Why Is The Simple Living Concept So Popular?
Je länger man lebt, desto deutlicher sieht man, daß die einfachsten Dinge die wahrhaft großen sind. — Romano Guardini
The longer you live, the clearer you can see that the simplest things are truly great. — Romano Guardini (English translation)
Why is simplicity such an ubiquitous concept within philosophy (as well as many other disciplines including science, theology, design, and more) as well as daily living?
This was the first thing I thought after reading the above quote by Guardini — an Italian-born German Catholic priest, author, and academic — that a friend sent to me this morning.
After doing a bit of searching in my massive collection of books, notes, and links, I came across a framework by which we can attempt to answer this question.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy puts forth the following approach to breaking this question down into more manageable parts:
- How is simplicity to be defined? [Definition]
- What is the role of simplicity principles in different areas of inquiry? [Usage]
- Is there a rational justification for such simplicity principles? [Justification]
That said, I think we should leave it to the philosophers and other subject matter experts to ruminate on this framework from a theoretical standpoint.
Because from a practical standpoint we can look to Guardini’s quote for a suitable answer — as it really is through life experiences that we truly come to value simplicity.
My path to simplicity had nothing to do with the fad we now know has minimalism. In fact, I didn’t even know there was a whole trend around that word.
I just felt that I was exhausting my resources (time, money, energy) on things that did not matter and there had to be a better way of living.
It took navigating a lot of complexity (and often failing at it) to seek out and ultimately cherish the simple.
So from my personal experience I’m of the belief that seeking simplicity is an automatic and instinctual mechanism of defense against the complications associated with modern life.
However, I don’t want us to completely discard the theoretical framework outlined by Stanford. It can be repurposed for real life use.
The three questions posed are handy tools for evaluating values, principles, mental models, and any other life guidelines — prior to adopting them.
Instead of eagerly jumping on the bandwagon after every new idea is presented to you, you may first ask yourself:
- How do I define this idea clearly? [Definition]
- What is its role in different areas of my life? [Usage]
- Is there a rational justification for using it? [Justification]
If the questions above can’t be answered to your satisfaction then perhaps that shiny new idea should not be integrated into your life.
By the way, this goes for any ideas you read on this site (they too should be vetted for importance and relevance in your life). My goal is to introduce you to new ways of thinking but you should absolutely vet these concepts before using them.
Being open to new ideas but still critically evaluating them is an excellent way to live simply without being overwhelmed by juggling too many principles of minimalism.