by Father Mark Goldasich
Probably most people are familiar with the acronym KISS, which stands for: Keep It Simple, Silly!
In reading Pope Francis’ new encyclical, “Laudato Si’,” where he again mentions our “throwaway culture,” simplicity is definitely something we’re encouraged to practice. Quoting Patriarch Barthlomew, the encyclical calls us “to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which ‘entails learning to give and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs’” (9).
Living a life of simplicity is, ultimately, simple to understand. A folk tale from the Middle East — featuring Nasrudin, the wise fool — captures the idea well:
Everyone in the village had “pilgrimage fever” and got busy packing up traveling clothes and food for the journey. All except for Nasrudin, who watched them laboring away.
Soon, all of the village — the men, women and children — were heading out to Mecca. They were singing songs and shouting with great excitement about how they were off to find God.
They got about a mile or so away when Nasrudin suddenly rode up on his donkey and began to shout about some terrible emergency. The villagers caught the donkey and made Nasrudin tell them what the problem was.
“I’m trying to find my donkey!” he shouted. “Where is my donkey?”
“Why, Nasrudin,” answered the villagers, “you’re sitting on top of your donkey.”
“Oh, really? Is that so?” he replied. “And why are you all going on a pilgrimage to find God?”
Of course, Nasrudin’s point is that we don’t have to go to a faraway place to “find” God. We only have to look around, right where we are. What is true about finding God is equally true about finding simplicity. We don’t need to head off to a distant, expensive seminar. Simplicity is within our grasp, right where we are.
I think we can all use a healthy dose of simplicity. Doesn’t it seem like there’s rarely downtime any more, now that we’re always “connected” via our cellphones and tablets? Even summers and vacations, which used to be times of simple rest and renewal, are often more taxing than relaxing.
And with school starting up again in just a few weeks, the crazybusy train is about to leave the station.
It doesn’t need to be that way, though. A quick search of the Lifehack website yielded some of this baker’s dozen rules for living a simple life:
• Put God first in your life. Spend time daily with God. Speak to God about your joys and sorrows, dreams and disappointments. Don’t let work, sports or other leisure activities crowd God out of your schedule.
• Believe in yourself, but be aware of your limitations. Set realistic goals each day. Be mature enough, however, to own up when you make a mistake. After all, nobody is perfect.
• Declutter and simplify.
• Use everything in moderation. Spend less than you make, pay attention to your diet, and limit your “screen” time.
• Keep things in perspective. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Remember the words: “This too shall pass.”
• Treat others how they want to be treated. Don’t judge, be generous and do something nice for someone daily. Let others say “no,” and don’t pressure or guilt them into doing what you want.
• Have a positive mindset. Keep in mind the words of Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right!”
• Educate yourself. Keep up on your faith by reading The Leaven (of course) and spiritual books. Learn something new every day.
• Surround yourself with supportive people.
• Banish the word “perfection.” Strive for excellence, not perfection. Most of the time, good enough is good enough.
• Fix it, or deal with it, but stop whining about it. Don’t blame others for your problems, make excuses or be overly sensitive. And, for Pete’s sake, don’t be a drama queen.
• Remember things that you’re grateful for.
• Be passionate about something. “Let’s go Royals!”
One final rule is in order: Don’t try to incorporate the above rules into your life all at once . . . or you can kiss sweet simplicity goodbye.