Some people interpret ‘Living Simply’ to imply reducing of life to no more than desire for the barest of necessities — food, water, shelter, clothing, and the work or job necessary for financing of the barest necessities. Some people refer to this as ‘Minimalist Living’.
But is Living Simply only about the external things of life? Food, water, shelter, clothing, the work or job that provides means, all are external to a person; independent of existence of a person, food, water, shelter, clothing, work or jobs all exist, have being.
The evidence is, of course, obvious. Prior to a person’s birth, food, water, shelter, clothing, work or jobs all exist. Subsequent to a person’s demise, food, water, shelter, clothing, work or jobs all continue to exist.
Reality of existence of food, water, shelter, clothing, and work has nothing to do with existence of any one person.
In presence of the foregoing, if Living Simply consists only in the things that are external to a person, it is unclear how exactly a person who lives and dies benefits from minimalist engagement with material aspects of life. In this respect, if living simply consists only in form of engagement with things that are external to a person, much the same as the rich man who chooses to live luxuriously, at timing of death all is left behind. If, at timing of death, we are to differentiate existence of one from another, absent a statement as to impact of minimalist living on a minimalist, we are unable to say anything meaningful about essence of ‘Living Simply’.
But do all who attempt to live minimally arrive at the same inferences about efficacy of the philosophy? Clearly Not. It is matter of fact that some who have attempted to live minimally have, subsequent to their attempts, totally sworn off the philosophy, declared that the philosophy did not work for them. If we rely then on impact of living minimally on persons as evidence for essence of Living Simply, we conclude that Living Simply neither is good nor bad, is for whoever for whom it works.
But then we conclude that Living Simply is not a robust principle for living of Life. But is this truth or farce?
In Mathematics, the best models of reality have one property in common, namely, Parsimony. Typically, the best models of reality depend on no more than three to five primary parameters. Each of Sharpe (1964) and Merton (1973), mathematical models that went on to attract Nobel Prizes in Economics, consist only of two primary parameters (all references at end of this post). The proofs for restriction to two parameters were long, but yet at end of it all, there was arrival at two parameters. Each of the two models have, since their initial formulation, been extended to incorporate between three and four parameters.
Albert Einstein’s Law of Relativity, a model that generated a Nobel prize in Physics, reduces to E=mc², that is, to no more than three parameters. In the same vein, Isaac Newton’s law of Kinetic Energy, E=0.50mv² consists also of three parameters.
The similarity between the Law of Relativity, and Law of Kinetic Energy? Evidence that the universe functions in context of some unifying central principle. In this respect, while there is not any resistance to movement in space (the floating astronaut experience), on Earth, always there is resistance to movement. Inertia is, perhaps the greatest resistance to movement on Earth. Given things move freely in space, there is not any inertia in space. The factor, 0.50 in Newton’s Law can be thought of as accounting for resistance to motion that always is present in context of movement on earth.
If you take a look throughout all of science, equivalently, Mathematics, you find this one overarching principle, namely, if the principle is robust and works well, it is defined by Parsimony.
If Mathematics that is done right is Truth, and we know this is true, Parsimony is a robust principle for living of life.
Suppose then, that we take a cue from Mathematics, as such consider Parsimony, equivalently, Living Simply to be a robust philosophy for living of life, a philosophy that can be deemed to be truth. Well then, Living Simply has interpretation as, “reducing of principles for living of life to as few parameters as possible.”
If reduction of living of life to just a few parameters is robust, the parameters must have feasibility of guidance of preferences, decision making, actions, and activities in every possible facet of life — that is, in work, at play, at home, with friends or family, in raising of children, in choice of who to vote for President, in choice of whom to marry, in choice of career etc.
But is this possible?
Suppose Brashness as candidate for Living Simply. Well then, brashness might work in context of dealings with colleagues, subordinates, or business partners, but simultaneously is guaranteed to destroy family, children, and friendships. So then, brashness works as candidate for Living Simply only in societies who destroy the social fabric of life in context of pursuit of things that have to do with money. But, a philosophy which does not produce the right results in every facet of life lacks quality of a philosophy for Living Simply.
