My recent studies of eastern philosophy indicate that one of the best things you can do is to simplify your life. Eastern mystics and Buddhists see “the desire to acquire” as being harmful to one’s true spiritual nature. I am beginning to agree. When you have a big mortgage, new cars and lots of bills, you become a slave to such things. Robert Ringer, one of my favorite philsophers, says that owning such things is like keeping a dinosaur in the back yard. You must slave to feed the baest lest it devour you instead.
I don’t really care about impressing anyone with my material wealth, if I had any. I don’t want to “keep up with the Joneses.” What I want is the optimum mix of physical comfort and peace of mind. I don’t have that now. I would prefer to live in a smaller house with a smaller mortgage payment, give up teeming freeways and corporate politics, and enjoy my life. Go fishing, or maybe learn to play the harmonica.
One of my favorite episodes of “The Twilight Zone” was about a harried business man on a train. He fell asleep and was awakened by the steward calling “Willoughby! All out for Willougby!” He left the train and found himself in a small town back in time, circa 1890. A band was playing in the town square, and kids with strawhats and barefeet sported fishing poles on their way to the creek. He was in a simpler time, a slow-paced time, where people enjoyed their lives and each other. Alas, it was just a dream, but the Twilight Zone had its way of making the dream a reality. Sometimes I wish the train of my life would stop in Willoughby and let me off.
A few years ago I read Thoreau’s “On Walden Pond” and very much enjoyed his tale of a simple, solitary life, next to nature. I wouldn’t want to live a solitary life; I want to keep my dog and maybe my wife. She cooks well. However, I wouldn’t mind giving up the endless money chase.
My brother Ted has retired to Fallon, Nevada and tells me you can rent a house there for $400 a month. You couldn’t rent a pup tent in Silicon Valley for that price. Now he takes naps every day and explores the environs where they have real cowboys and a lot more quiet. On the phone he sounds happier than he has in years. After my unpleasant experience with corporate politics over the last couple of weeks, that sounds pretty inviting.
At what point does one achieve the critical mass necessary for a major life-changing decision? I’m not there yet, but I am beginning to think about it.