Inching Toward Simplicity: Pragmatics and Prose

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Spectrum of Simplicity

News: The House Party Discussion Guide I wrote is now posted at Get Here is the direct link.

  • I like this one-page write-up on Voluntary Simplicity, courtesy of a San Diego group. It’s a great summary.
  • Here’s a Website I haven’t run across before. lists a host of links in the simplicity/satisfaction vein.
  • Did you know that multitasking is a moral weakness? So says the banner at Slow Down Now, a site with a good sense of humor.
  • Here are some tips from the BBC program’s “Ethical Man”, about a man and his family that lived much more greenly for a year. I can’t relate to living without a car, but the rest of the tips seem feasible!


One of the reasons I embraced the Simplicity Movement is that it is diverse. What’s simple for one person may be way too complicated for another. For example, I am thinking about ordering from and today to get back some precious time at home. Another simplicity seeker might see this as complicating things with technology, being disconnected from my community, etc. As a mom, going into the market with a tired child can just about push me over the edge. And Gavin will be tired. We are taking my mom shopping at the megastore Ikea today, and tomorrow we have church, for which we are planning a service project. I’ve learned my limits. Too much running around = an irritable and tired family.

To me, the whole idea is to get closer to what your own true priorities are. Some of my own: family and friends, a creative life, contact with nature, living a life that makes some difference, however small. Actually, I like the term that Simple Living America has chosen for their book: Get Satisfied. It captures that the movement is about knowing what satisfies you. Part of that is knowing what is enough. That’s where the simplicity comes in.

I remember being struck, years ago, by reading in Choosing Simplicity about the different approaches people have taken to achieve that goal of feeling satisfied, of having a clear direction. I remember someone who chose the city, because they could walk everywhere. Another couple chose to restore a large, historic home in the country. Still another man lived a rather monastic life, eating as cheaply as he could manage, possessing only a few, well-chosen items. This may be the reason that some survey responders balked at the idea of a “movement”. One of the unifying aspects of this movement, ironically, is that everyone does their own thing. It’s the recognition that everyone wants the same things – satisfaction, fulfillment, being in touch with and personifying what you value –that unites.

I like that, despite the language sometimes sounding self-centered, there is room in this movement for the rest of the world. When most of us stop to think about what is important, there is room in our hearts for others. I am satisfied when I do small things that might be helpful. I know I should do more, and I am growing in that direction. At the same time, I have learned that I am more helpful when I feel replenished. A good life lesson this year has been the need to treat myself well, too. The trick, I guess, is balancing it out. I am ever aware that that Americans treat themselves a bit too well (here’s one example), using far more resources that most of our counterparts in the world.

There are people that I aspire to be more like. At the moment, I am reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, about the year she and her family dedicated to eating locally. She put her concerns about the environment, as well as what she puts into her and her family’s bodies, into action. I know that this is not a good time for me to undertake a task this extreme. But I am so not about black or white decisions. If every family ate one local meal per week, it could really make a dent in the economic, nutritional, and ecological ruin caused by massive commercial farms and food that travels thousands of miles just so we can have out of season eats. I can probably manage a local meal once a week, especially while farmer’s market season is still upon us.

I love to write, so each blog feels like a celebration to me. I’ve noticed that I’ve ended more than one with a “Here’s to” sentence, as if I am raising a toast.

Instead of another toast, here’s a quote from Ray Bradbury that hit the nail on the head for me today: We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled. The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.

I hope that this weekend you find something to celebrate.


At 10/07/2007 4:20 PM, Anonymous Linda said...

I raise my glass to you. Thank you for such inspiring and hopeful essays.


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