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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Simplicity

“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! Let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand…” 

Henry David Thoreau

I tried to buy a cell phone the other day that had but one function: the ability to make and receive phone calls. I found that no such apparatus exists. If I buy a phone I must, at the very least, play games, take pictures, view videos, surf the web, read and return email, listen to music, take notes, tell time, maintain a calendar, and learn the coordinates of my current location. Only incidentally does it make and receive telephone calls—all of which suggests that things are much too complicated these days, especially for us old folks. Most of us are minimalists, looking for ways to simplify our lives.

Thomas Aquinas suggests a wondrous simplicity. He says there are really only three things in life worth doing: (1) moral good—like loving my neighbor; (2) practical good—like keeping up my lawn; (3) and delightful good—doing stuff I find pleasing or agreeable. Thus, there are three questions I need to ask of any endeavor: Is it virtuous? Is it necessary? Is it fun?[1]

How many actions go beyond Saint Thomas’ criteria? A plethora, I fear. These are the things that accumulate, complicate and clutter up my life. In which case, I need to stop doing them. Now.

It’s just that simple.

DHR

[1] I hasten to add that not all fun is good. That’s hedonism, a pagan philosophy. I’m assuming here “good” fun.

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