Oct 12, 2011
Voluntary Simplicity: Thoreau and the Simple Life
I was actually reading some of my articles for one of my courses the other day (I know, applause, right?) and one of the articles struck a bit of a chord with things that I'm struggling with lately, with feeling swamped, that need to get down to business and just having time get away from me for things that I really love to do.
Henry David Thoreau was a big proponent of the whole living more simply idea, and while I don't quite see myself heading down to a hut to grow beans and protest paying taxes, I think a lot of what he had to say on the subject is pretty good. His most famous quote on the subject being :
"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."
This statement has always resonated with me --the thought that I may spend a lifetime trying to figure things out and to fall short because I didn't properly confront the things that were excess and unneeded in my life and focus on what is right and important. I've read a lot on simple living as well, but as this site notes, the difference between simple living and voluntary simplicity often is related to the focus that simple living has on declutttering and removing excess from one's life, whereas voluntary simplicity has a focus on "happiness, contentment… going outside your comfort zone, accepting responsibility for your actions, and getting your priorities “right.” as well as focusing on the way you live and the philosophy you enact in your day to day living.
The context I was actually reading about some of this stuff in of late was an article on social systems theory in a course on families. The concept of families as a system of energy exchange is an interesting one, and I'd never really thought of the family unit as a system of energy flowing in and out of it, based on interactions between its members and with other systems, such as friends, family, workmates, the community, etc. This concept also has a lot to do with organization and disorganization, as well as how a family chooses to live, be it simply or chaotically, based on the quality of the interactions between the family members and how well the goals of each member are being met.
Overall, I think this all amounts to the fact that I need to figure out what it is I really want out of my interactions, what is important to me in the moment, in the near future and overall, and figure out some ways to live in a way that is more based in the spirit of voluntary simplicity than it has been up to this point, and more importantly, how I want my little family unit to live and the quality of life we can give to each other.
What do you do to live a simple life or a life of voluntary simplicity? I'd love to hear your thoughts!
Resources on Voluntary Simplicity:
What Thoreau Knew
Choosing Voluntary Simplicity
Henry David Thoreau and the Practice of Voluntary Simplicity