But it looks beautiful. A single cup of tea. Atop a bare wood table. With nothing but a sunrise out the window. Idyllic, right? I’d think so.
But then experience it. It feels like withdrawals. The simple tea has no sugar in it. Just hot, acrid, brown tea. Simple. The table is made of rough-hewn boards, and full of splinters. Simple. Natural. And you are freezing. Dawn is the coldest time of day, and you only have a simple coat on. The sunrise is beautiful. But as it peeks through the trees, it burns your retinas. Duh. We tell toddlers not to stare at the sun. And it’s boring. A simple sunrise takes simply forever.
Listen, I like simple. But it’s just awful. Modern life is complex. Central heating and Ikea furniture, a closet of clothes and a fridge of food, smartphones at the bedside and Netflix on the flat screen. I love all of it in unique, complex ways.
The very act of simplifying is a practice in subtraction. It’s the kind of math that stings the sensibilities.
Simplicity magnifies what is left. Magnifies what IS. Which makes something happen inside of us: we either appreciate what is left with newer, kinder eyes – or we rage against the loss of all the other things.
What am I talking about? Oh everything: money, entertainment, activities, choices, friends, food (insert here the things you like to have in abundance).
Simple living is weird. It’s less food on a diet, less money on a budget, less entertainment when you give up screen time for Lent.
It’s just awful. And, like most things that are just awful, it’s the best. After the symptoms subside, there is a clarity. It’s like how tribesmen recommend hunting on an empty stomach.
But simple sucks. It’s supposed to. Because only after a necessary subtraction, can life’s sheer boringness fully be experienced. And whatever develops after that can be trusted a bit more. Our hunting senses are sharpened, as we use our powers of invention to craft our own lives. The binoculars twist more sharply into focus, as the simple details come alive.