The Ideaspace

Interviews, essays, and research exploring the frontiers of what's valuable and in our self-interest

The Bento Society

In the beginning, there was the bento…

Now there’s a newsletter, too.

Welcome to the first monthly update from The Bento Society, the community and organization dedicated to the ideas of Bentoism.

The goal of Bentoism is to expand what we see as valuable and in our self-interest. We’ll get into what that looks like and how we might get there in updates to come.

Though this first update is written by the creator of Bentoism (👋), future updates will come from others in the community. If you’re ever interested in contributing or offering a suggestion, just respond to this message.

Bentoism in November

  • Introduced in This Could Be Our Future on Oct 29, 2019
  • launched the same day
  • 2,300 people visited from 39 countries in its first month
  • 138 signups to this email list (👋)
  • 60 people participated in a Bentoism workshop in NYC
  • Covered in the press in the US, Canada, the UK, and Japan

Bentoism IRL

People in South Korea are creating mock funerals to put their lives in context. Think of this as a dramatic way to get in touch with their Future Me:

Dozens took part in the event, from teenagers to retirees, donning shrouds, taking funeral portraits, penning their last testaments, and lying in a closed coffin for around 10 minutes.

University student Choi Jin-kyu said his time in the coffin helped him realize that too often, he viewed others as competitors.

“When I was in the coffin, I wondered what use that is,” said the 28-year-old, adding that he plans to start his own business after graduation rather than attempting to enter a highly-competitive job market.

Effective. But using the bento is much less existentially dreadful!

Practicing Bentoism

One of the longest-practicing Bentoists is an early workshop attendee, V. I recently asked V. about her experience with Bentoism. She replied:

“I'm finding that the concept of the bento is enough to influence how I make decisions, even though mine isn't clearly defined… More than anything else, the concept simply reminds me to zoom out.”

Even without articulating the exact values that drive you, a Bentoist perspective brings value. Based on this “zooming out,” as V. put it, she decided to move thousands of miles to a new city. Seeing her big picture gave V. the confidence to make a big decision.

Try this at home

When you face “Should I” questions (should I move, should I stay late, should I say what I really feel), try what worked for V. Think about each of the four spaces of the bento and what they tell you.

The easiest way to do this? Make the bento your phone lock screen for a week. Whenever you look at your phone, you’re reminded to zoom out instead.

Download the image here.

Feedback loops

Bentoism aims to be a responsive philosophy guided by the people and organizations using it. When improved applications of the bento are discovered by members of the community, they’ll be fed back to the group. As one person discovers a breakthrough, everyone will have the opportunity to apply their lessons.

This newsletter, the workshop experiments, and the Bentoism message board all exist to perpetuate these feedback loops. In that spirit, I’d love to hear from you:

  • Why are you interested in Bentoism?
  • What questions are you interested in seeing answered?
  • What would you like to see in future Bentoism updates?

Peace and love my friends,

The Bento Society