A Simpler Life

Whereas the Lord tells us to sell, we buy instead and accumulate. – St. Cyprian of Carthage (c 210-258)

I got a second chance at life. I am not going to waste it on a big house and a new car every year and a bunch of friends who want a big house and a new car every year. – Larry Darrell in the Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham

In order to live a simpler life:

1. Do not buy books about living a simpler life: There is nothing better than going to a bookstore and seeing all the $20 books about simplifying your life in 7 easy steps. I just want to laugh a little too loudly that there is an entire marketing machine cranking out products that we feel compelled to buy about simplification. The simple thing is to not buy a book about scaling back. Thinking about the quote above led me to search “simplify” at Amazon.com. I narrowed the search to just the book department. The search engine found 201,884 results. Ha! Surely by now someone has written the book on simplifying and we can stop publishing all those other books.

2. There is no need to subscribe to a magazine about organizing your magazines: “Real Simple,” a magazine geared towards “busy women looking to make life easier,” began in March 2000 and is a huge hit. The magazine currently reaches 8.6 million readers every month. It is clear that people want to simplify, to live simpler lives. But a magazine subscription about having a more organized kitchen and closet is not enough.

There are 2 battles we must win in order to live simpler lives:

  1. We need to own less
  2. We need to want less

It is the fasting season of preparation for the Nativity of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s also fast from wasting time, money and food. We need to share all of our stuff and let go of our possessions. A practical piece of advice I picked up somewhere is that we should give away everything that we have not worn or used in the past year. The first step on the Ladder of Divine Ascent is to renounce a worldly life for a heavenly one. The second rung on the ladder is detachment. Being free from our attachment to things and from the opinions of others puts us the path to a simple life.

What do you think?



Filed under A Good Life, Poems, Books and Reviews

13 responses to “A Simpler Life

  1. Worthy advice. Thank you for stepping on my toes. Blessed Nativity season to you and your house.

  2. It’s nice to know that others think this way. BTW, I am a fellow minister in the valley. I pastor Trinity Anglican Church in Mesa.

    Take Care,

    Rev. Mike Spreng

  3. Oh I so agree-those simplify books are right up there with diet & organizing books 🙂 I usually check them out from the library if really interested. After a while, you find they contain much of the same advice or ideas, written in different ways. It is a symptom of the world looking for answers to a topsy-turvy life. Try living on one income, as we did for 21 years. That helps keep things simple 🙂
    BTW I subscribed to Real Simple for a few years-too much nonsense. There is interesting articles plus ideas, but it really wasn’t simplifying, just adding. I figure I have enough back issues of various magazines, I don’t need any subscriptions. I think this Advent will be a period of purging those, along with paperwork.
    Thank you for the introspective thoughts!
    Advent blessings,
    Helen (aka HelenMelon27 on Twitter)

    • Fr. James Coles

      Thank you for the comment. I like the Twitter picture of you and, I am guessing, your daughter.
      Advent Blessings to you too,
      Fr. James

  4. This is weird, last night I emailed Father confessing that my Patristic Commentary and Orthodox Book junkie habit was probably Gluttony. I didn’t get his reply yet.

    They may not be about Simplifying Life, but I think you got me, too. Even owning good things isn’t necessarily good. Wanting them seldom is.

    Holy Cyprian, pray for us.

  5. Natalia Nauman

    Life….. in no way….. simple……….

  6. Lenore

    Not only a great point, Father, but I also think I understand Natalia’s comment. I remember a kind friend trying to get me to follow the “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff (And It’s All Small Stuff)” approach–when my kids were little. Nothing, but nothing, was small stuff. I can understand Jesus’ comment about woe to those who are with child or nursing babies in “those days.” With kids grown, or almost grown, things begin to seem “smaller.” BTW, Kevin pointed out that some people actually live in those storage facilities. Maybe we should try it! How many beds could we fit into one?

  7. Joan

    Brought to mind John Chrystotom’s (sp?) book, A Simple Life. Been reading it of late and now have double fodder for thought and change.

  8. Natalia, Indeed life is not simple, nor does “simplifying life” by getting rid of stuff make it any more so. Having lots of stuff and having no stuff (or selected stuff) can all be manifestations of worldliness. There is no intrinsic virtue in poverty, only in poverty willingly embraced for the sake of the Kingdom not my “philosophical rejection of American consumerist materialism”…there is a difference. In some ways it comes down to what am I comfortable rationalizing what I own. In the Nativity season where alms is the predominant spiritual discipline I think if we are introspective we’ll know how we regard our “stuff”.

  9. Pupacios

    A litlte bit of Buddha coming through here !! “Desire is the cause of all sorrow” – I often wonder if there was any Eastern influence possible at that time or is this too heretical!

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