Friday, April 20, 2007


"Is a turtle a fish?", collage on paper, 8 1/2" x 5 1/2", ©2007

I was just looking at my stack of library books and was surprised to realize that 3 of them had the word "simplicity" in the title, and a few more of the books involve some form of simplifying, or at least becoming more conscious and aware by paring down what you are conscious and aware of. Obviously the topic is on my mind of late.

So far it's taken the form of a lot of sporadic spring cleaning and purging of shelves and closets. But I'm also trying to simplify in other ways. To simplify enough to focus on what's important, and not so much on what's just distracting.

I've noticed this trend in a few other bloggers recently also. In particular, I noticed this post from Peter Birch about traveling light, and thought he asked an interesting question: What things do I REALLY need? I've often tried to answer that question just about my books, you know, which books would I keep if I could only have one shelf of books, and the answer is almost always that I'd also have piles and piles of them on the floor. But it's a good question to ask. And answering it, and realizing how much MORE you have, will make you feel very rich indeed!

So, while I'm still working on my list, tell me, what do you REALLY need?

I do want to make mention of one of the books because it's such a lovely little book. It's Journeys of Simplicity: Traveling Light with Thomas Merton, Basho, Edward Abbey Annie Dillard & Others by Philip Harnden. Basically it's just series short bios of various people (mostly real, but some fictional, like Bilbo Baggins, and even an arctic tern) followed by lists of their necessary items.

One of my favorites is the list of Ephraim M'Ikiara, a Kenyan mountaineer and elder in the Pentecostal Church of East Africa, who in the 1980s startled two British climbers on Africa's second highest peak in subzero cold, when he showed up barefoot to pray. When they asked him if he needed help finding the way down, he replied, "Was it you who showed me the way here?" and proceeded to climb down on his own. This is the list of what he had in a battered leather bag: huge Bible, thin blanket, piece of hemp rope, small package of food, kitchen knife to cut footholds in ice, a thin jacket.

Just think about all the equipment a mountaineering expedition usually needs!


Peter said...

I'm going to get that book because there are some great writers, especially Thomas Merton and Annie Dillard. Whenever I finish reading a book lately, I wonder whether I want to keep it or, if not, who else would enjoy it. Then I can pass it on as a gift with a note attached telling them I'm thinking about them.

Mauricio said...

Hello from Brazil!

great collage