Perhaps the current economic meltdown is a remedy for a deeper systemic ill? The global benefit may only show itself after hard times are suffered by many of our friends and neighbors and the financial tsunami passes. This will take some time, but the advantage of a simple life may become apparent.
A minority in the world has had the benefit of financial security and abundance and has had the luxury of pursuing fulfillment of material desires. The global middle class has had high aspirations of reaching further into the world of economic privilege. The economic crisis may terminate the possibility of reaching this goal and the middle class could become the working poor.
I have witnessed and experienced in my life an ever-escalating threshold of satisfaction and fulfillment, regardless of how much financial means or stuff, one accumulates. While growing up in the wealthy community of Scottsdale, Arizona, I witnessed material excess paradoxically accompanied by a lack of fulfillment and happiness. I had many friends from broken and very dysfunctional families. No amount of wealth, it occurred to me, could fill the true depth and desire of the heart. It was a priceless pearl.
After university I traveled in Mexico and South America. In Peru, I lived with “campesinos” who, materially, had very little, but had an abundance of joy, gratitude and fulfillment and who were always ready to share what they did have. It was initially bewildering for me to understand, and revelatory for me to experience. This story of joy in simplicity in the less developed countries is not an unusual one. Lasting happiness is found in the simple things of life, not the complicated and expensive acquisitions.
In our western culture most of us have been educated to be good consumers, rather than active citizens or dedicated humanitarians. It seems that even the main religions have not been able to overcome the all-pervasive influence of materialism and the pious flocks are amassing storage units full of “stuff”. The number of self-storage facilities in the USA doubled from 2000 to 2006 to 51,500.
It is my hope that we can once again discovery the joy of living a simple life. Days full of happiness shared with friends, family and even colleagues. A deep fulfillment found in the daily altruistic acts of thinking and assisting those in need. Whether we are materially rich or not, everyone has something to share – a helping hand, a kind word, a random act of kindness. Perhaps this economic crisis is the bridge to find those simple pleasures and concern ourselves with the needs of others. As the well-known saying goes, “it is in giving, we receive.”
Below are lyrics to a song that echoes my sentiments:
Tis the gift to be simple,
’tis the gift to be free,
’tis the gift to come down where you ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
It will be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed.
To turn, turn will be our delight,
‘Til by turning, turning we come round right
‘Tis the gift to be loved and that love to return,
‘Tis the gift to be taught and a richer gift to learn,
And when we expect of others what we try to live each day,
Then we’ll all live together and we’ll all learn to say,
‘Tis the gift to have friends and a true friend to be,
‘Tis the gift to think of others not to only think of “me”,
And when we hear what others really think and really feel,
Then we’ll all live together with a love that is real.
Written by Shaker Elder Joseph Brackett, Jr. in 1848