I have always loved the expression “Live simply so that others may simply live.” Implicit in that statement is a recognition of interconnectedness—an understanding that what I do affects the lives of others. If I live without conscious awareness of each of my actions, the entire planet feels the impact. Something as seemingly small as conserving water or buying locally grown organic food makes a difference in the world. How we live creates our future, now.
Equally important is stepping away from the emphasis on consumerism that permeates U.S. culture, especially during the holiday season. Commercials, advertisements, and the mass media promote material acquisition to the point of excess. Much has been written about our throw-away society in which people endlessly buy and discard, buy and discard, overloading landfills and polluting the environment in the process. Segments of the population live in poverty while others aspire to the “lifestyles of the rich and famous.” Money, cars, houses and all sorts of material goods to fill them is supposedly the American Dream. But is it really?
True abundance has absolutely nothing to do with money or possessions. It’s an ongoing appreciation for life’s simple gifts: air to breathe, food to eat, love of family and friends, the beauty of the world around us. Filling our lives (and the planet) with things is not abundance; it is waste. Waste that leads to an inner emptiness. If we continually look outside ourselves for fulfillment, we will always be seeking, always feel somehow lost and lacking. It is the simple life that brings the greatest contentment. Ram Dass put it succinctly many years ago, “Be here now.” Moment to moment, we eat, sleep, laugh, love. We can find extraordinary pleasure and fulfillment in the simplest, most uncomplicated activities of living a human life on Planet Earth. Chop wood, carry water, as Zen Buddhism describes life before and after enlightenment.
These are not unreachable aspirations restricted to those who want to live alone in the woods like Thoreau or achieve spiritual enlightenment. Some would say that we already have enlightenment within us, that we are already filled with infinite abundance and love. I believe this. My life is rich in countless ways that are not dependent on monetary wealth. It is the simple joys of daily life, sunrise to sunset, wherever I happen to be, that fill my heart to overflowing. In this time of evolving human being-ness, I think many people are now beginning to feel within themselves a desire for greater simplicity, inner peace, and a connection to the source of all life on Earth. May it be so, for each and every one of us.
In the words of Scott and Helen Nearing, authors of Living the Good Life, who lived in rural Vermont and Maine from 1932 until Scott’s death at 100 in 1983:
“The earth is a speck of dust in an enormous expression of life; one grain of consciousness in the totality…. I’d like to get people into the habit of living physically and mentally in such a way that when they get all through, the earth could be a better place to live in than it was….”—Scott Nearing
“Love is the source, love the goal, and love the method of attainment.” —Helen Nearing