Returning to Simplicity

For some time, I have been studying a trend that has come to be known as “voluntary simplicity.” It is a growing movement toward a simpler, more meaningful life. Born out of people’s disenchantment with the frantic, harried pace of modern life, it is a trend whose time has come.

In a society that has embraced the philosophy that “busier is better,” spawning scores of methods for doing more and getting more, people are finally realizing that there is life beyond tag sales and to-do lists. Simply stated, more and more people are awakening to the reality that there is a vast difference between living life and making a living, and that busy-ness is not necessarily profitable.

“You are not here merely to make a living,” said former president Woodrow Wilson. “You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” It is a sentiment echoed by the philosopher Henry David Thoreau. “There is no more fatal blunderer than he who consumes the greater part of his life getting his living,” he suggested.

As the Bible itself states in Ecclesiastes 4:6, “better is a handful with quietness, than both hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.” And it is Thoreau who queries us, “Shall we always study to obtain more of these things, and not sometimes to be content with less?”

As the founding father of voluntary simplicity, Thoreau captured the essence of it when he stated: “Simplify. Simplify. For as one gradually simplifies his life, even the laws of the universe will appear less complex.” Taking his suggestion to heart, there are many who are quitting the rat race and instead of caving in to peer pressure are returning to the simplicity of living more by making do with less.