good read: voluntary simplicity

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This week’s good read is a really interesting essay on simplicity by Richard Gregg, a social philosopher who is known mostly for his work on non-violent resistance.  In 1936, he first coined the term “voluntary simplicity” in an essay entitled The Value of Voluntary Simplicity.  It is thorough and still relevant– a total consolidation and refreshing reminder of why we choose simplicity.  He writes about the importance of simplicity as it relates to human relationships, personalities, domestic life, unity, society, equality, civilization, leadership, non violence, the environment, art, and beauty.  This is essential reading for anyone interested in minimalism.

Here are a few notable quotes from the essay:

Voluntary simplicity involves both inner and outer condition. It means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, as well as avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the chief purpose of life….  It means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions. It involves a deliberate organization of life for a purpose.”

“The greatest characters, those who have influenced the largest numbers of people for the longest time, have been people with extremely few possessions. For example, Buddha, Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, Kagawa, Socrates, St. Francis, Confucius, Sun Yat Sen, Lenin, Gandhi, many scientists, inventors and artists. “The higher ranges of life where personality has fullest play and is most nearly free from the tyranny of circumstance, are precisely those where it depends least on possessions. . . . The higher we ascend among human types and the more intense personalities become, the more the importance of possessions dwindles.”

“The most beautiful and restful room I ever entered was in a Japanese country inn, without any furniture or pictures or applied ornaments. Its beauty lay in its wonderful proportions and the soft colors of unpainted wood beams, paper walls and straw matting. There can be beauty in complexity but complexity is not the essence of beauty. Harmony of line, proportion and color are much more important. In a sense, simplicity is an important element in all great art, for it means the removal of all details that are irrelevant to a given purpose.”

“If simplicity is a valuable thing, then to attain it we must pay a price. Estimate that price carefully against what you believe to be the value obtainable.”

[image credit:  minimography]

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