Simplicity

How do we get to the joy of the journey?  Sometimes, it feels like joy is covered over by so much stuff.

This week I have been listening to the song “Greed” by Sweet Honey in the Rock. (Listen here.)  They sing, “Greed is sneaky / Hard to detect in myself / I see it so clearly in everybody else.”

Greed is sneaky.

Every corner we turn, we are bombarded with appeals to our greed. Buy this. Purchase that. You cannot live without this thingamabob. Ads are in our postal mail, our e-mail, our social media, our news, our television, our radio, our podcasts, our highways.

I notice that the value of simplicity is much quieter.  

It does not flash to get my attention or flood my computer screen.  

How do we live the life that we desire when our focus is constantly getting stolen?

I feel like a fish who has swum in water in her whole life and then jumps out of the water.  She looks down and says to herself, “I have been swimming in that?”

I have been swimming, unconsciously, through the waters of greed for far too long.

This week, I decide to unsubscribe to promotional emails in order to have less advertisements for stuff in my inbox.  When I open the emails to unsubscribe, I can’t help but start fantasizing about each advertised item.  Yes, I do need a warm sweater with suns on it!  Oh yes, please mail me the ultimate vegan cake made of three pies and frosted with butter cream! Yes, please send me your Thanksliving chocolates that support an animal sanctuary!

How do I make space for simplicity when everything says, “BUY ME”?

In order to get some help, I talked this week to a friend who lives a life of vowed poverty.   Here are some of the things he taught me.

When obtaining items, go for the minimum necessary rather than the maximum allowed.  Yes, I can have as many sweaters as I can afford, but what is the minimum necessary that I need to get by?  Can I reuse my clothes more?  

Focus on need rather than want. (This one is hard.)  He simply asks himself, “Do I need this to live?”  For instance, he loves books, but forgoes buying them, and relegates himself to what he can obtain at the library. On the other side, he has shoes because in the words of St. Francis, they are a “manifest necessity.”

Consider forgoing immediate gratification.  What is the most ethical way for you to obtain what you need?  Is there something else you can substitute for it? Can you go without it?  Can you borrow it from a friend or loved one?  Can you obtain it through thrift?

Why live a life of vowed poverty? As a member of a religious community, my friend has renounced private ownership and has nothing of his own.  This empowers him to have uncoercive relationships with others.  The practice of nonattachment prepares him to be less attached to non-material things like his will, power, and viewpoints.

This fascinates me.  There is a freedom and joy to be found when we take the journey to simplicity.  I want to take that journey

May freedom from greed blossom in our lives.  
May that freedom lead us to love.

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