12 November 2010


Oh, how I love simplicity!  Oh, how bad I am at keeping my life simple!  In my ideal life, I would have very few things, just a bare and simple living arrangement.  I'd have enough furniture so that I could live comfortably (and the definition of "comfortably" would keep getting simpler) and entertain guests when and if they came over.  I wouldn't have tons of papers and books lying around the house.  I wouldn't have bills, and I wouldn't need to worry about things like retirement and checking accounts and all that peripheral stuff.  When I awoke in the morning, I wouldn't have anything to worry about other than breaking my overnight fast and deciding what to do with my day.  How simple life would be!

The reality, of course, is far from the ideal.  But I am trying to bring the two closer together.  I do try to minimize the amount of paperwork that fills my time and space.  I do try to minimize the amount of time I spend with things like bills by setting up automatic payments online, for example.  And I do rather regularly try to get rid of "stuff" that I find doesn't truly contribute to my life.  For if it doesn't contribute to the life I'm living, then it doesn't really belong with me, now does it?  One rule that I have is that if I haven't even looked at a book for a few years, then I get rid of it.  What are the chances of me looking at it again in the next few years if I haven't looked at it in the past, especially if I continue to get new books from time to time?

The more things we have, the more complicated our lives become, the more we have to take care of.  And taking care of things usually is neither relaxing nor stress-relieving.  Taking care of things takes time and effort.  The more I can simplify my life, the more time I can devote to pursuits that truly benefit me and others.  Fixing a broken faucet only stops a leak; preparing a better class helps my students to get more out of their studies.  Washing and waxing a car makes a car shiny; spending time reading a book on teaching or learning can help me to improve my performance in my chosen profession.

Everyone's lives take different paths, so it's impossible to say what any individual should change in their lives to simplify.  But all of us have areas that with a little thought and effort we can decrease or even eliminate the time and effort that we devote to them.  Where can you start?  What tasks do you find to be the biggest drains on your time and energy?  How can you decrease that time that you spend on them?  Your simplicity is within you, just waiting for you to find it and embrace it.  How can you do that?

When one begins to practice simplicity, the ego is deprived
of the very strategy by which it sustains itself.  Nothing will deflate
the ego more effectively than to be recognized for what it is.
It lives by pretension.  It dies when the mask is torn away
and the stark reality is exposed to the gaze of others.
  Simplicity also avails in braking the tyranny of things.
Ostentation, artificiality, ornamentation, pretentious style,
luxury--all require things.  One requires few things to be
one's self, one's age, and one's moral, intellectual,
or spiritual stature.  What one is does not depend on what one has.

Albert E. Day

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