The Gift to be Simple, part 1
Two hundred fourteen years ago, about, William Wordsworth’s 1802 poem said:
“The world is too much with us, late and soon
Getting and spending we lay waste our powers
Little we see in nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon.”
“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand.
Instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion.”
It’s about living with a purpose; mindfully and consciously emphasizing spiritual wholeness. It’s about de-emphasizing materialism and using less of the world's natural resources and promoting a humane, sustainable future -- as integral parts of an approach to developing authentic selves and beloved communities.
Like Earth Day, which began a little earlier, voluntary simplicity represents values that have only grown more important. Intentionally building a life of simplicity requires careful attention.
There’s a need there for cash. Subsistence farming doesn’t pay for health care. A large part of what money they can get will be sent to a sick or hurt relative in some other village to help with their care. They used to get a large part of their cash income from poaching macaw chicks in the area. Now, thanks to LoraKim and One Earth Conservation, the nonprofit she founded, they earn money helping to preserve the macaws.
This is not the kind of simple living that I’m talking about. Even if health-care were provided, even if their life were a little less fraught and arduous, and even if they weren’t under constant threat of losing more land to cattle ranchers, what I learned was, it’s a complicated little society. They don’t have email, or websites, or newspapers or newsletters or any way of letting each other know what’s going on. Transparency about the making of decisions that affect the village is difficult. So there’s constant gossip and innuendo about who did what. Subterranean resentments fester. It’s complicated and kind of stressful in its own way.
Turning now to the other end of the spectrum, there is, well, most of us. We have known for some time that much of the US suffers from “affluenza” – defined as
- the bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses.
- An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream.
- An unsustainable addiction to economic growth.
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This is part 1 of 3 of "The Gift to be Simple"
Part 2: Consumption Up, Well-Being Down
Part 3: A Path to Simplicity