The Facets of Simplicity
Simple and simplifying, mean different things to different people. What does simplicity mean, especially voluntary simplicity? More natural, honest, direct and sustainable come to mind. Free of pretense. Easy. Quality instead of quantity. Reduced stress. Anti-consumerism.
The dictionary says:
Simplicity is the property, condition, or quality of being simple or uncombined. It often denotes beauty, purity or clarity. Simple things are usually easier to explain and understand than complicated ones. Simplicity can mean freedom from hardship, effort or confusion. It may also refer to a simple living lifestyle.
According to Occam's razor, all other things being equal, the simplest theory is the most likely to be true. [...]. According to Thomas Aquinas, God is infinitely simple.”
There are many degrees of “simple,” or you could see it as a path rather than a state. Not many of us will want to go the path all the way. Good examples of people who reached the end of the simplicity path - and maybe enlightenment as well - are Saint Francis of Assisi, the Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope, also known as Diogenes the cynic and  the Chinese sage Lao Tsu.
Diogenes lived as a beggar, in a barrel, and one morning, while he was relaxing in the sunlight, Alexander the Great, thrilled to meet the famous philosopher, asked if there was any favor he might do for him. Diogenes replied, "Stand out of my sunlight." Alexander still declared, "If I were not Alexander, then I should wish to be Diogenes."
Lao Tsu left us the “Tao Te Ching”, and while some of it is hard to understand, the whole text is a tribute to simplicity, and the wisdom of some passages of this book is - I think - unsurpassed. Lao Tsu does take it all the way, one passage reads:
Throw away holiness and wisdom
and people will be a hundred times happier
Throw away morality and justice
and people will do the right thing
Throw away industry and profit
and there won’t be any thieves.
Many religious leaders - among them Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Gautama Buddha lived very simple.
The Amish are religious people who take simplicity very far, they do not drive cars or use electricity. Others are the Mennonites, the Shakers and the Quakers. Hippie communes, like “The Farm” in Tennessee attempted simplicity (and they are still trying), many contemporary homesteaders do as well.
Most people who are living voluntarily simple are genuinely happy. Happiness does seem to be connected to simple, as depression is connected to clutter. The link has often been observed, and - intuitively - is easy to accept, but to my knowledge there is no scientific explanation, or even theory as to whether the simplicity causes happiness or vice versa, and whether depression causes people to accumulate clutter, or the clutter depresses people.
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