The Problem with Simplicity

Stone Wall, photo by Roger Vincent Jasaitis,, copyright 2012

The problem we face today needs very little time for its statement. Our lives in a modern city grow too complex and overcrowded. Even the necessary obligations which we feel we must meet grow overnight, like Jack’s beanstalk, and before we know it we are bowed down with burdens, crushed under committees, strained , breathless, and hurried, panting through a never-ending program of appointments.

We are too busy to be good wives to our husbands, good homemakers, good companions of our children, good friends to our friends, and with no time at all to be friends to the friendless. But if we withdraw from public engagements and interests, in order to spend quiet hours with the family, the guilty calls of citizenship whisper disquieting claims in our ears. Our children’s schools should receive our interest, the civic problems of our community need our attention, this wider issues of the nation and of the world are heavy upon us. And in frantic fidelity we try to meet at least the necessary minimum of calls upon us. But we’re weary and breathless.

And we know and regret that our life is slipping away, with our having tasted so little of the peace and joy and serenity we are persuaded it should yield to a soul of wide caliber. The times for the deeps of the silences of the heart seem so few. And in guilty regret we must postpone till next week that deeper life of unshaken composure in the holy Presence, where we sincerely know our true home is, for this week is much too full.

These words by Thomas R. Kelly in 1941 are even more true now than when they were written. There was no personal technology available in 1941,  except perhaps for a wristwatch. Imagine no TVs, cellphones, computers, i-pads, e-readers, the list goes on… all of this plus our personal commitments. So we can look back and say that it was a simpler time …and yet…these words show that it wasn’t.

It seems that we can always find distractions and reasons for not doing the work of discernment in our lives. Adhering to the testimony of simplicity means making sometimes difficult choices in our lives. It certainly means being counter-cultural in the USA in 2014, where more is almost always considered better. It also means saying no sometimes, and not feeling guilty about it. The problem with simplicity is that it is not simple.