Simplicity, My Life-Aesthetic
If I could be said to have an aesthetic for life, simplicity would be the driving core value. I agree with DaVinci; “Simplicity is the epitome of sophistication.” These days we worship sophistication, believing that the more complex and “rich” something is, the more sophisticated. I’m of the opposite mind. The power in a thing, or an act, is the direct result of it’s lack of complexity; less is more. A single gesture, a word; one note, can speak volumes: simplicity.
For me the development of a life-aesthetic is a journey. As I continue to know myself better, and am truly honest, I live by deliberately chosen values. I live on-purpose. A life aesthetic driven by simplicity squeezes out the unneeded, the unwanted, and the waste, from an existence of mere boredom or frenzy.
I think of a life-aesthetic as the expression of my core life-values. As an artist, I’m all-ways expressing my values in my work, of course. I’m also an avid observer of people. We all display our values in what we wear, what we drive, how we behave; our values are expressed in all we do and are. You can tell a lot about a person just by watching them. You can deduce even more by listening. Perhaps my people watching is what drives my affection for a good play, a novel, or motion picture.
Ideally my simplicity-aesthetic is a celebration of things homemade, handmade, and of a life of self-reliance. Remembering Leonardo again, I’m not suggesting we throw off all that’s good and useful in our technologically sophisticated lives and just go romping around in the country. To me, simplicity means that I throw all that is artificial, superficial, phoney, fake, burdensome, and needless. In short simplicity brings liberty and power to live well.
I’d love someday to have a large garden where I could grow a good deal of the food we’d eat. I’d love to learn to raise chickens, and perhaps a sheep or two. My daughter would make very good use of the wool, and I’d probably be blessed with all the knitware I’d ever need. I’d also love to build a house full of furniture for Emily and me; simple Craftsman Style, or Amish pieces with very little decoration and all handmade by me and my sons.
In my on-going quest for simplicity I find that I’m a gleaner. In my adult life I’ve always been this way. I go out “hunting & gathering” bringing home all sorts of information and things. I pick through it all and recycle as much as possible. That’s how I read, and write, and live. I sort through what seems sensible, meaningful, useful, and simple (powerful) and I discard all the rest.
Gleaning is how I make my art. In fact I think most artists glean many sources for inspiration and materials. I look at books, blogs, sketches, artworks. I read, doodle, and draw. I gather all possible meaning and ruminate on it until it either wears away, or I’ve discovered a meaning-filled nugget or two to share.
I try to write directly and simply, but I’m afraid I’m a wordy person. It has something to do with my being a global-thinker. I tend to live in big, wordy, pictures. I don’t have the verbal incisiveness of Twain, Churchill, or Shakespeare, but I’m working on it.
In my faith walk this year I’ve learned to let go and to deeply trust. It’s this letting go of control of my life, of mountains of stuff, which has given me more liberty than I’ve ever known and added much to my personal aesthetic of simplicity.
A long time ago God gave me this Psalm, and though I’ve framed it and kept it on the wall near my desk for years, I never lived it as much as I do now.
You are my portion, O Lord I have promised to obey your words. I have sought your face with all my heart be gracious to me according to your promise.
I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes. I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands. Though the wicked bind me with ropes, I will not forget your law.
At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws. I am a friend to all who fear you, to all who follow your precepts. The earth is filled with your love, O Lord; teach me your decrees.
When I think of a life driven by an aesthetic of simplicity, I realize how deeply embedded it is in all I value. My values are completely woven into me, and so I strive daily to live an authentic, transparent life. I strive to live a life blessed with the power of simplicity.