If my grandfather, born in 1890, were to come into my house, he would not find his way around, neither in my household nor in my office. Our present generation has so many more opportunities to shape our working world and our private lives. But life has also gotten more complicated. We need to be familiar with so many modern communication tools. So many machines and gadgets with complex procedures that we can’t figure out, do the heavy, tedious work for us. Actually, these modern technical achievements are supposed to give us more time for ourselves.
When I’ve finished writing this article, I won’t have to write it clean on paper, put it in an envelope and take it to the post office for my editor-in-chief. I remain seated in my office chair and send it via the Internet. If the editor wants to, he can open and read it on his computer a few minutes later.
What do I do with the time I’ve saved? Am I going to fold my arms, be happy about the successful article, and reflect on the essentials? I have to watch over my time, my health, my thoughts. I don’t want to plunge into the next activity like the fast swimmer with a head dive into the cold water.
I want to take the liberty – and fortunately I can afford it – to structure my working hours for myself. Instead of getting dragged by the daily grind, I want to consciously take responsibility for my everyday life. After a few hours at the computer, it’s time to do some gardening or kitchen work. Every now and then a nature walk is allowed. During this time, I come up with all sorts of things.
Most people live outside of their “assets”. It’s not just about money, about consumption, but also about time, about food, about relaxation. It’s not about asceticism, but about simply doing without the superfluous, which we find difficult to deal with anyway.
Too many pounds make me short of breath. Why did I eat so much again? I have been wanting to lose a few pounds for a long time! Yes, I can afford a pumpkin pie with whipped cream every now and then. Tomorrow, however, there will be an apple for dessert – and I’ll simply enjoy it! Actually, a fruit day every now and then is good for my health. Or should I try just drinking tea for a whole day? That’s definitely good for me and I’m happy when I’ve grown beyond myself and my appetite.
While I’m tidying up, I can go through my closet. What has accumulated there, such an abundance! I haven’t worn this lovely piece in a year. That’s why my friend recently said to me: “I always see you in the same sweater.” Both pieces are still in good condition: so wash one of them and off it goes to the thrift store. There’s still enough in the closet.
What else can I get rid of in order to live a simpler life? How was it last night before falling asleep? I was worried and anxious about the future. The car is getting in his years, the roof of the house would need some repairs. The winter is still long and the wood supplies are running out. All this costs money. Where does it come from? How am I going to do this? Then even the past came into play. Do you still remember the mistake you made back then? You really weren’t fair to your child. Hopefully it hasn’t been hurt and is getting over that.
Fears and worries about the future, lingering in the past are robbing me the strength and time to simply live in the now. And I can only live in the now. Have I ever experienced anything in the past or done anything in the future? The answer is simple: I live in the now. I can cope with today, this attitude gives me strength, but today I don´t get what I need for tomorrow.
So I can also simplify my thoughts, I can remove the superfluous. Simply by not brooding too much over things I can’t change; but also, simply by looking forward to the new day every morning, to the sun that will rise again, even if the weather should remain cloudy, it’s still there. For me, every new day is an invitation to simply live – or live simply – simply in both senses.
It’s up to me to shape my day to be simpler, to find joy in the simple things of everyday life, in the opening of a flower, in the laughter of a child, in the surprised expression on my work colleague’s face when I have greeted him with enthusiasm and wished him a very good day.
No amount of possessions can buy me the joy of life. Proverbs 13:7 says, “There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches.” If I give in to every wish and fulfill it, then I cannot be happy in the long run. Neither money nor confirmation, not even success can still my longing for a fulfilling life. True joy comes from living a simple life, enjoying nature, being accepted by my circle of friends and feeling safe with my God, Creator and Sustainer.
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Esther Neumann studied Nutrition at the University of Vienna. Since then she served as an author for the health magazine “Leben und Gesundheit” and conducted health lectures in various locations of Austria.