Calm • Serenity
Daring to Be Simple
It can take a very long time indeed to work up the courage to be simple: to read simple books, to wear simple clothes, to have simple days and to say simple things. For a long time, all the advantages and glamour seem to lie with complexity. We are pulled towards rare and hard-to-follow ideas; we entertain our friends with elaborate meals; we pursue convoluted relationships; we have careers that enmesh us in cumbersome commitments; we fill our leisure hours with exotic hobbies.
And then at some point, we may sense and aspire to the real challenge of existence: to dare to sound – to some – like an idiot; to fix on certain basic truths we’ve always known, to edit down our calendars, to wear only what is comfortable, to put in front of others the same sort of basic foods we like when we’re alone, to have relationships solely with those who know how to be direct, to leave our days more or less free apart from one or two elementary pleasures (tending to a garden, having a bath, going for a walk), to limit our reading to books we can understand and to communicate without inhibition all those heartfelt and essential things we know to those we are close to (that they are everything to us and that we’ll miss them immensely when it is over).
We worry inordinately about sounding boring or silly were we to show ourselves without elaboration or live according to our own less adorned inclinations. We spend the major part of our lives trying – unsuccessfully – to be somebody else. It can be the thought of death that eventually loosens us from our pretensions. We realise – under its bracing influence – that there is no point burdening ourselves with habits, ideas, vocabularies, people and duties that don’t belong to us. There is no point wasting time we can ill afford on those who can’t non-defensively say ‘I love you’, with clothes that we can’t keep clean, with books we can’t understand and with crowded days heavy with panic and meaningless challenges. We finally lose our terror of coming across as a simpleton and a yokel.
We’ll be properly mature, properly sophisticated even, we’ll probably have had to go through a host of complications, by the time we learn to appreciate the art of being direct, easy to follow, emotionally straightforward, predictable, unhurried and – in the eyes of the frantic and impressionable many – exceptionally dull.