What Simplicity Means to Me
What we must do is seriously question the inhuman expectations we have of ourselves. Why the "Simplicity" Movement Isn't So Simple
Well, I don't think "we must do" anything. A popular method of persuasion is to tell people what they "must" do, or what they "need" to do.
I've held such a variety of beliefs and goals during my lifetime that I'm a hopeless hypocrite by now ;-)
During law school I definitely had inhuman expectations for myself. At one point I was working two jobs while attending law school! Then I quit one of those jobs and decided to have multiple open relationships. After law school, after I started working as an attorney, so many of my expectations began to fall away. I meditated about what was important to me, and before long I embraced the voluntary simplicity movement.
Keeping my life simple has been an ongoing struggle, though. I gave up television and radio and subscriptions to mainstream publications, but then I became an Internet media junkie instead. I streamlined my social life, but then I created dozens of Internet-based relationships instead. For me, simplicity seemed to mean living my life via my home computer as much as possible. Until I reached a time when I felt like my soul was about to fall into my computer ... and I pulled myself back toward reality.
So, what does voluntary simplicity mean to me now?
Well, it means living as though my values matter. It means walking, riding my bike, or using mass transit to get where I need to go. It means eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains -- and making most of my meals myself from raw ingredients. It means not using caffeine or other stimulants to fill my life with more stuff than I was designed to handle.
Simplicity means keeping the number and types of my personal relationships manageable -- especially focused on family and a group of close friends. It means getting enough sleep so that I never need an alarm clock to get up in the morning. It means not owning a scale so I don't worry about how much I weigh. It means allowing enough unscheduled time in my life for naps and exercise to keep my body healthy.
It means realizing that I already work in the public interest via my day job, making roughly half of what I could make in the private sector -- so I refuse to feel guilty for "not doing enough" to save the world. I spend my days saving the world already! ;-)
Simplicity means giving away 10% of what I make, and saving 10% of what I make, and only spending my extra money on things I'll both use and enjoy.
Simplicity means that I am able to live a meaningful life without a romantic relationship, that I don't expend special effort looking for one, but that I am open to a primary relationship if/when the opportunity arises.
It means letting go of a variety of outcomes, ambitions, and desires that I once had ... and feeling at peace with myself as I am (in addition to feeling at peace with the world as it is). Personal growth and self-improvement will happen without brute force, because I am open to them. The rest of the world will also grow and improve, amidst occasional setbacks, regardless of my own input.
I think the most important thing about leading a simple life is to acknowledge my limits while admiring my strengths. I don't have to exceed my limits to feel good about myself. I am miraculous as is, and so are you, and so is everybody else.
As living beings we sometimes have conflicts and we compete with each other ... that is the dark side of life, I suppose ... and people expend so much of their energy competing, even creating conflicts out of mere suspicion ...
I think the simplicity movement asks us to examine whether these conflicts and competitions are truly necessary. Does there have to be a win/lose outcome here? Is it possible to relax and let things be? Can we negotiate a win/win settlement?
There are belief systems that ask people to give 110%, that push us to compete, that always ask us to see whether we can do more and do better than before. Those belief systems exist, and I'm not going to argue with them.
But they are not mine. They are not voluntary simplicity. Those beliefs belong to others.
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