.)
posted by box at 2:03 PM on April 11, 2009

Not quite right, but I just saw this and it seemed close:

"That, friends, is all I want. Next to nothing, close to everything."

Pablo Neruda. From his poem "I ask for silence"
posted by gingerbeer at 2:04 PM on April 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Maybe ne plus ultra, which means "nothing more beyond?"
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 2:11 PM on April 11, 2009

nothing not needed
posted by carsonb at 2:13 PM on April 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

"I do not want what I haven't got." (Sinead O'Connor)
"Live simply that others might simply live." (Elizabeth Seton)
"How many things are there which I do not want." (Socrates)
posted by carmicha at 2:13 PM on April 11, 2009

Hoe about something that symbolizes nothing, like the absence of tattoo? :)

Seriously, though, something like this might be an interesting way to get across the meaning. But really anything you choose will work; it's not what the quote says, but the fact that you're associating it with your modest lifestyle.
posted by nitsuj at 2:15 PM on April 11, 2009

I think the phrase as you've worded it is already pretty poetic. I'd shorten it, though, to: "Nothing you don't need."

That seems much sharper, and rolls off the tongue better. I also think the very simple, tight wording fits with the meaning of the phrase. In other words, maybe you don't want too much poetry because, you know, you don't *need* it.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 2:26 PM on April 11, 2009

"There is great freedom in simplicity of living."- Peace Pilgrim
posted by piedmont at 2:48 PM on April 11, 2009

I've always believed that something like a life motto should use positive words instead of negative. What about




posted by QuakerMel at 2:49 PM on April 11, 2009

Response by poster: box: When you say that you like the sound and feel and cadence of the phrase, and that the words resonate with you, but then that it's not poetic
kingjoeshmoe: I think the phrase as you've worded it is already pretty poetic.

Good points on both. I really like the way it feels and sounds. It truly resonates with me. I think maybe I'm doing a check to see if there's something better? And I do mention originally that I would like it to be brief and succinct.

carsonb: Omnia mea mecum porto
I'm very intrigued by this. It gets at the heart of how I'm trying to live my life.

applemeat and nitsuj: I have gone back and forth on this and I've decided that a tattoo feels right to mark this life change. Though I am really leaning towards a tattoo of text, the symbolism is an interesting concept as well.
posted by anthropoid at 2:51 PM on April 11, 2009

To put a positive spin on it - "Everything you need - nothing more."
posted by torquemaniac at 3:25 PM on April 11, 2009

How about just tattooing "You Do Not Need"?
Only you will know that the word in front of it is "Nothing."

Would also serve as a good ice-breaker?
posted by jstarlee at 3:28 PM on April 11, 2009

To build on torquemaniac's suggestion: All I need and nothing more.
posted by carmicha at 3:34 PM on April 11, 2009

Though the irony of spending money on a [seemingly unnecessary] tattoo is not lost on me...

Only wanted to point out that when you purchase a tattoo, you are supporting an artist. Art and the support of those who create it is more than simple charity - it is a small luxury I could never do without. And it fits beautifully with the Latin motto Omnia mea mecum porto - "all my things I carry with me" - body art that you will have always. Really nice idea. Best wishes!
posted by FuzzyVerde at 3:41 PM on April 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

More ink than you might want but I like these Resident's lyrics...

The railings of the bridge
Were moving by the glass
The opportunity to leave
Was coming up fast

The situation passed across my
Mind once more,
And I decided that I needed
Less not more
Less not more
Less not more
posted by ian1977 at 3:42 PM on April 11, 2009

posted by Zozo at 4:42 PM on April 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: carsonb, as soon as I read it, I knew it was perfect. Thank you.

And thanks to everyone else as well. If there are any other ideas out there, I'd still like to hear them!
posted by anthropoid at 5:00 PM on April 11, 2009

Ntozake means "she who comes with her own things".
posted by twistofrhyme at 5:04 PM on April 11, 2009

Hey, cool, wow! Pix or it didn't happen!
posted by carsonb at 5:19 PM on April 11, 2009

Response by poster: Of course! I'm going to put it on the inside of my forearm, directly below my elbow. Now I need to decide on a font!
posted by anthropoid at 5:34 PM on April 11, 2009

I like the Neruda version, but it's hard to beat the two word "Need nothing." I definitely prefer the active "need" there, like it's an instruction to yourself.

You realize that decorating your body with this message is a bit... contradictory, right?

(maybe you're being ironic.)
posted by rokusan at 6:05 PM on April 11, 2009

Response by poster: rokusan: I already addressed your concerns in my original question and in subsequent comments. It would be great if you had something more to add to this thread than judgment.

And 'need nothing' does not make sense. I DO need things. I am simply restraining myself from acquiring beyond what I need.
posted by anthropoid at 6:21 PM on April 11, 2009

posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:02 AM on April 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

Nothing Needed.
carsonb's latin says it well.
posted by pointilist at 11:16 AM on April 12, 2009

Only what you need.

Only the needful.

Nothing but the needful.
posted by jefftang at 5:27 PM on April 12, 2009

Well, the bestselling book right now is The Power of Less. The title alone is good, but it's also worth picking up just to scan for tattoo-able phrases, i.e., "choose the essential."

Also worthwhile noting that the whole sh-bang comes from Walden. Worth scanning the "Where I Lived, and What I Lived For" section of Walden, which is public domain and thus available online, but here's one of the best parts (suggestions boldfaced):
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms ...
posted by WCityMike at 8:39 PM on April 12, 2009

Response by poster: That's very interesting WCityMike. I have to emphasize that this life change has been so that I can give more to others. That's why I am looking for a very simple phrase just to stand as a daily reminder that I do not need starbucks when 27,000 children die each day from avoidable causes. When there are millions upon millions of people suffering everyday, I cannot justify eating at a restaurant every week.

When the phrase is more explanatory and points out how this lifestyle will affect me, the vision has shifted in the wrong direction.

Not sure if I'm making any sense. Too many Easter sweets.
posted by anthropoid at 10:03 PM on April 12, 2009

Really, that section of Walden needs to be read; it's up your alley. Later after that paragraph, for example: "We are determined to be starved before we are hungry."

You might also want to look for quotes on monasticism (monastic living), which would similarly address the benefits of living minimalistically.
posted by WCityMike at 10:27 PM on April 12, 2009

From here:

"Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it." - Leonardo Da Vinci

"The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak." - Hans Hofmann, Introduction to the Bootstrap, 1993

"Out of intense complexities, intense simplicities emerge." - Winston Churchill

"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." - William Morris

"Reduce the complexity of life by eliminating the needless wants of life, and the labors of life reduce themselves." - Edwin Way Teale

"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication." - Leonardo DaVinci
posted by WCityMike at 10:28 PM on April 12, 2009

Response by poster: For those stumbling here after the fact, here is the net result:

Thanks to carsonb and WCityMike for the ideas and inspiration!
posted by anthropoid at 7:26 PM on June 21, 2009

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