Sunday, February 26, 2006

Mental Benefits

by Skald

Up to now Ive tended to focus on the financial benefits of simplicity.... and the benefit of increased "free time". Related to these are many mental benefits.

"Our life is frittered away by detail... In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quicksands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion."


Most modern Americans (and Japanese) seem excessively frantic. Many of my friends and family are ruled by daily "to do" lists. It seems they never manage "to do" everything that needs to be done. As soon as one item is checked off the list, three more are added. They are always hurrying. They seem to feel guilty if they take a little time to relax and do nothing. And its not only work. Their "free time" does not seem very free. Rather, they impose the same regimented mentality to life outside work as is imposed on the job.

Thus, even during their meager "time off", they never really relax. I can remember being perplexed and amused, as a child, by my parents obsession with "errands". They were always running errands. There always seemed to be bills to pay, something to buy, something to fix,... and these activities always carried a whiff of obligation... as if my parents would much rather be doing something else.

I often hear adults complain that "children today" have no attention span. I find these adults are not much better than the children they bemoan. Rare is the person who will join me for a few hours in a coffee shop... just chatting, reading, writing. They quickly become agitated. I can see them running through the "to do" list... growing more frantic with each passing minute as their "free time" ticks away.

Regardless of its economic effects, simplicity is a valuable pursuit because of its mental benefits. It frees ones mind from a million trivial details.

One reason so many people forget their dreams and lose touch with their passions is that they never take the time to examine their own instincts. It takes time to rediscover ones deepest desires. It takes time to separate conditioning from deeper principles. It takes time to live deliberately. Folks seem to think a two week vacation on the beach (busily "doing things) is enough to rejuvenate. But it takes far more time.

Most people seem terrified of their own mind. Left with nothing but their own thoughts, they panic. The veneer of happy success suddenly drops away. Feelings of loneliness, depression, and anxiety flood forth. Most people panic... take out the to-do list... and run from their thoughts.

Reflection takes time.... and it takes a willingness to confront difficult feelings. It also takes quiet and simplicity. This is a process of months and years... not weeks.

Most mainstream folks will insist they are happy, successful, and satisfied. No doubt a few of them are. But most are putting on an act. Most are desperate. Most feel empty inside... they've lost something. Their passion for life is gone. Their sense of awe and mystery is gone. Their sense of purpose is gone. Wildness, ferocity, enthusiasm... gone. Replaced by forced joviality.

How do I know these are fake? By observing them when they are not distracting themselves with trivia. Sit them in a quiet cafe and watch what happens. Start asking tough/deep questions, and watch the agitation.

Luckily, there is an easy way out of the trivia trap. Freedom begins not with a shout... nor with rebellion. It begins in quiet reflection, born of simplicity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

dear skald,
you mimic my thoughts (almost) entirely, and express them in words better than i could hope to.
i haven't had a "job" in many years and i dont feel as though i've missed ANYTHING. rather, i feel all the better for it, and i dread the day that i finally have to settle for a "schedule" again.
"mainstream folk" are the most bitter, unhappy, unrealized, regretful things i have ever had the displeasure of coming into contact with.
i will media fast, and i suggested it to my girlfriend, and her response was along the lines of "that's a shit idea. you'll go fucking crazy in a week".
what a seriously mis-directed society we have when outside influence is "sane" and "your own thoughts" will make you go "crazy".
fuck people.