January 26, 2011

Of Mice And Men And Simple Living

My mom is good for sending me letters packed full of clippings, cartoons, and words of wisdom. I am surprised how many of these little nuggets have been surfacing as I go through my stuff in the on-going effort to create a world with no possessions. Well, at least a home with fewer possessions.

One of the items mom sent that I hung on to was a short story about finding meaning and purpose in life, and how living simply can facilitate both. There was nothing on the page giving authorship to anyone, so I am not sure who to attribute this to.

It is a nice reminder to keep things simple, quiet, and calm.

Of Mice And Men And Simple Living

A young man asked a sage what he should do to find meaning and purpose in life. "Live simply," the holy man told him. "Have only this small hut and the meager loincloth you wear. Keep the hut clean, your life orderly, and your mind quiet.

The holy man went on his way, vowing to return sometime to see how he was progressing. And this earnest young man began living his simple life.

After some time, he was distracted by the holes he found in his loincloth, and complained of it to his neighbor.

"You've got mice. Get a cat," advised the neighbor.

So he got a cat to get rid of the mice, but found himself having to borrow milk to feed the cat.

"Get a cow," suggested his helpful neighbor.

And he did. But then he had to find hay for the cow, until the neighbor counseled him, "Get a field and grow your own." The man did that, too. Before long, he acquired an estate, a wife, children, herds of cattle, machinery, servants, merchants to pay, profits to invest. His life was anything but simple.

One day, as promised, the sage returned and inquired of a farmhand about the young man. The servant had no idea who the holy man was searching for, so he took him to his master.

At the sages approach, the master of the estate vaguely recognized this tranquil man, who carried nothing but a staff, a pot of water, and the clothes on his back.

"What happened?" the holy man asked. "I left you here in a plain hut with a loincloth and instructions to quiet your mind."

The other man racked his brains to remember. He thought of his fine house, his servants in the fields, his splendid clothes. And he reflected on all the worries that accompanied them; the bills and duties and never-ceasing schemes for getting more things.

At last he remembered and blurted out, "I had mice."

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