Monday, August 22, 2016

Embrace Simplicity

"A Single Flower"
- beauty in the wilderness -

Over the past few days I realize that I have come to a certain “saturation point” when it comes to consuming the volume of continual political rhetoric barraging my mind spirit in this American presidential election season. I am at the point where I often mute the TV or turn off the radio when I hear the almost endless, strident voices of carefully calculated political strategies—everyone saying and doing whatever they have to say and do to win the election and make their way to the top of the heap,

I wonder if I have become so “tired out” by all this election rhetoric because it is such a vivid icon of the spiritual malaise that afflicts everyday life in today’s contemporary culture? How many of us follow a course of complex, almost-endless ambitious scheming in our routine lives, and does all that spiritual debris rob us of our joy and drain us of a deeper peace?

I think it’s no accident that the wisdom of almost every single world-wide spiritual tradition calls for the practice of simplicity in living every day. The Buddha called his disciples to live simply and so did Jesus who walked though fields of wildflowers and told his disciples to live without anxiety, as simple as the flowers of the field and the birds of the air. Perhaps the ancient Taoist, Lao Tzu, best sums up this wisdom when he teaches:

Manifest plainness
Embrace simplicity
Reduce selfishness
Have few desires

Teachings like this are so contrary to our own “dog-eat-dog” world of always wanting more and better that they they almost sound like a foreign language. In fact, the very word, “simple” carries an awful lot of negative baggage in today’s popular culture. In our technological society, simple things are seen to be inferior to more sophisticated gadgetry, and we also think of simple people as those who are less educated and less sophisticated,  and we relegate them to the bottom of the social pecking order.

Today’s presidential elections in America may indeed be emblematic of (and feed into) a deeper cultural belief that those who make it to the top in society are those who have the most ambitious and complicated schemes in life. However, while complex schemes and self-centered strategies for achieving more may get you to to top of the heap, this is certainly not a pathway for finding that “peace that surpasses understanding.”  

Yesterday as I turned off the TV as yet one more political story was featured, I sat at my desk and came across something contemporary Franciscan priest and author, Richard Rohr, once said. He wonderfully sums up some profound teaching about embracing simplicity – necessary spiritual wisdom for all of us in our own day and age:

When you live simply
you are free to enjoy what life has to offer
but you never let enjoyment become your master.
Every day you practice non-addiction and letting go.

When you live simply
you find a natural solidarity with people at the bottom or at the edges
because you stop idealizing the climb
and find there is no top anyway.

Leonardo Da Vinci once said:

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

1 comment:

  1. I don't watch television news shows and have a filter on Facebook called FB Purity that can block certain words. I'll be glad after November.