The Joy of Less

I read an interesting article from New York Times blogger Pico Iyer championing Bill Shakespeare’s Hamlet proposition that “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”  Without a bicycle, car, or media outlet, Iyer’s recent days after moving to rural Japan feel like eternities and he claims he can’t think of any deficiencies:

At some point, I decided that, for me at least, happiness arose out of all I didn’t want or need, not all I did. And it seemed quite useful to take a clear, hard look at what really led to peace of mind or absorption (the closest I’ve come to understanding happiness). Not having a car gives me volumes not to think or worry about, and makes walks around the neighborhood a daily adventure. Lacking a cell phone and high-speed Internet, I have time to play ping-pong every evening, to write long letters to old friends and to go shopping for my sweetheart (or to track down old baubles for two kids who are now out in the world).

I’ve been fortunate enough to accomplish several early life goals involving (among other things) academics, athletics, and relationships.  Personally, academic and professional success have always been extremely important, but I’ve noticed that most accomplishments rarely result in satisfaction.  Every achievement serves as a stepping stone to something bigger.  As a post-graduate, the focus shifted to the obtainment of higher career-based positions.  “Poor man wanna be richRich man wanna be king, and a king ain’t satisfied until he rules everything.”  The pursuit never ends.

Iyer suggests “happiness, like peace or passion, comes most freely when it isn’t pursued.”  I absolutely agree.  For example, our family lake house is a technological black hole, forcing all that enter to relax and enjoy the serenity that comes with no cable or cell phone signals.  As a result, heavy exploring, fireside chatting, card playing, and late-night swimming (among many other amazing, impromptu activities) tend to ensue.

As much as I think I like the security of preparation, my favorite days are always those where plans come about freely.  This is why Christina is most definitely my better half and I can’t get enough of her.  This is why this past Sunday of exploring and waterfall jumping through Tennessee state parks with Bret was one of my best weekends since moving to Nashville.  This is why the themes behind Bruce Springsteen and U2’s music easily make them my favorite artists of all time:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Nonetheless, following this advice is easier said than done, especially for someone with my high-strung tendencies.  I’m still running and probably always will be, but I enjoy a friendly reminder to slow down once in awhile…

2 Responses to “The Joy of Less”

  1. the kelli Says:

    Maybe (temporary) unemployment won’t be so bad… We should start an adventure club where we only participate in the many free activities that Nashville has to provide. There are so many things I’ve thought about doing, but could never “find the time”. Now, I’ve got all the time in the world….

  2. cbgb Says:

    wealth as defined by Tolstoy: “the number of things one can do without”

    i’m glad you haven’t lost sight of the moments that are worth the most, and the people who make your life rich:) i love you!

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