Less is More – As Seen in a Cartoon

013015We have more than ever. Not just more things, but more options, more capacity, and more ability. Several hundred years ago a young peasant living in Europe seldom ventured more than a few miles from where he was born; longer journeys were rare and for serious reasons only. Much of a person’s life was “decided” by the place he was born. Even the person whom he married was decided by others, or at least limited to a very few candidates in his little village or section of town. The life of the average peasant was very circumscribed and he had limited knowledge of what was even a hundred miles away, let alone across the ocean.

Today, most people, even those of moderate means, can get on a plane and by the end of the day be thousands of miles from where they woke up that morning. Most do not live where they were born and most have virtual access to the entire world via the Internet. It is quite reasonable to know people from all over the world, or at least to know those who have been all over the world. Most people travel frequently to distant cities and sometimes to other countries and continents. Our options, though not limitless, are practically so, since most of us could never exhaust all the possibilities that modernity offers.

Are we happier? Probably not. I would argue that we are less happy. One thing is certain: wealth and modernity have brought comfort and variety but also stress and disappointment. Disappointment is increased because expectations are higher. Indeed, expectations are often premeditated resentments.

Our faster pace also makes us prone to boredom. Slowing down to the actual pace of human life and not having noise freaks us out. So if it is not stress that gets us, it is boredom, depression, and resentment. Welcome to the world of psychotropic medications in order to stay sane, or self-medication that leads to addiction.

Well, you get the point. Modern life is more diverse, comfortable, and affluent, but also stressful and ultimately discouraging because it promises what it cannot deliver: happiness. Happiness is ultimately an inside job and those who find it often do not have a lot or even need a lot. Most who discover happiness find that less is more, that simpler and slower win the day over glitzy and mesmerizing.

Something in this video sparked these thoughts of mine. I dunno, see what you think. But for all the biggie-wow ways this guy has available to him, in the end it is the simpler, slower, low-tech mode that wins the day. Modernity has its place, but also its price. Have a plan B for when all the techie stuff fails.

16 Replies to “Less is More – As Seen in a Cartoon”

  1. Ever since I got married thirty two years ago and raised a family, I’ve thought that if I had a couple hundred million dollars, I could afford to live the simple life.

  2. Ever since I got married thirty two years ago and raised a family, I’ve thought that if I had a couple hundred million dollars, I could afford to live the simple life.

  3. Love this, Msgr! Another angle on the same theme…During a homily a while back, our parish priest noted how we’ve become “technologically advanced barbarians.” Definitely good food for thought in your post. Thanks!

  4. A couple weekends ago I found myself in a rural town. It had a main drag and the stores that lined the streets were useful stores, like hardware and plumbing stores, vacuume repair, non fast food restaurants that are still budget friendly, small grocery stores and the like. Things normal people might need and will reasonably use.

    Contrast that with the Greater Washington DC area and you find spas, high end pet stores, massage stores, jewelry stores, high end malls and restaurants. These are things people mostly don’t need. Yet our money stresses us out so much we need all these places to get rid of it. Oh what suckers we are. W. C. Fields was right.

  5. Thank you for this wonderful reflection! It makes me feel less guilty about living in a gigantic metropolitan area bursting at the seams with every conceivable entertainment, diversion and recreation and finding joy in staying home, drinking a cup of hot tea, writing, waiting eagerly for the next orchid to bloom –and at an age when most people wouldn’t dream of it, learning to play Scott Joplin’s music on the piano.

  6. I would be very suprised if MOST people in the United States could say they had done, owned or experienced or knew anybody or anything of the sort.

    The first thing wealth breeds is arrogance of personal centralism and replies such as “let them eat cake”.

    MOST have never seen cake while the spoiled assume it rains from heaven like manna.

  7. Most places where I live can’t be reached by bike, at least not as a practical matter. Either the distance is too great or the possibility of getting run over is too likely.

  8. Not sure I agree with this post. Simplicity, I think should be internal. External can be deceiving. Simplicity of heart, I think is better. Who can know the heart. Only God.

  9. I have asthma and live in a polluted and sometimes dangerous city. Even if I could ride a bike, it wouldn’t be safe or healthy for me. I’m willing to commute but it isn’t also the safest option either. Too many kidnappings and robberies lately.

  10. We will never want enough until we say ‘ENOUGH’ IN THE HOLY WILL OF GOD and ALL I WANT IS WHAT GOD WANTS!

    The poor are so blessed and they do not know it. The ‘haves’ are eternally in danger and they will try to buy their way out…. to even more be in danger, damned!

  11. A very good and timely reflection Msgr. Pope. This modern world can distract us from the eternal internal, which is our innate spirituality.

  12. I love the bike connection. I apologize that I don’t have much for spiritual insights here. I live in Hyattsville but work in College Park and Rockville. I regularly commute between the 3 by bike. I often visit friends in Arlington by bike. For a while I was going to a book club in Fairfax VA. What’s more I do this in any weather we see in the DC area. On many trips I’ve trounced my friends in cars going the same places at the same time. Too the folks who say it’s too far or there’s too much traffic or whatever, I say whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right. If you’re not infirm and have reasonable equipment you can do it.

    I think it’s great, but some times I wonder if it’s simpler. You have to be careful how you dress in order to be comfortable, which might mean a different coat for the coming and going. Bikes break down too. Many local bike shops want to charge a fortune for even the lowest end replacement parts and repairs. You have to worry about someone stealing your tail light (or maybe even your whole bike) while your bike is locked out side. So there’s a bit to figuring out how to do it comfortably no doubt.

    But it certainly can save you money and time and keep you healthy and have less negative impact on the environment than driving a 4000 lb pollution machine all over the place. Don’t get me started on how more bike traffic should benefit the poor!

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