In life – the simpler the better?

Some people find it easy to live simply. Others have it forced upon them, by, for instance, losing their job in the present recession.

Simplicity doesn’t have to mean deprivation, but for us in this civilisation it seems that we think ‘more is better’.

But Gandhi said, ‘Live simply, that others may simply live’. ‘ Live simply, and gain a lot of time’ also makes sense. Or – ‘live simply and gain more happiness and wisdom’.

Travellers find that cultures where people are poor are on the whole happier. Sometimes this is because people tend to help each other if they are poor; but we also find individuals in our own culture who choose a simple life and report that they have more peace of mind.

So – why don’t we all choose it?

Well, on the face of it, it gives more satisfaction to have choice, to take the opportunities we are offered. ‘Buy this and have more fun!’ ‘Go to this distant place and have more sun!’ And in certain circumstances having a choice may make all the difference to your life.

But too much choice leads to worry and possible dissatisfaction with the choice you have made; it takes up your time and distracts you from other things which might give you a deeper experience.

And life choices that depend on money often require you to spend more time earning it. Worse still, they can lead to endless greed, for bigger and better everything.

You have only to look at the present revelations about M.P.s’ expenses to see that some people will take whatever is available to them, without caring about having more than their share.

Quakers have a testimony about seeking simplicity. They also believe in equality. The two really go together. Where you have equality there is less cause for envy and conflict. Of course voluntary simplicity calls for choices to be made, sometimes continually, but they become easier if they are based on principle and belief.

Lindsey March, reprinted from the Watford Observer 5th June 2009.

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