Just Enough is Plenty

This post is inspired by the essay, Why the simple life is not just beautiful, it’s necessary, published on Aeon Magazine.

interior-with-two-girls-by-peter-ilsted-1904
Detail from Interior with Two Girls by Peter Ilsted, 1904. Photo courtesy Flickr

Apparently, ballpoint pens don’t work in space because of the lack of gravity. It is said that NASA, troubled by this realization, spent many millions of dollars designing a ‘space pen’ that could function in the absence of gravity. The Russians used a pencil.

Whether or not this story is true, it raises interesting questions about how technology is used in modern society. Are we, like NASA, complicating life and wasting money on superfluous technology?

To what extent could we, like the Russians, find much ‘simpler’ solutions to the problems we face?

What role should technology play in living the simple life? In the 21st century, are there times when our lives could be improved by using less technology, not more? Or by using technology smarter?

My love/hate with technology is around communications. I love my computer/internet connection and have acquiesced to having a mobile phone, but the trick is not feeling like you have to be available 24 hours a day to people. They’re just tools, not the master you’re enslaved to.

To be sure, there is no ‘rule’ to follow, as such, that can tell us when technology is appropriate and when it is not. There is much, much more to say on the question of technology in future posts. But for now I will  close this post with following comment:

The simple life is not just beautiful, it’s necessary. Technology can play an integral role to simplify our lives.

Life is about choices. Making the choice to live life in a simpler way is something that is becoming a necessity.

 

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Do It Anyway

When I read this poem first time, it felt like Mother Teresa’s poem is a wonderful reminder for each us to continue to be good even when it looks bleak.

Mother Teresa’s Anyway Poem

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and The God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

The above verses reportedly were written on the wall of Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta, India, and are widely attributed to her.

They seem to be based on a composition originally by Kent Keith, but much of the second half has been re-written in a more spiritual way.  You can read both version using following link:

The Mother Teresa Connection (The Paradoxical Commandments by Kent M. Keith)

 

Lessons From The Cookie Thief

If you’ve read 3rd Serving of Chicken Soup for the Soul, you may remember one of the poems in the book about the “The Cookie Thief.”

In case you haven’t read it before, you can read it here. One most important lesson I have learned from it is:

Question your assumptions – The lady in the poem simply assumed that the cookies were hers and that the “cookie thief” was rudely taking them from her.

After reading the poem, I could totally relate to the many times in which I have hastily and mistakenly passed judgment of a situation or of a person. I think many of us are guilty of this. We make assumptions and judgments without having all the facts.

We like to think we know everything and we like to know that we are always right. This is who we are, this is what we all do. This is one of the reasons that many of us get stuck and can’t really grow. We need to keep an open mind and be aware that what we know might not be the truth and what we know is very little and that as long as we will live, we will be ignorant.

Begin challenging your own assumptions.
Your assumptions are your windows on the world.
Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won’t come in.
~ Alan Alda

 

The Cookie Thief

I want to share with you this beautiful poem of Valerie Cox called The Cookie Thief and I really hope we will all learn something from it.

The Cookie Thief

“A woman was waiting at an airport one night,
With several long hours before her flight.
She hunted for a book in the airport shops.
Bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.
She was engrossed in her book but happened to see,
That the man sitting beside her, as bold as could be.
Grabbed a cookie or two from the bag in between,
Which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene.
So she munched the cookies and watched the clock,
As the gutsy cookie thief diminished her stock.
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by,
Thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I would blacken his eye.”
With each cookie she took, he took one too,
When only one was left, she wondered what he would do.
With a smile on his face, and a nervous laugh,
He took the last cookie and broke it in half.
He offered her half, as he ate the other,
She snatched it from him and thought… oooh, brother.
This guy has some nerve and he’s also rude,
Why he didn’t even show any gratitude!
She had never known when she had been so galled,
And sighed with relief when her flight was called.
She gathered her belongings and headed to the gate,
Refusing to look back at the thieving ingrate.
She boarded the plane, and sank in her seat,
Then she sought her book, which was almost complete.
As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise,
There was her bag of cookies, in front of her eyes.
If mine are here, she moaned in despair,
The others were his, and he tried to share.
Too late to apologize, she realized with grief,
That she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief.”
You just don’t know what you don’t know, you know?

How many times did it happen to you to know something for sure and to believe that what you knew was the truth, the only truth, the supreme truth and later on to realize how wrong you were?

Seneca on books and wealth

Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote this in one of his letters to his friend Lucilius:

Be careful, however, lest this reading of many authors and books of every sort may tend to make you discursive and unsteady. You must linger among a limited number of master thinkers, and digest their works, if you would derive ideas which shall win firm hold in your mind. Everywhere means nowhere.

The idea is to not be in perpetual locomotion and jump from one book or author to another…but to sit back, contemplate, and relate the facts you read to each other. But start reading if you haven’t already, and start now, or you would miss out on the huge compounding benefits of the same as years pass.

At the end of this very letter, Seneca also shared his thoughts on the limits of one’s wealth.

