September 28, 2017

Simple Living, Or Poverty?



Consumerism is about making ones self appear “successful” in other people’s eyes. The more stuff you have, the better the reputation. That is what happens when a culture worships material wealth over everything else.

This can lead to a lot of dissatisfaction if one is not able to attain all the trappings required to meet the requirements for this narrow view of what a successful life should look like. Dissatisfaction is a form of pain, of mental illness.

This leads to not only to environmental degradation, but also to much human suffering. We work ourselves to death attempting to attain a certain standing in a sick system that cherishes all the wrong things. We worry about what others will think of us if we don't measure up.

What will people think if I don't have a new car, big house, high paying job, trophy vacations, the right clothes? The list goes on and on and on. The consumerism contest is a Sisyphean pursuit.

In a life of simplicity one can give up on all of that in order to focus on more important things, like finding out the reality of what we are, and why we are here. Instead of looking outward all the time, we have time to look inward in order to answer the important questions that have always challenged  non-distracted humans.

Are there, or have there ever been, any rich sages or mystics? Diogenes claimed he was happy living in his barrel, with his cloak, stick and bread bag.

“The Cynics emphasized that true happiness is not found in external advantages such as material luxury, political power, or good health. True happiness lies in not being dependent on such random and fleeting things.”
 - Jostein Gaardner


One reason I think that simplicity is not as popular as it should be, is because it may be hard for others to tell the difference between poverty and simplicity. Indeed, some call their simple lifestyle "voluntary poverty", not because they feel poor, but because that is what it looks like compared to more luxurious "normal" lifestyles.

What if others think I am poor? Most people would rather die than experience that outcome. But who would argue that it isn't better to be content than continuously striving for an unattainable, unnecessary, and environmentally destructive way of life?



10 comments:

  1. Anonymous9/28/2017

    Who cares what others think. I tend to live my life in a simple way, but working the body and mind. Most of the stuff is free. I have found a daily practice of morning meditation very powerful and sometimes I might meditate in the evening as well. The meditation affects me in a subtle way. I love running as well and I'm trying different training styles. I enjoy learning languages and I'm already adept in Chinese and have started German. Anyway I'm probably rambling and enjoying the beautiful Autumn here. Cheers to simplicity.
    Peace,
    Alex

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alex,

      That sounds great. There is so much to do - how can shopping for things one does not need be a good use of our time? Or money? Glad you are having a good Autumn. It has been beautiful here as well, but a shift has just occurred, and more seasonal temperatures are setting in.

      I thought of you when I read this quote the other day:

      "Meditation could be said to be the Art of Simplicity: simply sitting, simply breathing and simply being.

      — Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

      Delete
    2. Anonymous9/30/2017

      Meditation is the ultimate in simple living, nothing is really required, just breath.
      Peace,
      Alex

      Delete
  2. I was interested to learn recently that my family fits into the 'second poorest by income' category (according to public statistics in my country). I was initially not just surprised, but also slightly horrified. Then annoyed with myself for feeling horrified. I knew we weren't wealthy, but also certainly don't feel 'poor'. Quite the contrary. We carry no debt outside our mortgage. None. Our mortgage will be paid off well before retirement. We have two (paid for) cars, although it's true they're not fancy. It's also true we don't live in a particularly desirable suburb. We don't have the latest gadgets and very rarely go out or go on holidays. But we have a nice big section and grow food and have chickens and nice friends and a warm home. I get to stay home with my children and my husband has a job he enjoys and is good at.
    I'm confused therefore in which way are we poor? Who defines this? And wtf are people who are 'wealthy' spending their money on??? lol

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Karen,

      Linda and I definitely live under the poverty line set for our country. But how can we be poor when we have so much riches from our garden? Your life sounds wonderful.

      It is possible to be outwardly rich, but inwardly poor. And vice versa. I guess rich people spend money on trying to convince others that they are rich. I am not impressed. Before long conspicuous consumption will be about as popular and desirable as smoking in public.

      Delete
    2. I totally agree. Poverty is a strange word. It implies such negative things. In what way are we poor? I feed my family well on good nourishing food. I have no debt... because i don't buy things I can't afford and I am perfectly content. If that is poverty then I am happy to be living in it.

      Delete
  3. I think your last two paragraphs are very true and profound. Great food for thought.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kelly,

      Many people dismiss this out of turn. They won't even think about it. You are ahead of the game, since you will. There is hope yet!

      Delete
  4. True poverty can be ugly and cruel. Although I also fall into the statistical category of well below the poverty line, I'm able to live a life with more than enough. When contemplating what true poverty looks like, I can't blame my neighbors here in Appalachia for wanting to hang onto things, for wanting things that others have that always seem beyond their reach. They are being deceived certainly, but true poverty takes away hope and who can blame them for seeing hope equated with things. It's sad that they can't look to the not so distant past, when their ancestors plowed their small bits of land and provided by their own hands what was needed. Advertising is a false prophesy preached by the gods of capitalism that all too many take as truth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Marla,

      The pressures aligned against us are vast and relentless. It is completely possible to eradicate poverty globally right now, and I don't mean by more capitalism and the infinite growth model. Inequality is the worst kind of weapon of mass destruction. What ever happened to sharing? If the planet were a kindergarten class, the teacher would not be satisfied with our performance. Time for a parent/teacher conference to plan for our improvement.

      Delete

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