Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Way of Simplicity

"Sing God a Simple Song"
- in my meditation garden -

Last week when we were “back east” visiting family, I sat with our baby grandson and together we were playing a game.  I threw a little plastic block to him and he would laugh uproariously as he attempted to throw it back to me.  His “giddy” laughter was infectious, it got to me and to everyone else in the room as we all found ourselves  “in stitches” over such a simple little act of throwing around a little toy - it was a moment of “unbridled” joy.

I’ve been thinking about that “simple” moment that brought all of us such great joy last week – it was a wonderful icon for me, a lesson about finding our greatest joy and deepest peace by following a “way of simplicity” in life.

We all live in a very complex world fraught with sophisticated technology, circuitous, convoluted ideas and intricate relationships, and so the word “simple” often carries a rather negative connotation to it - if it’s too simple it must not be good enough, simple people are relegated to the bottom of the pecking order.  But, on a spiritual path, the opposite is probably true – our deepest wisdom and greatest meaning flows out of the simplest of hearts.

When I returned to my desert home a few days ago I sat in my meditation garden and gazed at an icon of Saint Francis of Assisi hanging on the wall of my Desert Retreat House. For me, his life is among the clearest examples of what following a “way of simplicity” is really all about.

Franciscan priest and author, Richard Rohr, beautifully summarizes the way of simplicity as it was lived by that little man from Assisi who followed an alternative path to the way of the popular culture and in doing so found unbridled joy.

In his wonderful book, Eager to love: The Alternative Way of Saint Francis, Rohr outlines some of the principles of embracing a simple life:

When you agree to live simply
people cease to be possessions and objects for your consumption and use.
Your lust for others to serve you, your need for other people’s admiration,
your desire to use other people as a commodity for your personal pleasure
 slowly fades away.

When you agree to live simply you are free to enjoy
but you never let enjoyment become your master.
You practice non-addiction every day by letting go.

When you agree to live simply, time is not money any more, time is life itself.

When you agree to live simply you can find a natural solidarity
with people on the bottom or at the edges of life because you stop idealizing the climb
and finally realize that there isn’t a top anyway.

The spiritual lesson I learned from my infant grandson last week helped me once again to realize the deep wisdom of living a “way of simplicity” on the path to truth and meaning in life. It has given me a renewed desire to “agree to live simply.”

On this Sunday morning, as the sun was rising I walked out into my garden; and gazing at that icon of Blessed Francis hanging on my wall, I found myself humming this tune from Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, a perfect hymn for a Sunday morning in the desert:

Sing God a simple song, lauda, laude.
Make it up as you go along, lauda, laude.
Sing like you like to sing, God loves all simple things.
For God is the simplest of all.
For God is the simplest of all.


  1. I love this blog post, Paul. PS Isnt' it great to have a grandchild? ;)