He says: “Contented poverty is an honorable estate.” Indeed, if it be contented, it is not poverty at all.

It is not the man who has too little, but the man who craves more, that is poor.

What does it matter how much a man has laid up in his safe, or in his warehouse, how large are his flocks and how fat his dividends, if he covets his neighbors property, and reckons, not his past gains, but his hopes of gains to come?

Do you ask what is the proper limit to wealth?

It is, first, to have what is necessary, and, second, to have what is enough.

Source: Letter 2: On Discursiveness in Reading

Following is the link to complete collection of letters from archive.org:

Is flattery the key to success?

praise-flattery-sign

One definition of happiness is ‘ability to live life on your own terms.’ But sometimes, we define our happiness based on what others do, and then we try to ‘catch up’ with them compromising our own core values.

Aristippus, a Greek philosopher gained a comfortable position in the Kingdom through constant flattery of the King.

Aristippus once saw Diogenes, another Greek philosopher, dining on a meager meal of lentils and advised, “Learn to flatter the king and you will not have to live on lentils.”

Diogenes replied, “Learn to live on lentils and you will never have to flatter anyone.”

Following is the full story from the book Isaac Asimov’s Treasury of Humor: A Lifetime Collection of Favorite Jokes by Isaac Asimov

Aristippus of Cyrene and Diogenes of Sinope were contemporary philosophers of fourth century B.C. Greece. Aristippus preached pleasure as the greatest good and had a prominent position in the court of Dionysius, powerful ruler of Syracuse on Sicily. Diogenes on the other hand, held that all possessions were corrupting and favored a life of rigid virtue, which could be achieved only in poverty.

Aristippus once met Diogenes when the latter was engaged in washing lentils prior to making himself the soup that was the main article of his diet.

Aristippus said, “Oh, Diogenes, if you could but learn to do a small thing such as flattering Dionysius, you would not have the sad fate of living on lentils.”

And Diogenes answered, “Oh, Aristippus, if you could but learn to do a small thing such as living on lentils, you would not have the sad fate of having to flatter Dionysius.”

20 Life Lessons We Learn Too Late

Sometimes we become depressed thinking about the past and mistakes we have committed in life. There are many lessons we learn late in our life. For example, the importance of maintaining work-life balance, the art of listening and giving more value to health rather than wealth. Moreover, we feel like going back in time to rectify our mistakes.

life-is-all-about-relationships

A Quora thread [1] has shared some lessons we should learn early in life so that we do not regret later on. Here are my top 20 from the thread:

  1. Simple is good.
  2. It’s all about the relationships. There is nothing more important to each person than themselves. Tap into that. Do good for others and the world will be your oyster. For us introverts, we’ve gotta work a bit harder. The above quote from Maya Angelou summarizes why this is so important:
  3. People are far more important than any other thing in your life. No hobby, interest, book, work is going to be as important to you as the people you spend time with as you get older.
  4. Time passes much more quickly than you realize.
  5. If you don’t take care of your body early then it won’t take care of you later. Your world becomes smaller each day as you lose mobility, continence and sight.
  6. Money talks. It says “Goodbye.” If you don’t plan your finances for later in life, you’ll wish you had.
  7. That big house you had to have becomes a bigger and bigger burden, even as the mortgage gets smaller. The cleaning, the maintenance, the stairs — all of it. Don’t let your possessions own you.
  8. Every day you wake up is a victory.
  9. None of the best experiences of your life will happen staring a computer screen, a phone screen or a TV.
  10. Beneath anger is always fear. As the wise Yoda says, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” Whenever we suffer, especially for long periods of time, at first we believe it is because of something outside of us–something we hate. And if we make it past that emotion, we find below that hate is a rumble of anger, and certainly something we have held on to for far too long. But beneath all of that is always fear. A fear of loss. A fear of vulnerability. A fear of letting go. But if you can get to the point of acknowledging the fear, you will see its lighthearted shadow, compassion. And you will be able to move forward.
  11. Your emotions take practice. Who you are emotionally takes practice. You can practice humility, you can practice forgiveness. You can practice self-awareness and humor, just as easily as you can practice anger, resentment, drama, and conflict. Who you are, emotionally, is a reflection of the things you consciously (or unconsciously) practice. You were not “born” upset. You have merely practiced that emotion far more than you have, say, joy.
  12. Achievement will never be as fulfilling as the journey.
  13. The school really were the best days of your life. If you worked hard at school, you are reaping the benefits now.
  14. Choose your friends carefully; you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.
  15. Always give your best at everything you do, people are always watching.
  16. Always treat people the way you want to be treated and you’ll receive respect from almost everyone you meet.
  17. Everyone is simultaneously different and the same. Regardless of someone’s race, culture, gender and sexual orientation, everyone is equal.
  18. We don’t care about the things we get easily, Health for instance.
  19. Practice Humility, Practice Forgiveness. like you practiced playing Piano. Your emotions take practice.
  20. And last but not the least, Don’t let your Possessions own you.

Source: https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-lessons-people-most-often-learn-too-late-in-life