Simple Living

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.

– Confucius

washing in streamAh yes, simple living. Who hasn’t, at some time, wished for a simpler life? Which then begs the question: why do we feel the need to live more simply? Are we frustrated? Stressed out? Fed up? Sick and tired of being sick and tired? Whatever it is, there is a definite movement towards simple living, and if you’ve ever had to cross the Glenn Jackson Bridge into Washington on a Friday afternoon, there is no question that there has to be a simpler way to go through life.


What’s curious about the desire for simple living is that it didn’t just arrive with the 21st Century, nor the 20th, nor the19th. According to Wikipedia, simple living has traditions that stretch back to the Orient, resonating with leaders such as Buddha, Laozi, and Confucius, and was heavily stressed in both Greco- Roman culture and Judeo-Christian ethics.

The scholars may be correct, but in my mind “simple living” brings to mind Henry David Thoreau, and the Amish people. I have to admire the Amish commitment to living simply. By refusing technology and modern machinery, they face a life of hard work and separation from the rest of their fellow Americans. Yet their numbers are growing, so there may be something to their ways, but not for me.

Thoreau, on the other hand, lived before modern technologies and conveniences, so everyday life was already rather simple when compared to our lives today. Yet, he was compelled to spend two years at Walden to illustrate the spiritual benefits of a simplified lifestyle. He also dreamed of an existence free of obligations and full of leisure. Maybe he was onto something there, but it strikes me that a life without obligations and meaningful work would be empty and flavorless.

So what is “Simple Living”?

For those of you that fancy Thoreau’s simple life, perhaps a remote mountain top can be your 21st Century Walden. Again, not for me. And probably not for most of you either.

Maybe what we seek is actually “Balanced Living”, wherein we spend a personally satisfying amount of time at work, with our friends and families, in leisure, and meeting our obligations.

The trick is to find the balance that works for you, and it seems that one size does not fit all.

Originally published in the Green Living Journal

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