When Thoreau wrote “Simplify, simplify, simplify,” there was no Internet, myspace, mobile technology, cars, computers, ipods, McDonalds, Coke, movies, Youtube, instant messaging, or blogs. He wanted only the bare necessities in a lifestyle that was fresh, original, and outside the herd of greater society. Great idea–don’t get caught up in American consumerist way of life. But is that possible?
My wife and I try to live simply. We have a house, a dog, two cars, computers, a network, friends (surprisingly), mp3 players, Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, hardwood floors, and cell phones. I suppose these are necessities in this day and age. We don’t buy everything we want (most of the time) and Sarah does a good job of purging things we don’t need anymore. But the simple life isn’t just about possessions. It’s also about scheduling, relationships, and careers. Expectations and commitments lead to full schedules and a calendar that is impossible to keep up with. But what gives? We love building relationships with people, we love investing in those around is, we love spending time together.
But culture tells us we’re not doing enough. It seems that we always have to be in motion, connecting with someone somewhere somehow. It’s as if we need to move the speed of life to get everything done. And I’m not sure that’s healthy. There’s a fine line between investing in people, serving the community, and running yourself into the ground.
But I don’t have any answers. I don’t know how to get my grading done, classes prepped, homework finished, volunteering accomplished, wife loved, God served, rest.
Any maybe the biggest issue is my priority list above. That seems to be how everything is organized. Thoreau and Emerson and all the other Transcendentalists missed out on something: looking beyond their own selves. When I look at what I need to accomplish, it gets jacked up. When all is said and done, I’ll be dead. I don’t mean this morbidly, but really, when I’m done I’m done. And what then? Will it matter that it took me two months to grade a class set of essays, or that I invested more time in my job than my wife? Will it matter that I have a masters degree?
Obviously, something has to give and thus the tug of war. There is only so much time. I guess I’d better start using it more efficiently.