Believe me. I’m no expert on the subject of the “simple” life. You might say it was thrust upon me. A little thing like overexpansion can do that to you. So I decided to live within my means, appreciate natural things like the rustling of the leaves and divest my life of all clutter.
I learned that simplicity, often associated with asceticism that begins with the Shramana traditions of Iron Age India. I studied Epicurus, who left Athens to move to the countryside, in order to escape the madness of city life. I re-read Thoreau, who moved to the woods and isolated himself from relationships and society. Were these simple lives, I wondered, or empty lives?
National Downshifting Week in the U.K. encourages participants to positively embrace living with less. They claim it isn’t about moving to the country, but about achieving a work and life balance.
I turned to some modern “simple” life masters, (and the woods are full of them), who advocate one simple step at a time. I deleted an email that promised me bad karma if I didn’t pass it on to 10 of my friends. Which would have been difficult anyway, because another simple life guru suggested eliminating all, even borderline, unhappy people from your life.
Fortunately, I had some simple pleasures already in place.
I take trains in Europe; they’re relaxing, and I can go from city center to city center and avoid the insane airport traffic. When I take a driving trip I get off the main roads and dally on Main Street USA. I consider the parking tickets a contribution to preserving a simple way of life that needs preserving.
A friend, in his effort to find the simple life, has enlisted a Feng Shui Master, who has turned his couch to the Northwest. He likes the view, but doesn’t feel any of the effects yet.
Decluttering? Realignment? Appreciating nature? Getting out of the rat race? So, with everyone pursing a simpler life, in his or her own way, the question perhaps should be asked: what exactly is it? And will we know it when we find it?
If you have any simple answers, don’t hesitate to let us all know.