'Tis a Gift to Be Simple

cup in a tiny, single-serving French press. Some mornings I rush out of the house and leave the coffee-making for someone at the office, but I usually regret this. I make coffee better than anyone I know, and my complicated ritual gives me almost as much sanity as the caffeine. I move amongst my housemates and their breakfasts to get the coffee grinder, the hot water, a spoon, or a cup.

Along with seven others, I came to Washington, D.C., this year committed to "living simply." We work and live communally—and generally get on each other’s nerves. I unwittingly committed to rooming with a morning person, who doesn’t need any stimulants to get herself up and running. I manage house finances (a task I volunteered for), and I still haven’t gotten the checkbook to balance. We have trouble keeping the house clean. We are in each other’s faces and spaces 24-hours-a-day. I have learned that there’s nothing simple about simple living.

Simplicity is heralded as a cure for the excesses of modern culture. Strip down, throw out (or recycle), make time. Often this results in complicated, involved actions such as planning ways to get to work without a car or cooking meals from scratch. Mainstream North American culture would have us believe that fast meals and sport utility vehicles make for a simpler, smoother-running life. Counterculture suggests that life is simpler and more meaningful without acquiring possessions and not utilizing all the available technology. Both hold up an ideal lifestyle that we must achieve by performing prescribed tasks.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 1999
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