Simplicity — From Choice To Necessity To ‘Only Way Out’

By | March 24, 2014

Originally published as a column in The Armchair Mayor News on Friday, March 21, 2014. 

AliveI start my days with browsing over news, mostly science and environmental. Some morph into feature articles, some crowd into the ‘later’ folder to be mulled over, and all of them point repeatedly to the same recurring question: is simplicity the answer?

It took having children to have it sink in fully: it’s about today and it’s about tomorrow as well. And it’s in how we live both.

The world evolves at a mind-numbing speed. Gadgets keep on sprouting. Some may rise to the ‘necessary’ status while some will stay in ‘whim’ forever. To some we add justification and thus make them ‘necessary.’ Then there are the consequences of having more.

Every gadget, appliance, new technology, and that includes the green ones, comes with an environmental price to pay. By us all, today and tomorrow.

Reports point to resources being mined to exhaustion, or being mined where they should not be because they throw things out of balance or sicken people. They point to the exploding economy as the major cause of increased global warming.

We risk tomorrow with many of today’s forays into limited resources.

At a time when news of smog-enveloped cities strengthen the request for clean air, deforestation and harming the ocean lower our planet’s ability to gulp our carbon dioxide and give us oxygen.

Self-destructive?

The impact of today’s modern lifestyle is undeniable. Just two days ago, a prestigious science society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, released a report about the risks of climate change stating three things: firstly, that climate change is caused by human action and it is past the point of debatable.

Secondly, that changes are slow to happen at the moment, visible as they are, but there is a tipping point (more melting of ice sheets, more droughts, heat waves and floods, food shortages and an increase in species extinction) from where things will roll downhill at a speed that’s hard to comprehend right now. Or easy to ignore, whichever comes easier.

Thirdly, that there is still time to act. Another recent report, UN-generated, concurred.

Simplicity in living today, is that the answer?

There is letting go in simplicity. Not to say that whoever opts for simplicity can claim that it has stumbled across the truth of life, but it comes pretty darn close to that.

We need less than we have and even less than we want. Wants are immature, mostly motivated by impulse rather than rationale. Wants often come with a sense of entitlement that prevents clairvoyance at a time when it is badly needed.

It’s uncomfortable to think that some of what I have today will not be available for my sons when they grow up. Clean enough air, clean enough oceans and enough blue sky to allow joy. Not applying the doom scenario because of a case of sudden environmental drama, but because I do not know for sure which human-inflicted changes are reversible and which are not.

Our lives are dominated by fear nowadays. We buy life, home, car insurance and the word premium brings sighs with relief. The juxtaposition with the absence of the biggest fear that should be – fear of destroying our world – is striking.

Most of us know that we can do with less. It’s our choice to do with more.

The recent sublimation of snow in Kamloops – a phenomenon I deeply enjoy as it spares us the end-of-winter slush less dry areas go through every early spring – invited to gardening.

This year we will extend the garden to grow more food, with humble dreams of homesteading one day.

Growing food makes simplicity real. So does realizing that letting go of many things you don’t need makes room for what matters – time spent right. It allows for a deeper connection to the place we’re in. From the patch of land we live on, to the community, town or city and beyond.

I came to realize that ‘seeing’ the world has nothing to do with traveling, but rather with acknowledging the uniqueness and utmost beauty of a place that has been a fountain of life for millions of years, harmonious in all its details and awe-inspiring in its seamless functionality.

To think that we are interfering with it all, creating long, deep trenches of wrongs that our children might not be able to deal with is troubling.

Life’s biggest question ‘Why are we here?’ awaits an answer still. The more I think of it though, the more I am inclined to say that the answer is right in front of us, every day, if only we let ourselves see it.

Life is about living today with the awareness that we are leaving something behind, but we ought to do it with the elegance and depth of a species aware of the honour of being guardian to an entire planet and all the life that it holds.

So that plants and animals can still exist and people can still breathe. Simple. Perhaps that’s the answer after all…

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