Thursday, June 14, 2012
“Live simply so others may simply live.” –Mother Teresa
If any of you have ever helped me move or watched me pack or just walked into my room on a bad (okay, typical) day, you would know that this idea is laughable. I’m terribly unorganized in the packing and unpacking of my belongings, extremely messy when I don’t have a roommate (and usually when I do), and am kind of a pack-rat. I have a hard time saying goodbye to things that have sentimental value or that I have deluded myself into thinking that I might use again. I have too much stuff, plain and simple.
But here in Alaska I have 9 work shirts, 2 sets of running/hiking clothes, 3 pairs of jeans (one pair had an unfortunate accident so I did have to get another pair for work), and 3 pairs of shoes including my running shoes. This is a big deal for me. My boss was talking about song lyrics my second week here but I couldn’t have put it better myself, “If you don’t have it, you don’t need it”. And while this is not universally applicable-I’m sure a starving child needs food-it makes a lot of sense in our overly indulged world of instant satisfaction. I’m so used to having my senses stimulated-smells, sounds, and especially sights- that to have a sparse room with no decoration is actually comforting. I’m not constantly bombarded with information or thoughts, given, it is scary to be inside your own head that much, but it reminds me of how much excess I live with on a daily basis.
Some of the most powerful and inspirational leaders lived with nothing, Gandhi and Jesus for example. They did not need things to exert their power or be inspirational-their actions did that. In Richard Gregg’s article The Value of Voluntary Simplicity, he proposes the idea of simplicity as a solution for the various gaps-social, economical, and educational-visible in our society. He does not propose we all live on the streets in only cloth and starve ourselves for long periods of time to find enlightenment; he calls us to do away with the excess, the stuff that is keeping us from our ultimate goal. He quotes Gandhi, “Only give up a thing when you want some other condition so much that the thing no longer has any attraction for you, or when it seems to interfere with that which is more greatly desired.” It is not giving up anything and everything; it is giving up that which distracts us from our greater goal.
This has been a dawning realization while I’m here, so I walk to work whenever I’m not driving a client to an appointment or meeting in Wasilla, I’m working to give up the nasty caffeine addiction I picked up during finals week, and I have been eating vegetarian when I’m on my own. These are little changes, but are easy to make. Obviously they are not going to fix the world problems, but it is important to realize how lucky I am to have the option to give these up when so many people don’t even have their basic needs met. I have a lot of sorting to do, both mentally/emotionally, and physically when I have the chance to start to de-clutter the excess in my life-both material and socially/emotionally. Here are some facts we’ve all heard but tend to forget in our day to day activities; I felt they were appropriate.