Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Simple Life? Do We Really Want It?

So many people talk wistfully about how they would like to be able to live “simply.” But if you think about it, what would a “simple” life really mean, and would we really like it? Did our ancestors in caves live simple lives? They had to fight and scratch just for survival; their existence centered around obtaining food, fighting others for resources, and just staying alive. Primitive societies were subject to all kinds of natural perils, diseases, and early deaths. And man soon learned that problems needed to be and could be solved, and there began the evolution of our complexity. We learned to build homes to protect us from the elements; to grow food; to form communities for mutual benefit.

I don’t believe humans were meant to live simple lives. Our complex, intricate brains suggest otherwise. We were meant to dream, to imagine, to create; to make metaphors and symphonies, algorithms and architecture; to reflect on our lives and those of others. Our brains are plastic and malleable; they grow through being challenged. Our hearts and souls grow through being challenged. We grow and develop through our intricate interactions with others.

Yes, with complexity comes stress, but a certain amount of stress is necessary to spur us on to invent, to solve problems, to see things that can be improved and improve on them. Without complexity of thought we wouldn’t have philosophy or art or literature, science or medicine.

I know there are times when we all would love to escape from all the complications of our modern world. My life over the past three years certainly has not been easy, and not a day went by that I didn’t long for something simpler, for some relief from the stress and strain of caregiving. Yet now that the burden has largely passed from me, I can see what I gained from it, in patience and compassion, in learning to stretch beyond myself to really put another’s needs first. And I learned about and became involved in the world of those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias and those who are working hard to care for these patients and to find palliative medications and eventually a cure. I intend to become more involved, doing whatever I can to help those afflicted and those who search for medical answers. Will this further complicate my life? Yes, somewhat, but it will offer rewards, and so does living in a complex world, a world in which medical “miracles” are no longer beyond reach.

Could we accomplish such things if we all sat in green fields all day watching birds fly? Certainly we need some days like that, but how much would we value it if it was all we did every day? We’d become bored and would stop growing. Maybe our cries for simplicity are actually cries for more balance in our lives. I believe that to survive and grow our species needs both--simplicity and complexity--in harmonious balance. We need to exercise our brains and nurture our spirits, not exchange one for the other.


  1. My mom always talked about how wonderful it would have been to live in the 1700's and 1800's, but new she had romantacized it quite a bit. I do believe that today we can still dream, invent and still live a simple life even with the everyday stresses. I think the key if to finding a balance to doing all we want with doing all we need to do and in being able to sometimes say "no". I am thankful you've given me such a great Sunday muse and that you were willing to share how your experiences, especially over the past few years have helped you grow and what you learned from then. Here's to growth and a love of our lives!

  2. Hi Elaine.. Me I strive for harmony. I used to say balance, but later I thought balance isn't so easy because we have many lives or pieces of our life that demand our attention so balance isn't always manageable. Harmony on the other hand is something I can work with. I am not sure I know what simplicity means in the global sense and assume it's a personal definition. I know my life was be less or easier if I hadn't decided I wanted to write a book (write period) but now that the first book is done I have started the second. I have sort of rambled. Thanks for giving me too much to think about at the end of my manic work day! :-)

  3. Oh and thanks for visiting my site .. and sharing.

  4. This is so true! I do strive to simplify my life a bit, mostly because of finances and a little less stress, but I'm grateful to be in the time that I am. (well, most of the time at least :) )
    I also find it funny that "simplifying" adds so much more work! Recipes where it takes you 2 hours to make the item from scratch instead of spending 99 cents for it already mixed. uh-huh. Much simpler. hehe. Some things do work out, but some I just have to roll my eyes at. lol.
    I'm doing A-Z Challenge also and that's how I found you!