Suppose ‘Disdain for parameters of human existence’ as candidate for Living Simply. Well, Disdain that functions right only is preserve of the rich, meaning it lacks robustness for those who have to work for a living. Anyone who can sequester themselves on a US$500 million Yacht for as long as they deem fit can afford to thumb his or her nose up at the world. The guy or gal who works at the retail store, who has to smile at customers so they feel good walking out of the store — this so they feel like coming back — cannot afford Disdain for customers as philosophy for Living Simply.
Suppose Competition as philosophy for Living Simply. Well then, the philosophy may turn out beneficial in work or job spaces, yet it most certainly will, simultaneously, destroy family, children, and friendships.
It is not quite as easy as it might seem to arrive at a parsimonious set of parameters as foundation for Living Simply.
As one last illustration of non-robustness of many principles as foundation for Living Simply, consider Looking out for Oneself only as candidate philosophy for Living Simply. Well, let us analyze this candidate philosophy with a very apt real life sequence of events.
In the 1980s, the United States of America (USA) went into Afghanistan to help Afghans drive out the Russians. This was Cold War at its very heights, that is, the fight between Capitalism, and what then was thought of as a fight for relevance of a place for God (not religion, rather God’s notion of equality) in affairs of State, and Communism. Communism left no place for God; as eloquently stated by George Orwell in Animal Farm, practiced ‘some animals (analogy for men) are more equal than others’. America touted itself as ‘God’s own Country’; seemed an easy choice for Muslims seeking to defend their country. In the history that has since evolved, it is matter of fact that America’s touting of itself as God’s own Country smacks more of wartime propaganda than any true or real commitment to God’s notion of equality of mankind in affairs of life.
America of today has all but sequestered God outside of all that is important. To assert that harboring and encouragement of hatreds is compatible with resurgence of inclusion of God in society is, in context of any sensible formulation of spirituality, assertion of an Heresy.
But then, I digress.
Subsequent to driving out of the Russians, Afghans looked forward to been ushered, with help of money from America, into modern civilization. It is matter of fact that, with defeat of Russia regarded as ‘end all’ of the engagement in Afghanistan, America left Afghan warlords high and dry, packed up its bags and left without investing a single dime in the future of a country it claimed to have emancipated.
With the Russians, Afghan warlords would have ended up, at the very least, with LADAs — the quintessential Communist’s mode of transportation.
So then, here were Afghan warlords who had encouraged young men and women to lay their lives down for the opportunity to become part of the civilized world having to tell those young men and women that their trust had been betrayed.
Fast forward to September 11, 2001, and America pays a heavy price for thinking only of itself. At a higher rate of inflation , that is, at a much higher cost (relative to the 1980s), since 2001, America has been spending money attempting to do the things which, absent loss of lives on 09/11/2001, it ought to have done way back in the 1990s, namely, fund training of Afghans for different professions, fund building of schools, fund building of hospitals, teach how to evolve into a modern civilization.
Will the effort turn out to be too late, because eventually extremist Muslims who do not hate America, but who do not believe in Western Education, which itself now is taking on character of a farce, turn out to become leaders in Afghanistan? Well, only time will tell.
When ‘looking out only for yourself’ costs well over 5,000 lives (civilian and military), and hundreds of billions of dollars more than looking out for what is right, clearly, looking out only for yourself cannot be deemed a robust principle for Living Simply.
So then, is there any principle for life that can be deemed a robust principle for Living Simply? Turns out there is, and it is as parsimonious as it is profound. The principle is as follows.
To Live Simply is to spend all of one’s time in:
Conception of Acts of Love that are designed for benefit of oneself and others, and that are to be implemented in future;
Formulation of previously conceived Acts of Love into Concrete Steps that facilitate implementation;
and Implementation of previously conceived, and formulated Acts of Love.
An ‘Act of Love’ is an Act that serves to benefit oneself and others, and that is not tainted with any factionalism; that is, an Act which does not incorporate any deliberate attempts at disenfranchisement of any other person in society.
If you already have discovered a more robust philosophy for Living Simply, or believe you know of a more robust philosophy, I genuinely am all ears.
Merton, R.C., 1973. An intertemporal capital asset pricing model. Econometrica 41, 867–887.
Sharpe, W. F. 1964. Capital asset prices: A theory of market equilibrium under conditions of risk. Journal of Finance 19, 425–442.