Monday, August 04, 2014

When True Simplicity is Gained: The Humble Stumble

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free 
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right, 
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained, 
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight, 
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right

I'm not completely certain that I'm gaining on simplicity. Sometimes it seems closer. Sometimes it seems further away.  After all, I've already admitted that I'm a music hoarder.  I also have books -- floor to ceiling in my office, filled shelves in the loft, random books laying around all over the house on end tables and nightstands and on kitchen shelves, boxes of books in the basement and garage attic.  And I don't just mean copies of books I've written in attempts to make me a best seller.  I mean books by other people.
And then there are all the vehicles.  My car.  Nancy's car.  The farm pickup.  My antique MG.  All this for two people.  Then there's equipment.  A utility tractor with a loader, rotary mower, log splitter, box scraper, grading blade and more.  A lawn tractor.  A high speed zero-turn mower.  A push mower.  A utility golf cart with a dump bed.  Various trimmers, rakes, shovels, hoes, pitchforks, saws, chain saws, and and so on.  
People hear I live on a farm and say, "Man, I'd love to live the simple life."  Lemme tell you, it ain't so simple -- otherwise I would need all the equipment above.  And I do need it!
Which is something I've been learning about simplicity over the years.  There's no one way.  Yes, I could go all Walden and live in a tiny cabin in the woods.  But I doubt that our big family would appreciate that and besides Henry David Thoreau could only stand it for a couple of years.  True simplicity, as we Quakers understand it, is not about how little you have (though some Friends do live very, very modestly) or how much you have -- it's about why you have what you have.
Now this flies in the face of much of our thinking about simplicity.  After all, didn't Jesus tell the rich young ruler that, to inherit eternal life, he needed to sell all that he had?  Yep, he sure did. 
And our faith often puts pressure on us about how much we have by guilting us.  Our little Quaker meeting is filled (well, as filled as a group of 30 can be) with people who travel all around the world doing good things.  Kenya.  Belize.  Palestine.  Cuba.  And they often host Quakers from those countries who need a place to stay when they come here.  Invariably we first world Friends start talking about how rich we are compared to those from developing nations.  And we are.  There's no denying that.  
Okay, if Jesus said to get rid of everything and I'm so much richer than the Kenyan Quakers, maybe I should sell all I possess and give to the poor.  But like the rich young ruler, I'd probably go away distressed and grieving, for, like him, I own much property.
So if living simply for me consists of a Walden like existence, subsisting on the bare minimum, I've got a long way to go and much to learn.  And I probably am not going to make it.  
What's a fella (or woman or family or faith community) to do if we want to "come round right"?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It strikes me how much this reminds me of little isims ive picked up about the spiritual path over the years.
'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free (Freedom -- the exodus from Egypt, mana is defs a form of simplicity)
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be, (One of the yogic paths to God -- I think it is Jana yoga -- is about being in the right place at the right time doing the right thing, also like the voice of the genuine that calls out in each one of us and if we cannot hear it we will spend our lives dancing on the ends of strings that someone else holds (or something like that) quote by Howard Thurman)

You have any thoughts on this?