Simplicity: Returning to the best pleasures in life

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“Letting go isn’t the end of the world; it’s the beginning of a new life.” ~Unknown

Simplicity.  It can mean varying things to various people.  After all, we all see the world through our own vasty different filters.  As we progress toward the future, it seems more of us turn to technology to “simplify” things for us.  Remote-controlled televisions so we won’t be bothered to get up off the couch to change the TV channel.  Movie rentals that you stream right from your laptop so you don’t have to go to the video store.  Microwavable TV dinners, frozen, just-heat-it-up french toast (seriously?  wow).  Phones that keep track of where you are (GPS), where you’ve been(Facebook, Twitter, etc), and where you have yet to go (calendar apps).  {Disclaimer: Ok, so I won’t go so far as to complain about the advent of the TV remote – after all, the few and far in-between situations in which I actually allow myself time to watch television are ones in which I have already planned on giving myself a chance to sit for a while.  And with that enormous line-up of channels offered by our satellite service comes considerable difficulty to find something both appropriate and entertaining to watch.  Hence, I usually settle for the Food Network or National Geographic.  But that’s beside the point… 🙂 }

Personally, I believe the more we “simplify” our lives through inventions and technological advances, the further we get from experiencing the fulfillment of finding and maintaining purpose in our lives.  Back in the time of our ancestors (way back, really), their main purpose in life was simply to survive and ensure the survival of those in their care (children, elderly parents/in-laws, livestock, etc).  This meant a lot of work; work not to “make money” to buy some of the things we consider pleasures in life, but money to be able to keep food on the table, a roof over your head, and clothes on your back.  Maybe, just maybe, if you had a good year, you (or your wife if you are male) could afford some new fabric to sew a nice new dress or shirt for each member of your immediate family.  And goodness, if you didn’t think such a dress/shirt was the most prized possession of the year. 

These days, that new shirt you picked up at your favorite retailer last week only keeps you happy until you see the next drool-worthy thing prominently displayed in another store window or within the pages of your favorite magazine.  Same with technology.  Everyone had to have the iPhone when it first came out.  Until the second generation was released, then the first kind wasn’t good enough either.  In my beloved country especially (the United States), we really love to beat a good thing to death.  Just think of all the spin-offs we currently have on television as a direct result of that first season of Survivor (which, some could argue, could have been a spin-off of the sadly popular Real World series on MTV).

What I see in the world I live in is an unhealthy obsession with things.  Rather than focusing on ourselves and continually reaching toward personal growth, we are striving for the next best possession that will make us happy.  Why can’t we be happy with what we already have?  I believe that we can be happy with whatever we already have, no matter how little it may seem or actually be.  But in order to realize that and experience more of ourselves and the world around us, we need to let go of some of these things that are weighing us down.  There is so much fakery in this world, and I don’t believe that much of it is honestly intentional.  We are just so overwhelmed with stuff that we ourselves cannot even see the true, honest-to-goodness picture. 

I have been spending quite a bit of time these last couple of months thinking about the subject of simplicity and the happiness I believe it holds for those who consciously seek it.  Week by week, I have made additional choices to further reduce the clutter in my life.  It started by turning off my phone at a certain time each night (yes, I’ll admit it is indeed one of those fancy-schmancy smart phones that “I just had to have” at the time), making myself unavailable to those outside of my home and allowing myself ample time to get to bed at a decent hour.  This was directly a result from realizing that without giving myself the simple gift of a full night’s sleep (I determined the amount I personally need through repeated trial and error), I was without the necessary state of mind and physical energy to go out and give the world my best each day.  That’s a simple thing, right there, and a purpose in life that I personally strive for.  One by one, my purposes are slowly switching from gaining stuff (possessions, friendships, money), to gaining peace and a greater understanding of myself and taking care of this present moment.   That smart phone I just mentioned?  Well, he’s going buh-bye in four months, when my contract is up.  I’m starting college for a 2nd degree in a few weeks, and for one can’t afford to spend money on frivolous things like that anymore, but frankly, I find it brings me more stress than pleasure, anyway.  Besides, more time spent playing with that means less time for personal growth. Additionally, I have raided my closet several times (and will do so several times more), donating items that I no longer feel I need and paring down my wardrobe to fit the present person I am, without over-doing the number of options I have in what to put on each day.   Continuing this trend, I look at everything each day through a slightly different lens – do I really need that?  Does it honestly help me to find my happy, or am I making it itself my “happy?” 

Getting rid of the clutter frees us up to clean up who we are on the inside, too.  Because it’s on the inside where we will find our true happiness.  I think our ancestors had it right.

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