by Carole Stojan
Driving over to visit friends one October evening, I was wondering where my inner peace and quiet had gone. As I pulled into the driveway, I found myself asking, why canít life be simple?
That night I found myself engaged in a conversation with a woman who appeared to have "Living Simple" figured out. Obviously brimming with something, she mentioned that she was going on an extended holiday to South America. When I asked how long she would be away, she laughed and said, "Well, I could be gone for up to three years, but Iíll probably be back after winter."
Enviously thinking about an absence of six months or more, I asked, "What about your job?" She explained that she was self-employed in a partnership with a friend who would either pick up both ends of the work and double her own income, or contract part of the work out. Either way, this woman was free to travel for as long as she wanted. Wow! I thought, this woman has a life!
Everyone in the room expressed how wonderful it was that she could do it. "Anyone can do it!" she explained. "You just have to make up your mind that you really want to." "Oh sure," we scoffed. "Just pack up and take off. What about responsibilities, bills?"
"Well," she offered, "I keep my monthly expenses to a minimum. Iíve given up my car, which saves more than $8,000 a year. I feel much healthier walking everywhere. As my capacity to carry grocery bags has improved, so has my upper body strengthónot to mention my spirits!" she bragged. She looked great with color in her cheeks, a sparkle in her eyes. Was it joy? "Itís a matter of whatís more important to you, material things or life experiences."
Ouch! I thought. We, as a culture, born of a capitalistic womb, put material goods above life experiences. I thought of other cultures, for example India, a country where the poorest of the poor live. Like other Third World populations, they live simple, faith-filled lives with few amenities, yet seem to radiate something from within and appear to truly care about their fellow man. A visitor to India is often greeted by groups of open faces and wide, sincere smiles. Contrast those faces with the somber, tense faces on our modern subways. Which scenario offers a higher probability of joy? I asked myself. What can we learn from this? Is it really possible to live simply? More important, have we created lives that allow for peace? If material goods, job security, and bill payments are the overriding focus of our daily lives, is inner peace realistic?
How many of us have lost touch with an inner tranquillity or sense of joy in our lives? In our capitalistic, consumer society, itís all too easy to overlook the point of our lives while we chase our tails or hunt down the next dollar.
It made me wonder if we, as a consumer culture, are missing the whole point in life. We say we want peace and joy, yet we seldom stop running long enough to take a deep breath, let alone actually assess how we are living our lives.
Thinking about that woman, I thought, Perhaps life can be simple after all...
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