Featured Post

There is only one goal. That is to be whole again.

There is only one goal. That is to be whole again. How human beings live and work determines whether they remain whole or are split. ...

3/13/15

Dear friends,

Simplicity is to have what we can use and discard what we can't use.

What we can use is wealth and what we can't use is illth. If the word wealth derives from well and connotes being well, then the word illth derives from ill and connotes being ill.

It is important that we focus on having wealth in our lives and stop having illth. That is the essence of the simple life.

If you have a question about whether it is OK for you to have something just ask yourself the question, "Do I use it?" If you do, it is OK to have it. So please don't get rid of your phone or your computer. You won't anyway, so you can stop feeling bad about having things. Keep what you use!

But what you don't use, give away! Don't put it in the garbage. Give it away. Where we live there is a section on Craigslist to put free stuff on and I am sure there is a Craigslist or its equivalent where you live. I promise you someone will want what you don't.

Your illth may be someone else's wealth. For example we have recently given away a chipped dinner plate, a soiled rug, a bin full of worms, an old lunch box from my childhood, old computers and printers, old paint, cardboard boxes, old electronic cables and many other things that have been of no use to us and were gratefully received by others who had a use for these things.

An American friend once asked Gandhiji what he should do about his greed for his books, a considerable library, which he loved with all his heart. Gandhiji told him that if he used his books he should keep them. Gandhiji said,

"Don't give them up! As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, you should keep it. If you were to give it up in a mood of self-sacrifice or out of a stern sense of duty, you would continue to want it back, and that unsatisfied want would make trouble for you.

"Only give up a thing when you want some other condition so much that the thing no longer has any attraction for you, or when it seems to interfere with that which is more greatly desired."

Many years ago my wife and I gave up our house at the top of this hill to move to a small rental apartment at the bottom of this same hill, which is more than enough for us. We gave away about three-quarters of our belongings and I started riding my bicycle to work, sixteen miles roundtrip.

It is now fifteen years that I have been riding my bicycle to work and when I come home I am surrounded by our much-loved books, a great painting by our friend Hans Gullickson, plants, and two beautiful black cats.

Our life is good. We think we are the wealthiest people alive.

Notes: The definitions of illth and wealth are those of John Ruskin. Please read Ruskin's Unto This Last and engage in his wisdom which is far beyond anything I have to impart. I am grateful to my friend and historian of economics, Robert Leonard, for pointing me in the direction of the works of Richard B. Gregg who is Gandhiji's American friend referred to above.