Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Living Simply -- Simple?


Bondi Beach, Dusk.

I don't know if everybody has had a chance to check out the comments from yesterday's post, but two of my friends from Red Cloud had some really interesting things to say about trying to live a simple life. A couple snippets:

Jill:
I feel like I'm always struggling with the challenge of simple living.... It's the sheer volume of things entering our lives, especially baby clothes (attic has 15 boxes and counting -- she's not even 2 yet) and toys.

Incidentally...I've been spending a LOT of time recently getting rid of things, finding that throwing things out and giving them away takes up way more time than I thought. This is why I get anxious when an unwanted or unnecessary thing finds it's way in the door. It's a time-suck to get rid of it....

Everything seems to cost either time or money: which do I spend in each situation in order to allow me to focus on people above all else in my life?


Katie:
I am further challenged by our recent relocation to CA where the attitude, in general, towards “things” seems a bit different from my midwestern roots. Or perhaps the attitude is the same and the things just have more bling! But I can’t get over all the expensive homes and fancy cars and I don’t understand how people afford them---much less what is wrong with owning a Chevy vs. a Mercedes. I am always wondering how the cashier at the grocery store makes ends meet. But never the less, you can feel yourself getting caught up in the madness.

Perhaps it is not really about possessing the things, maybe the things are just a symptom of the problem. Poverty of spirit. I am a worrier and so it occurred to me today that perhaps my time spent worrying about finances is really a result of desolation... Not making the time to focus on God and let those worries go, even if just for a while.

...I guess what I really meant to say about poverty of spirit is that I think that I am only going half-way with simplicity. I try to minimize the material stuff but I am not sure that I am elevating my fellow human or God for that matter. Make sense?




I had to laugh when I read Jill's comments. Recently here one of the tertians was noticing they've been in Australia four months with hardly any possessions, and they haven't really missed anything. "It just goes to show how little of my stuff I actually need," he said.

I felt exactly the same way. And it made me think about all the stuff I should get rid of when I return to New York. I've begun having these wonderfully cathartic fantasies emerged of me piling clothes and books into garbage bags and sending them away.

But I've done this many times before, usually before or after a move, and boy oh boy does it end up taking TIME. Because after that initial head of steam, every item (really, EVERY one) ends up getting "considered" -- will I ever use this? Am I sure I want to get rid of it? And at that point, I might as well quit because I can take hours on it and end up with a pile of about seven books I'm going to get rid of. (Four of which I will later claim from the common room again.) Really, I've begun to think the only thing that might work for me is to just race into the room like it's on fire and somewhat indiscriminately drag out as much as I can before the "fumes" knock me out.

Or maybe we just gotta accept having really full attics and closets. Because, I'm with Jill, if you're going to be in the world with people and everything else, at some point the time you invest on getting rid of stuff comes at too high a cost.

I love Katie's point, too, about stepping back from our worries and self-expectations and trying to connect with God. I personally think some of our harshest expectations come not from God but from beliefs we have of what God wants. It's helpful to stop at some point and ask God, Ok, this is what I think. But what do you think?

Or even just to stop the theorizing altogether and tell God, Take me to a coffee shop! I need a mochaccino, stat!


Former Jesuit Superior General Pedro Arrupe, at Prayer.

Thanks to Jill and Katie for breaking open the conversation so well. Great to be reflecting on these things together.

1 comment:

Katie and Maeve said...

Jim:
Thanks for making me sound so deep and smart!!!!