“In spite of illness, in spite even of the archenemy of sorrow, one can remain alive long past the usual date of disintegration if one is unafraid of change, insatiable in intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.”After a brief interlude, I continue my Creature Comforts series with another idea about how one might find a happy medium between comfort and precariousness. This topic will be presented in several parts since it is one worth deliberating on. Within these parts, I will hash out the notion of paring down: What does it mean to pare down in a society where more equals more? How can we pare down in a way that doesn’t deny us our happiness? And what’s the point? This section will serve as my introduction, followed by several posts that provide specific examples of how one might pare down.
- Edith Wharton
“Simplify Life” is a notion that has gained more and more prevalence during the twenty-first century thus far. With all the choices available to us, and our burgeoning consumer habits, we are crying out for simplicity in the hopes of finding a more wholesome way to nourish our souls. As a culture, we often look back on the “good old days” as examples of how simple and easy life used to be. Things tend to seem as though they were better back then. Problem is, the people living “back then” looked to their pasts for the same inspiration. Thus, we must find ways to carve out simplicity in our present lives, lest we trap ourselves in an endless web of nostalgia. This can involve giving up some of our creature comforts, but in the end I truly believe it is worth the sacrifice.
Despite the heralds of gloom and doom about the shrinking middle class and lack of sufficient health care, my life as a North American feels downright cushy. Perhaps part of the reason I feel this way is due to my sunny disposition; I don’t often want for much and am generally satisfied with what I have. But I did indeed grow up in a country where it is easy to live comfortably, speaking subjectively of course, on teacher’s salaries. My parents, both teachers, had four children, and though I couldn’t always get the outfit or toy that I wanted, my basic needs were met and I had a blissfully happy childhood (no lie!). Essentially, I learned to rejoice in small ways and dream about big things (like the quote above). I believe this is the crux of the debate about frugality, prosperity, and simplicity in our abundant and plush society. It is the moral to this story.
So, what is the point of paring down?
I am going to be a bit extreme here and say it is our responsibility to pare down in everything we do day to day. It is our duty to limit in any ways we can the strain we put on our natural resources. Sure, spending bolsters the economy and we, as consumers, are what drive this capitalist machine. But it is easy to get more than we need or ask for in our society, e.g. whopping helpings at restaurants. Gladly, it isn’t hard to break the habit of accepting blindly what is placed in front of us. The point? Paring down is the simplicity we’re searching for, and it is not as hard to attain as we might think.
I look forward to reading your thoughts and comments about this topic in this and the following posts. Enjoy this great day!