It is no Bad Thing to Celebrate a Simple Life

A still from a short silent vlog I filmed under lockdown

But where our hearts truly lie is in peace and quiet and good tilled earth. For all Hobbits share a love of all things that grow. And yes, no doubt to others, our ways seem quaint. But today of all days, it is brought home to me it is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.

— Bilbo Baggins (JRR Tolkien)

I passed by this quote today, from an author and a book I adored that predestined my travels a decade ago. But for the first time, Bilbo’s reflection after his adventure touched me;

It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.

We are constantly targeted by posts and media gurus to not settle in mediocrity. We are taught to fight for more, to break out of simplicity, to fly high above our comfort zones. I inadvertently heeded and applied this advice to my life. Don’t get me wrong, I loved simplicity, but not concerning life choices. While I firmly believed that one could easily live with as few basic possessions, the idea of a simple life? Too frightening, too mundane to imagine. I constantly escaped home indulging in various experiences and different ‘lives’ that I could live.

But I came to realize, slowly, through the pandemic that kept me home, I was actually afraid of not being in control, or loss of what I am used to. It might sound counter-intuitive, but I was giving uncertainty control by living abroad; as it was my decision to stay in new cities, to struggle with the new language, bureaucracy and ordering food. It was my decision to be under familiar calculated risks instead of facing an uncalculated uncertanity of breaking a familiarity. Worst case scenarios, I had the privilege of escaping back ‘to a familiar home’.

Living and being content with a simple life isn’t easy. In an age of unrestricted capitalism and comparison, it’s easy to fall prey into societies’ definition of success and expectation; to need more incase of uncertainty, an extreme safety net of money and possessions in fear of change. An example of which is when one buys a shirt a size too big ‘incase he got fat’, thereby delaying the fit and gratification of the present.

I was afraid of being too dependent on Chai, so I spent my days abroad building tolerance to coffee (that made me jittery) as a ‘safety net’, thus not sipping my chai for months on end. I was afraid of being stuck in a certain routine, so I made sure I had practiced several backup plans constantly in case things go wrong. I was afraid of losing new friends I made, so I made sure my stays in cities were temporary so ‘I would leave them anyhow’ — I was not only expecting the worst-case scenario, I was living it. I never felt complete in the present, I was constantly waiting, expecting, and living the next move before its time. I was living half a life.

Writing this made me recall Khalil Jibran’s poem;

Love not a half lover, nor befriend a half friend
Indulge not in the work of the half-talented
Live not a half life, nor die a half death

Half is a life you did not live, a word you did not say, a smile you postponed, a love you did not reach, a friendship you did not know. Half is what makes you a stranger from the people closest to you, and it is what makes the closest people to you strangers.

Half a drink will not quench your thirst, half a meal will not satisfy your hunger, half a road will not get you anywhere, and half an idea will not give you any result. Half is the moment when you are powerless and you are not powerless; Because you are not half a human being, you are a human being.

You are created to live life, not to live half a life.

How to live a full life?

Live a simple one.

A simple life is a life fully lived. Without extravagance nor fear of the unknown. A simple life is having your usual chai in the morning, making puppy ear folds from the books you are reading, actively listening to your friends and family plan for the near future. A simple life is enjoying the moment, and knowing that you are not in control when or if the routine changes. A simple life is lived in the present, not the future or the past. A simple life is being content with what you have now, instead of what you could have. A simple life is lived on focusing on whats within our control and detached from what we aren’t. For gratitude and detachment are two wings of the same bird.

It is a long path to be content in living a simple life, or even to catch who lives it. For it is too quiet, too concealed in front of our eyes. A simple life is not necessarily one that gets rid of possessions of being self dependent or living an easier life, but instead a mindset; to enjoy life as is, to enjoy the mundane tasks, to honour the clarity of your problems. To live each day one day at a time. Quoting an article from S. Stefan Karabacak:

If you want to wait until you find the perfect painting for the wall in your living room, I have bad news for you. You might never find it, and that wall might stay empty forever. What you should do instead is to get an “okay” painting first. Then you will upgrade that to a “nice” painting. Five years later, you will find a “wonderful” painting. It’s still not the “perfect” painting, but that’s okay. At least you didn’t have to look at an empty wall for five years and feel bad about not finding the one.

Only once we live each day by its time, we can build ourselves up correctly through routine and habits. This slow growth is what creates changes in our life, changes that hold well in their foundation. As summarised in Atomic Habits by James Clear: Small, incremental, everyday routines compound into massive, positive change over time. Even our Prophet ﷺ at the height of his responsibility of Islam, having the power and wealth of Muslims around him, still led a simple life. When asked about his life from his companions, his wife Aisha replied: “Like any ordinary man, he would sweep the house, sew his own clothes, repair his slippers, water camels, milk goats, help his workers in their work and eat his food with them, and he used to go to the market [himself] to bring us what we needed.” At the end of the day — the most loved person is not one who lived a complex life, instead a person that lived a life full of ease and sincerity with everyone around him.

And ending by a quote from Vincent Van Gogh:

Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together; and great things are not something accidental, but must certainly be willed.

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