Why the simple life?
Since the beginning of America as an independent nation, it seems we have had an internal conflict between consumption and materialism versus simplicity and higher purpose living. The author, David Shi, wrote an incredible book called The Simple Life that walks through American history to highlight this struggle.
As David highlights, it seems every time the country had a moment to move towards simplicity and higher purpose living, something pulled the country back towards consumption and materialism. Now we face another historical moment. What may be different this time is the knowledge and experience that more people have that chasing money is not the answer.
From environmental degradation to the Black Lives Matters Movement to the COVID-19 crisis to the Fed's irresponsible response to bailing out the stock and bond markets, we are collectively waking up to the fact that money, wealth, consumption, materialism, and lack of justice, decency, and respect are behind these issues.
We of course all have happiness as the end goal. We are conditioned to believe that wealth will bring that happiness when in actuality the pursuit of wealth is the very thing that brings unhappiness. We will never get to where we need to go as a society and world if everyone is conditioned to pursue wealth. Instead, we all need to pursue simplicity and purpose.
Simplicity brings freedom and peace of mind which is the first step to happiness. If we simplify our lives, simplify our desires, and simplify our commitments, we have more time to discover and pursue what we are actually here on this planet to do, our purpose. And if you are able to fulfill your purpose, you will ultimately achieve happiness.
The forefathers' vision for this country was for everyone to have "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." But they failed to provide the instruction manual. Hopefully centuries of trial and error will allow us all to land on the answer. We need to achieve respect for all lives (including black lives and environmental life). We need to achieve liberty through simplicity. And we need to achieve happiness through pursuing our purpose.
The answer was actually right in a Shaker hymn from the year 1848 that goes, "Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free." There is most definitely a connection between simplicity and freedom, and both are indeed a gift. Let's not squander them as a nation.
Key Inspirations of the Simple Life
- The Simple Life: Plain Living and High Thinking in American Culture by David Shi
- How to Live In a Car, Van or RV by Robert Wells
- Green Prosperity: Quit Your Job, Live Your Dreams by Thomas Elpel
- The Human Predicament by Nate Hagens