Apr 18 2011

The Solution is Simplicity

Published by at 12:22 am under Reflection Blog

Duane Elgin argues that simplicity is not about living an agrarian lifestyle but a lifestyle of “making the most of wherever you are.” Throughout this reading I kept returning to an image from my favorite book, Anna Karenina, where Tolstoy spends 50 pages explaining the process of Levin cutting his grass in the countryside. Although most people who read Anna Karenina find this portion of the novel unbarable, I found Tolstoys analysis of the relationship between person and nature enlightening. It is not the actions or the location that are important, it is Levin’s attitude that makes the difference. The way in which an individual lives their life, not the material objects that they acquire, determine their happiness. Elgin explains that living simplistically is simultaneously external and internal, similar to Levin’s actions in the field. Levin at once participates in physical activity and philosophical thought. Through this process of becoming in touch with his actions through thought, Levin both enjoys and recieves enlightenment from the strenuous activity. If people, like Levin, live deliberately and sustainably, then they will recieve happiness from every situation. I think this article ties the semester together by showing that although consumerism is a vital part of every lifestyle (even simplistic lifestyles) it is the way in which the individual participates in consumerism that makes the difference. A simplistic life depends on thoughts and planned activities instead of depending on impulses.

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “The Solution is Simplicity”

  1. Brian Auricchioon 18 Apr 2011 at 4:44 pm

    I think your point is especially relevant today with the rise of suburbia. It’s easy for people to fall into a routine that does not involve any contact with the natural world. We are relentlessly surrounded by consumerist trends and inevitably become a part of this culture. With more than half the U.S.’s population living in urban centers, it’s difficult to re-establish this connection.

  2. bronwynfloreson 18 Apr 2011 at 6:50 pm

    I haven’t read that book, but I can relate to what you’re saying. I think that finding happiness in nature (especially the “Great Outdoors”) is an easy way for people to appreciate things in life that are free.

  3. esmethuron 18 Apr 2011 at 11:10 pm

    As a summer camp counselor, I spend the majority of my summer outdoors (and the cabins we sleep in are not insulated, so they could technically also count for an outdoor experience). To go from being surrounded by nature to the city of Fredericksburg in the fall is quite an adjustment. The sprawl of stores (i.e. Central Park) and traffic are unwelcome parts of my college experience. That is why I liked Elgin’s argument about simplicity–a “connection” (as Brian said) with nature is needed.

  4. scorronon 19 Apr 2011 at 2:09 am

    I have experienced this adjustment as well. I to have been a summer camp counselor at a summer camp that only uses electricity in the dining hall and office, and does not allow technology. Moving from that experience back unto suburbia ia certainly a shock. Simplicity definitely helps balance that shock.

  5. sarahstauntonon 19 Apr 2011 at 6:21 pm

    When you mentioned the “agrarian lifestyles” it made me think of the Amish. Now they are not exactly the most agrarian of all peoples but when I went and stayed with them for four days it seemed so much more focused on the idea of your family and how important they are. I think that the most detrimental thing to having a consumer society is that the family has fallen to the wayside. You focus more on things instead of relationships.