Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Trouble with "Simple"

For quite some time now, I've been looking around for examples of what I would call "simple living." I had no idea this would be so hard to find.

Plug in the words simple house or simple living into a Google or Yahoo image search and what will you find?

Images like these:

What generally pops up is not a simple house but a normal, regular house.

I guess the word simple has evolved over the years and has come to mean anything less than grandiose.

This picture came up under simple living. The furniture may have simple lines but it's NOT simple living.

None of that was what I was looking for. I didn't mean small or normal...I really meant simple.

I've been looking for photos for my new book entitled "Shacking Up" touting the benefits of living in what most Americans would consider a "less than perfect" house.

Something more along the lines of this

or this...

...or this.

Generally, when Americans run across someone living in conditions such as these, they immediately rush to the conclusion that whoever is living there is in a horrible state of affairs and they want to jump right in and help them—Those poor people!

I won't even go into what they say when they see the kids running around without shoes and covered in dirt. (Somehow they forget the fact that the kids were screaming with glee and laughing the whole time they were doing this.)

I know, I know...not everyone wants to live like that or in a place like that. Not everyone has a choice and I'll be the first to admit that when that's the case, it's no fun. But when you make a conscience decision to live simply by choice, it's a different matter all together.

Living in simple, earthy structures such as these can be surprisingly comfortable and rewarding. Often even more so than living in the lap of luxury.

Living in a house that has doors and windows lacking perfect seals—one with dirt floors, candle and lantern lighting, the natural breeze for cooling, a box stove for cooking and heating, and maybe even an old-fashioned outhouse can be quite enlightening. No radio, no TV—just books and birds for your entertainment.

This can be an experience that changes your life, but not in the way you might think. Naturally your first thought would be that living like that would give you a profound appreciation for the finer things in life—but it does just the opposite. There is no way you can know this or believe it until you've done it.

Just try spending some time (months) living like this, away from all the distractions, then come back to civilization and you will know what I mean—The traffic, the horns honking, the radios and televisions blaring, shut up inside the sterile environments that our homes have become, sitting around glued to the television for hours on end.

We seal ourselves in and shut everything else out. When nature tries to come in, we either spray it or smash it.

And we don't want anything coming within a few hundred feet of our sterile environment either.

We mow it, spray it, smother it in plastic or cover it with cement. We've even enacted laws to make sure our neighbors do the same...mow it and kill it or we'll fine it.

We all seem to agree that nature is beautiful. We know this because we've seen it on TV—but God forbid, we let it come too close.

I won't go into all the benefits and advantages of living simply that have been so eloquently stated by Thoreau. I'll leave that for another post. But there is a reason it feels so good to go on a camping trip, sleep in a little cabin or tent, or better yet, sleep under the stars.

Maybe someday you'll be lucky enough to give this way of life a try and find out why.

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