Friday, October 14, 2005

Definitions

When the subject of conversation is simplicity, the views will always be varied. People have their own ideas on what simplicity means in general, and what it would mean for their lives specifically. Many of these discussions end on the idea that simplicity is easy. It's life without the "bells and whistles." Life in the slow lane. Well, that can be debated.

Tasha Tudor is an individual who fascinates me in some ways. She is a well-known illustrator and painter, over 90 years old, who lives in a cottage in Vermont. Her lifestyle reeks of simplicity. She eschews many modern conveniences. She lives alone with a few pets. Her life is simple...or is it? Here is how her web site describes her life:

Her home, though only 30 years old, feels as though it was built in the 1830's, her favorite time period. Seth Tudor, one of Tasha's four children, built her home using hand tools when Tasha moved to Vermont in the 1970's. Tasha Tudor lives among period antiques, using them in her daily life. She is quite adept at 'Heirloom Crafts', though she detests the term, including candle dipping, weaving, soap making, doll making and knitting. She lived without running water until her youngest child was five years old.
From a young age Tasha Tudor has been interested in the home arts. She excels in cooking, canning, cheese-making, ice cream making and many other home skills. As anyone who has eaten at Tasha Tudor's would know, her cooking skills are unsurpassed. She collects eggs from her chickens in the evenings, cooks only with fresh goats milk, and uses only fresh or dried herbs from her garden. Tasha Tudor is renowned for her Afternoon Tea parties. Once summer arrives, Tasha Tudor leaves her art table to spend the season tending her large, beautiful garden which surrounds her home.


Milks her own goats? Cans? Makes cheese? Makes candles, soap, ice cream? This is the simple life? Sounds like hard work to me!

Which is more indicative of the simple life - loading a washing machine and turning it on, or going to a stream and beating clothes against a rock? Loading a dryer and pushing a button, or carrying loads of wet laundry outside and hanging it on the line, then taking it down later?

I don't think a simple life is necessarily easy. In fact, it can be more difficult to attain than a stressful life. So even though "easy" may be a synonym for "simple," I don't buy it.

So when people say they are striving for a life of simplicity, what do they mean? I can't even see where the definition of "less stressful" and "less harried" applies in a general way. I can't imagine a more stressful life than your intake of food being dependent on having healthy chickens (who haven't been killed by predators) laying eggs on a regular basis, which you have to collect on a regular basis. My husband Ed knows the stress of getting wood ready for the fire, as he does the sawing and splitting by hand. Imagine having to have the fire not only to warm the house but to cook the food!

I was thinking about all this now because my sister Joy has spent the week in Mississippi, helping to clean up and demolish houses that Hurricane Katrina destroyed. I haven't spoken to her yet, but through our mother I hear that she has performed some pretty gross and unappealing chores down there. She had been planning to spend her vacation week in the comfort of her home, and instead she felt led to travel to another state and sleep in a tent. I don't think she would consider her week of the "simple life" one of relaxation!

So what is a life of simplicity? I have concluded that it is a life with integrity. A genuine life. A life where you realize that every act you do - whether buying a new outfit or choosing a new car, whether recycling or disposing, whether acquiring or giving away, the use of your time, the use of your gifts, the use of your money, the stand you take on issues of poverty and injustice - affects other people. It's a life that feels right. It is a life of wisdom. A life where you make choices over and over that are based on your own idea of what a life with integrity and simplicity means for you, knowing that what you do will impact the world.

Maybe I'm not one for making my own soap. I can recycle, though. I can buy a car that uses less gasoline. I can give to those less fortunate. I can educate myself and others about quality of life and what it entails.

And, as I have said before, it's a journey without end. Maybe we should drop the word "simplicity" altogether in favor of "integrity." Hurray for Joy...she has complicated her life this week to help others!

3 comments:

Rod Daughtrey said...

Hi. I'm sorely tempted to call your Mrs. Reverend Heretic, as that's how I know you, as you would know me as Rod aka Merlin. I have to admit that I haven't been following your blog, but by the prompting of Spirit (perhaps, no definitely), decided to click on the browser bookmark I have for it and read today's(?) thoughts.

Defining any word in terms of intrinsic meaning is truly next to impossible, since all of us bring our own unique story to virtually every word we think or use. I like the way you chose to remove the defining of simplicity away from the number of steps or amount of work involved in life's doings. Simplicity, as I hear you define it,is an attitude, a way to look at life. I would, however, take it a step further than you have. More than feeling good about the trusted values you keep that allow you to make the same choices in the same situations, thereby avoiding the stress of decision ("no brainer!"), I see simplicity as doing what must be done at any given moment without any choosing or thought at all. Simplicity allows us to automatically accept what is before us (and within us) and the natural consequences (that which follows in sequence with) of the actions we are led to by complete awareness of what is and what is to be done. Less like Mr Popeil's phrase "Set it and forget it!", simple living is a matter of "leaving the driving to"...What Is, What We Are. The caveat to that is...knowing our Identity.

I like your writing and still hope to ge a chance in this pass through this plane to meet your and the Rev.

Peace, Love, Light and Simplicity

Carol Tiffin James said...

What a serendipity, Rod! I appreciate your input and, as always, your wisdom. What you say reminds me of what Ed calls living as a sacrament instead of a sacrifice. To have the Spirit so ingrained in your identity that every act is a sacrament, an extension of your identity, as you say, "without choosing or thought at all." I have blogged a few times about the hell of choices and would love to eventually make my way towards the condition you describe so well. Thanks for checking in, and if you are ever in Maine, we'd love to meet you!

Rod Daughtrey said...

I always have qualms about folk referring to the things I pass along as "wisdom"; I see them mainly as points of view I've collected from my own path of uncovering Truth (removing the apparent veil our ego and cultural education casts over it). I've yet to fully experience these "wisdoms". But I'm glad my sharing brings you something of value.
I'd just like to make a small clarification on your reply. When I speak of Identity (capital I) I mean that Spirit which IS ingrained in our being AS our being, as the being of all that is. The condition you (we) move toward is that of being awake to Life being every action in the Universe (the One Word of Self-identitfication of Spirit, "I", AUM, "I-AM"), rather than our living life from the point of ego identity. While ego is valid as a boundary marker of the brief echo of an echo of that One Thought of Self-awareness, it is not our limit, our Identity. When we know ourselves as Life in action, our choices get closer to simply being, which becomes our doing, as a mountain is a mountain, a tree is a tree, as a squirrel knows when to run, hide, store...we come closer to living from our Heart, and using our great brain as the awareness tool that let's us know the we (we, as in ALL the is) are Spirit knowing Itself and let's our thought becomethe creative extension of Identity.
Please forgive the sermonette.
As your journey to simplicity continues, I hope I keep in touch enough to know where to look for you when I do make it to Maine (again)

Peace and love, Rod