The current “recession” or economic downturn has prompted many people to enjoy a healthier, greener, ecologically responsible, and simpler lifestyle. So what is the difference between poverty and simplicity?
If I’m angry that I can’t afford a new Ferrari I may feel that I’ve been doomed to poverty. However, if I enjoy the classic lines and character of a 20-year old sports car that I can easily afford, then it appears I have chosen simplicity. If I “can’t afford” to eat at Ruth’s Chris I may begrudge the government’s tax and economic policies. If Joanne and I invite some friends over for a potluck dinner where our contribution comes from our neighbor’s left-over cucumbers and tomatoes, our peace of mind may originate from our choice for simplicity.
John Robbins turned down his family’s Baskin-Robbins ice cream fortune in order to “live a far more simple and earth-friendly life.” He and his wife built a tiny one-room log cabin on an island off the coast of British Columbia, where they grow most of their own food. John says, “This isn’t about deprivation. It’s about choice and self-determination.”
The dictionary defines “poverty” as – “The state of being poor; lack of the means of providing material needs or comforts.” The definition of simplicity is – “the absence of luxury, pretentiousness, ornament, etc.”
Could it be that whether we live in “poverty” or “simplicity” is primarily a choice of how we view our situation? Simplicity has many rewards that go beyond saving money. Among those may be the experience of living well.
One of my favorite authors, Henry David Thoreau once said: “For my greatest skill has been to want but little.” In Walden he expands on his choice to live simply: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life…”
If you’re in challenging financial times, don’t miss the opportunity to suck out all the marrow of life. When good times return you are likely to find that your giving goes to 20 or 30% while your simplicity remains the same.