Thoughts on a Summer Afternoon

Simplicity is quite a good thing.

“There really isn’t that much to life,” he thought idly to himself while staring out the window, watching the wind play gently with the bushes behind his apartment. Clouds rolled by slowly, like languorous amorphous blobs drifting not-at-all by their own doing, lazily floating downstream like the atmosphere were a river carrying them to some unknown and unforeseen destination. Cars sat unused today in the parking lot. Though it was early afternoon, a sense of quiet and peace stilled around him.

The windows, open and letting in a slight breeze and wonderful odor, fresh and clean, did little to help the warmth in his apartment. As he drifted in his own mind, his forehead lightly beaded with the marks of a summer afternoon. A glass of iced tea, homemade, he was quite proud to say, sat next to him with the same sheen of perspiration. He reckoned that the glass was as ready to sit relaxed for an hour or so as he was.

It wasn’t that there was nothing to do, there is always something to do; laundry, sweeping, mopping, errands, emails, phone calls and other things always pressing, it wasn’t that at all. No, he simply had completed quite a bit already today, sitting down to work for 3 hours, doing yoga and having a wonderful quiet time this morning, he felt as if he could spend time however he so desired. It just so happened he desired to stare out the window.

“That ‘just so happens’ quite often with me,” he thought, languidly rolling the thought around his head. “There is nothing more to life, some days, than staring outside and enjoying whatever is going on right there.” He couldn’t help if that was true, he figured, as he didn’t make the world. Didn’t plan it, and didn’t want to. “Gosh what a terrible responsibility,” his inner voice moaned, “terribly great, and terribly overwhelming.”

As he considered the simplicity of life, he wondered why so much is to be done. It is an unhappy business, that which God has given man to be busy with. Ecclesiastes, once more coming to mind, drawing him into the simplicity that life ought to be, and yet it isn’t. Staring blankly outside, he wandered within himself.

Coming around once more with a sip of tea, he knew that it should not have been this way, and wasn’t this way for a while. What, truly, must we do in this life? Is anything to be accomplished that cannot wait? What will we take with us, what will even last longer than a decade or two? Even our memories fade, and those who remember us will often make up more than they know to be true. He thought that many of the church fathers and mothers, many of the great writers, thinkers, and artists throughout the years, can never be known in such an intimate way as someone who we have a simple conversation with. Yet we discuss them as though we have had just that.

Thinking it is useless, though, does no good. It isn’t as if just saying, “well, it’s all worthless” is going to suddenly make everything right. We live in the present, and ought to deal with it.

There is, though, something to be said about simplicity. It is peaceful, quiet, unassuming though often moving. We fear becoming too simple, and use it as a kind way to call someone dull, or unlearned. It shouldn’t be that way, words should be used for their purpose, we get too confused with definitions and meaning otherwise.

Simplicity is quite a good thing. Simple machines often work the best, and are quite easy to fix. Simple writing is accessible to all, and imparts the idea just as well. C.S. Lewis knew the truth of that. Simple art is often quite moving, considering the statue of David. Simple relationships let us know exactly where we stand, and build trust.

It’s not that something more complicated is worse, he continued within himself, yet, as something becomes more complicated, it takes more effort to create, use, and fix. The first thing that came to his mind was the United States Tax Code, and after the the US Budget. Considering his own budget, a simple equation at this point in his life, he wondered how a government originally designed to be simple had gotten so complex.

He thought also of humans, their inner workings, their brains and thoughts and emotions. Where even is an emotion? Is fear in the stomach, as the knots twist and pull? Is love in the chest, burning, full and strong and powerful? Of course these are chemical reactions in the brain. Yet the brain is quite complex. Doctors and psychologists study for years to be able to competently and confidently complete their duties and heal people. Those are some of the hardest things to learn.

Both lawyers and doctors have special schools, and those were the two most complicated things he had thought of first, government and healthcare.

Those are also the things we see to fight about the most in America.

Thinking further, wishing, wanting, and hoping, he found no easy answer. There is no simple way forward for these things. Do we simplify the government, lessening taxes and letting go of a huge military, huge infrastructure, and a huge budget? What should be done about healthcare? It would be wonderful to have healthcare for all, but could instead we think more simply? Would it not be better to teach healthcare from a nutrition standpoint? Simple foods are better for the body than complex ones. The fewer ingredients on a label the better. The best is a whole food, there’s only a banana in a banana, nothing extra. Simple.

Teaching hundreds of millions of American’s to eat for health? Not simple. No easy answer.

The clouds looked the same as when he had begun to think, “had they even moved at all?”

At least he could take control of his own life, simplify and live it. His needs were covered, and many of his wants, what should he do, strive for more? There was no hope in that, only pain and striving. Striving after the wind. Chasing what will always be elusive. Longing for what can always be desired and never be obtained. Just. One. More. Of anything, just one more and happiness will come, but it never does.

Jesus didn’t preach simplicity, he preached the kingdom, but Jesus lived simply, and taught his disciples to do the same. One cloak, one pair of sandals; travel light, love deep. Don’t be anxious about food, or clothing. Paul said we will be content with only food and clothing.

“When it comes to the end of the age,” he thought, placidly, “there will be no concern for what house we lived in, or car we drove, or computer we had, or shoes or clothes or anything such as that. It isn’t that being simple is better, but simplicity helps us to work towards what is really important, and to stave our distraction away.”

The clouds had moved, he noticed at once. A slow moving river, indeed.

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