Archive for the ‘Simplicity’ Tag

Simplicity Is More, Not Less   Leave a comment

Dec. 3

Simplicity is no synonym for asceticism. Reduction has no inherent value or virtue. Subtraction must be creative and purposeful so that each decrement enhances the beauty, strengthens the good, focuses the impact.  “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free,” said Michelangelo, but our work is as much greater as the pumping heart surpasses cold stone.  Simplicity trims the superfluous and distills the quality until the vital, vibrant spirit of a thing emerges to ignite our passions and light our way.

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Posted December 4, 2013 by janathangrace in thoughts

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Making Room for Christmas   Leave a comment

For November I posted daily a thanksgiving on Facebook, usually tongue in cheek, and I found the daily practice was good both for my writing and my outlook.  Keeping a habit is a good bit easier than creating one from scratch, so here’s my carryover: daily advent reflections, starting inevitably with simplicity to which Kimberly and I are forced by our meager resources.

Dec. 1 (yes, I realize it is Dec. 2… I’ll catch up tonight)
So, Thanksgiving’s out of the way, barely.  Friday and Saturday I put up half our Christmas decorations, a little here, a little there… the rest is not going up.  Kimberly and I scale our life investments to our energy levels, which is one of the secrets not only of keeping the spirit (and Spirit) in Christmas, but of surviving all year.

I could say we are forced into simplicity, and it sometimes feels that way, but truly it is a life choice.  We have discovered that our hearts are fuller, healthier, more alive when we spend within our means emotionally, financially, socially, and in every other way.  I have to continually remind myself that my lifestyle is a choice.  It doesn’t feel that way because our personal poverty level is not a choice–it has been thrust upon us–and though we do what we can to increase our reserves without depleting our souls, we seem to make little headway.  But how we choose to live within such a tight emotional budget is in our hands, and I believe we do well with what we have, better than many who have far more in their personal accounts.

Many approach Christmas with a determination to squeeze out of it every ounce of happiness they can–after all it only comes once a year.  They decorate lavishly and bake incessantly and shop feverishly.  They bribe or cajole all the relatives into coming for this great gala, then spend large amounts of energy keeping everyone to task fulfilling THE PLAN.  “Quiet night, holy night” gets swallowed up in the Magnificent Christmas Celebration.  Sometimes the spirit of Christmas seeps into our souls more easily when we settle into simplicity.

Posted December 2, 2013 by janathangrace in Personal, thoughts

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Inventing Tradition: Simplicity   Leave a comment

We think of traditions as ancient, honored customs… but they had to begin somewhere, sometime.  After all, the first Christmas was in a pile of barnyard hay with a few dirty sheep-herders gawking nearby (the natty, gift-bearing VIPs showed up later).  Jesus was not born in a room full of colored lights and snow-flake medallions.  Even the angels singing out in the muddy fields didn’t show up for his party as far as we know.  So Kimberly and I decided to start from scratch in creating our own unique holiday traditions.  We planned to emphasize a different aspect of the season each week of advent… only it isn’t playing out as we had expected.

CHARLIE BROWN ALL GROWN UP

CHARLIE BROWN
ALL GROWN UP

We both like Christmas conifers, and the use of evergreens in winter speaks to us of life outwitting death, of stubborn hope in the midst of barrenness.  So we decked our banisters and brought in a scrub tree from the yard.  My idea was to decorate in stages, emphasizing each particular advent week focus, but our scraggly, homegrown tree looked more like a sign of want than of hope.  It started life as a weed in our flowerbed, and not having the heart to toss it out, I dug it up and planted it in the back yard.  It has been growing there for four years, completely neglected, and is now 6 feet of meager, sickly green thistles.  Those barbs were painful enough to scrape against, but since the branches were so weak, we had to shove decorations deep inside.  We should have worn long sleeves and gloves.  That pathetic see-through shrub had all its defenses up… a tree thick with issues… how appropriate for our home.  It was truly a symbol of life… life as we know it.

NOT MUCH ROOM TO MOVE
BUT WHAT A VIEW!

To put a positive spin on our impecunious Christmas, our first week spoke of simplicity.  No lights, tinsel, streamers, or presents under the tree.  Even if we had a star, the top of the tree was too flimsy to hold it.  Kimberly and I live out of a shortage of resources.  I didn’t have the energy to find and care for a nice pine or fir, or even the initiative to plan that far in advance.  I had a little energy, and with it I transplanted a sprout, and now we have a tree, spindly as it is.  Having fewer resources makes for a tight circle of possibilities, and that may feel like a bare prison stripped of goodness or a narrow shelf above a sheer cliff.  We have felt that at times.  But a simple lifestyle may also be seen as freedom from the clutter of excess and from the need for a wider cleft in the rock.  We have fewer choices and less to protect, and that helps us focus on what is truly important, helps us enjoy the simple things more richly, gives us access to one another’s hearts more openly and easily.  The only difference between a simple lifestyle and an impoverished one is faith, and that difference is profound.

Posted December 13, 2012 by janathangrace in Personal

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