Many of us long for simplicity. But why? Why value simplicity? Perhaps we imagine more idyllic lifestyles, desks without clutter, and making the lowest possible impact on the environment. But why? Two experiences during my recent time in Vancouver that help me to unpack this question.
First, the gathered delegates at the Canadian Unitarian Council’s Annual Meeting approved a new vision for Canadian Unitarian Universalism. In its simplest version, it reads, “Our interdependence calls us to love and justice.” This may not seem a big shift, but the statement’s focus on interdependence as a core vision is actually something quite new.
Living a life of interdependence goes hand in hand with simplicity. If we recognize and make choices in terms of our impact on others and on the planet, we may choose not to have so much, not to do so much, not to expect or demand so much.
Second, the Canadian UU ministers spent a day in a workshop focused on bi-cultural competency. The two women who brought Indigenous knowledge to us talked about a relationship with the land…which includes gratitude offered for anything taken, where only a small portion of the available resources are used, where regrowth/sustainability for the future is a highly held value. One takes only what one needs, leaving some for others and some for the earth itself, and even that with an awareness of the effect that it might have.
In a culture of excess and in an economy built on materialism, our decisions are often several levels removed from the source. It’s not so obvious how much there is, where it’s coming from, or who needs it. We are encouraged to buy storage systems and bins in which to keep all the ‘stuff’ we own, only to end up looking for additional garages and bigger closets. Buying more widgets rarely appears to affect the availability of widgets. Gas pumps are assumed to be connected to a bottomless cache of gasoline, so that one more litre or two doesn’t really make a difference. We are shielded from seeing the bigger picture.
So, is there a better way? In order to choose simplicity, I believe we have to make a commitment to examining each of our choices more deeply. Perhaps we can use a ‘simplicity lens’ to discern how much we buy, use, and hold onto. Ask yourself: What is enough? What brings me joy? What can I let go of in order to open up space for connections and reflection? How might all life benefit if I live more simply?
I invite you to enter into these questions and reflections. Go gently and simply into summer. As Mary Oliver so eloquently says, you have come into the world to go easy, to be filled with light, and to shine.
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