Friday, January 07, 2005


There is too much clutter in my world. I try to do too much, I have too many books to read, too many CD's to listen to, to many things I am involved with, and too much information to process. As a result several things happen. Firstly, I neglect the things that I really enjoy. Secondly, I deny myself by drowning myself things. Things that I think I will like, or worse, things that I think other people will like in me. It's like I'm plastering over myself sometimes, and smothering the stuff that I'm scared to find out. Sometimes it's the fear of liking something or someone too much. If I throw myself at something too much, then there is the risk I will get sick of it. So I start taking an interest in something else. It leaves a sense of knowing a little about a lot but not knowing a lot about anything. (A bit like a Geography degree I once did...) Then clutter becomes an addiction.

This year I am aiming to live a simpler life. To live with and enjoy what I already have.

I am reminded of a story and a song. The story is told to me by my friend Justice, which was told to him by a monk at Taize. The story goes that a man has 100 university courses to choose from, but he can only choose one of them. The man is told that until he makes a choice, he has nothing. And when he makes the choice he has not lost 99 others, but instead he gained something. It's about making a choice and not being paralysed by information.

The song I am reminded of is Gone Fishing by Chris Rea. The words end with:

I’m gone fishing
Sounds crazy I know
I know nothing about fishing
But just watch me go

And when the time has come
I will look back and see
Peace on the shoreline
That could have been me

You can waste a whole lifetime
Trying to be
What you think is expected of you
But you’ll never be free

May as well go fishing

I'm no fisherman, but I love the sentiment of going to the river or the sea and doing nothing.

On my wall at work I have a picture of a staircase in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen. The picture below doesn't do it justice, but the staircase is a comprised of simple gently rising white stairs, with no artwork anywhere. To add anything would be to detract from it. It beautifully encapsulates simplicity for me.


Matt said...

i'm loving this post Rich - which i guess follows on from some of our discussion in hOME the other night. i really appreciate your point about simplicity not simply being about money or material goods - but about simplicity of information etc. keep on rockin'

Anonymous said...

I do like that Chris Rea song. It carries the sentiment of the mainland cheese ad.

I've aspired to simplicity of possessions and affections for a long time, but the world is full of so many trinkets.

Seeing poverty often makes me guilty, but if I choose a life of simplicity while the poor remain in the poverty have I helped them or me?

Recently I've thought it would be a great idea to retire early and persue a life of bbqs.

Something that has challenged my aspirations to simplicity recently has been my daughter and her toys. I had thought that she would grow up to be a well rounded woman if we chose a well-crafted soft doll, and a smooth wooden block as her only toys. It turns out that infant brains develop the best if they are constantly exposed to novelty. A stream of new things actually expands her mind.

- Rhys

richard said...

Now that's interesting. I have a similar observation watching Alexander play with his toys. Novelty is important to him. It's funny watching him obsess over something for a short while, and to treat it as the most important thing in his world, before abandoning it to play with something new. It's amusing when what is important to you is reflected by what is a compulsory accessory for bath and bed times. But then I suspect we are discovering things that all parens get to discover, although in my case I am more of a surrogate parent.

My desk could be used as reflection of the clutter in my world. On my desk I have a scanner (can't recall when I last used it, but when I open the lid and find the thing I scanned and forgot to remove it should become clear), a 1/8th built model of HMS Victory (with paints, thinner, glue, knives, pliers, sandpaper, and newspaper for painting on) a pile of blank and used (don't know what's on them) CDs, a mouse that doesn't work, a guide to recycling
in Oxford, a bottle of sterilising liquid, a notebook for writing things in when creating a website that hasn't been made, some cigars I should really throw away, a CitySide Baptist Church newsletter with something on stress that I wanted to think about in it, an envelope with CitySide 2004 Lent reflections, some contact lenses I haven't used in three months, some disposable cameras with varying amounts of shots left on them, various toiletries, a poem from my friend Jules, some cricket match fees from September... Too my left I have the cup I won from the cricket club, five candles, some christmas cards, a Duvel glass, twelve tickets to see Taylor Mali tomorrow in Oxford, a glass for drinking Baileys before bedtime and a jar with porcupine quills that I picked up from a dead porcupine in Namibia in May.

On Saturday I am off to Prague for four days. I resolve not to buy any 'trinkets'.