- December 26, 2018
- Esther Followwill-Johnson
I don’t need to tell you our culture is saturated in extravagance; the evidence is ubiquitous. It is easy to feel a sense of fulfillment when we are surrounded by things that validate our standing in life. Possessions are all a buffer distancing us from poverty, from lack. They seem to offer comfort against fear of not having what we need. Or not having enough, anyway.
A friend of mine once spent two weeks with some of the poorest people in the world. When she returned to America, her inclination was not to avoid the extravagant lifestyle in the west, but to rather indulge in it. She went on major shopping sprees – why? To remind herself that she is not trapped in poverty, and not destitute like those she’d witness in dire need.
I don’t judge her for feeling that way, and understand where this inclination may come from. If we fear something we want to be safe FROM it. It’s natural to fear financial lack… who do you know that actually wants to be poor? This is why we find simplicity so frightening.
Now, there is nothing wrong with abundance! We were designed to desire life and blessings to the FULLEST measure. All I mean to say is, I think surrounding ourselves with extravagance can be nothing more than an elaborate con. A distraction, a cover up. It paints a shiny coat over the surface of fissures and weaknesses beneath. When you remove all the distraction- underneath it all, who really are we? What would we find in the emptiness? Stripping everything away is terrifying because of what it might expose. Our vulnerability. Our fears. Or selfishness. The possibility of rejection. Our unmet-with expectations. Perhaps we need to be willing to peel back some of those layers of comfort, and be challenged.
This last Christmas was the first one my husband and I had at home, just us. We made a lot of intentional choices to create simplicity on the day itself. Limiting each other to one gift each, and using sparse decorations. Our goal was to create moments of quiet and reflection. I do adore the high energy of the season, and all the glitteringly wild magic it brings. But this year we wanted to stop the noise. It was refreshing!
Think of life as a bouquet. Instead of carrying dozens and dozens of bold roses… what could you see if you looked at just one bud? Or how about a single petal? Soaking in an exact moment, the smallness, a slice, could be more beautiful than absorbing the giddy abundance of something in its entirety.
Simplicity is uncomfortable because of our own restlessness. Our culture is in a hurry to fill every empty space; how powerful it would be to seek simplicity. So many people on earth have no other option than to live life simply, and there is much we could learn from them. To see what can be gained by sitting in a silence we’re tempted to fill. And not to be frightened by simplicity as a threat, but rather to welcome it as an ally.