Quote of the Week - May 14, 2012 - On Simplicity

"Simplicity in its essence demands neither a vow of poverty nor a life of rural homesteading. As an ethic of self-conscious material moderation, it can be practiced in cities and suburbs, townhouses and condominiums. It requires neither a log cabin nor a hair shirt but a deliberate ordering of priorities so as to distinguish between the necessary and superfluous, useful and wasteful, beautiful and vulgar." --David E. Shi

Whew! Finding this quote was like sweet relief. I have been aching for simplicity recently and wondering how to find it.

In my head I have a fantasy about a piece of land, far away from everything, and a little house that is off the grid (solar-powered perhaps) where I live with my family, growing our own food, homeschooling the children and just generally "living off the land" as they say.

This fantasy only goes so far, however, when I remember that anytime in the past when I have tried to grow my own food, I soon grow weary of all the effort it takes and let my seeds wither in the dirt, or allow them to be choked by the weeds that seem to grow easily in whatever ground I have chosen.

Or when I remember that when I am feeling sad or tired or hopeless, nothing soothes me like a scalding hot bath and when I want one, I want one right now and not in thirty or forty minutes when the ten gallon pot on my wood-fired stove has finally boiled.

Or when I remember that I require much more "alone time" than a homeschooling mama would ever get.

In essence, when I remember that I was not born, nor raised, to "chop wood, carry water" and wouldn't know how to do much of anything that would be required from the kind of life I am fantasizing about. 

So I am forced to let go of my simplicity fantasies and continue to feel slightly dissatisfied with my urban life.

But now David Shi has given me a new standard for simplicity, one I think I can meet, or at least aspire to.

It reminds me of my favorite quote about speaking: "Before you speak, ask yourself: is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?" (Shirdi Sai Baba)

Whenever I say something that I wish I hadn't, I remind myself of that quote and repeat its questions to myself: Is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence? It is not a standard that I meet all that often, but it is a guide that leads the way to where I want to go.

And now I have a similar yardstick for simplicity, a set of questions I can ask before I buy yet another widget or gadget to add to my collection and to further complicate my life: Is it necessary, is it useful, is it beautiful, does it improve on the world around me?


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