“Life is really simple but we insist on making it complicated” wrote Confucius. He ought to be around now to appreciate how it has become even more hellishly complicated. I do acknowledge that I am a Luddite but modern technology designed to free us has, I think, made life even more problematic. We have all suffered power cuts, a failed internet connection, no mobile phone signal, the plastic voices that answer phones giving us options of buttons to press. And we all know the intense rage we can feel when these daily frustrations occur. But this is the modern world from which it is difficult to escape.
There are some ways we can help to achieve simplifying our lives. The obvious one is cutting down one’s possessions. I, like so many of us, live in a house with far too mush stuff. Consequently it becomes impossible to find what you need. Clothes spill out of the children’s drawers but they can never find matching pair of socks. Too much stuff makes life difficult. Becoming more self-sufficient and reducing consumption is highly advisable. National Downshifting Week encourages partcipants to Slow Down and Green up-“the more money you spend, the more time you have to be out there earning it and the less time you have to spend with the ones you love.” The philoosophy is sound. Most of us though find it difficult to slow down and live in the moment; there are so many distractions-phones ringing, television blaring, Facebook to peruse, tweets to Twitter, email responses to compose.
‘Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered’ by E.F. Schumacher was published in 1973. Though the book was lauded, most of his main principles have been ignored by UK business and government. For instance he blasted the notion that ‘growth is good’ or ‘bigger is better’ and questioned even then the wisdom of using mass production in developing countries. He was one of the first economists to question the appropriateness of using gross national product to measure human well-being, stating that “the aim ought to be to obtain the maximum amount of well-being with the minimum amount of consumption.” He was ahead of his time in promoting simplicity in economics which, if anybody had listened, could have meant simpler lives for us all.
It is easy to look back in rose tinted nostalgia but I am sure life pre the omnipresnt computers was much simpler. I do fondly remember being able to collect my paper from the newsagents and put the money on the counter. Now of course I would have to wait in a queue so that the barcode could be scanned. This is only for the benefit of the shop of course, not the customer. My other problem with shops is the sheer amount of choice. Is having to deliberate over 170 varieties of coffee in the supermarket life-enhancing or just brain-achingly dull and a sheer waste of energy? Sometimes less really is more. Simplicity implies beauty, purity, clarity- and a simple life is probably a happy one.