Monday, November 17, 2008

The Simple Living Manifesto

After I started reading an article in Slate Magazine, I found the link to this website. I don't remember what I was originally reading, as I found this one far more interesting. The Simple Living Manifesto gives 72 Ways for you to simplify your life. I found the simplified version especially amusing in its two parts:
1. Identify what's important to you.
2. Eliminate Everything else.

Reading through it, I also couldn't help but fondly remember my friend Richard that I met in Koriyama. Richard (center in the picture) was leaving when I originally arrived, having taught English on a remote Japanese island out in the Pacific Ocean with a population in the hundreds.
For those who knew him, Richard became the paragon of the "simple life." For personal, environmental, and philosophical reasons, he abdicated removal of all but the most necessary of material possessions from his life. He also seemed genuinely seemed happier for it. I heard stories about his empty apartment and his instructions to "bring your own chairs" when he held a party or social event there.

Luckily during my second year in Japan, Richard left the island and returned to teach at Koriyama 6th JHS and we were neighbors for a year or so. He got all his books from the library at the International Salon, and I got to see for myself the austere life he led. Upon moving into his apartment, he bought bedding, blankets, pillows, a trash can, a pot, a frying pan with spatula, a bowl, a plate, a knife, a fork, a spoon, and a pair of chopsticks. No furniture filled his apartment. No pictures adorned his walls. Absolutely none of the endless heap of equipment and clutter that so often fill our lives that we grow so attached to.

His only real material possession was a very impressive racing bicycle, with a titanium frame and top notch components. He had a small pack that he could disassemble the bike into for transport on a bus or for air travel (which he would then re-assemble upon arrival and use as his main mode of transportation. But biking was his real passion in life. He had identified what was important to him, (cycling) and eliminated everything else. Hey, it made perfect sense to him!

Excluding the cookware, everything else he owned he could carry in his backpack, which was small enough for carry-on at the airport. His computer, clothes (there weren't many of them) and other items wouldn't even completely fill the pack. As I moved from Japan, I especially envied his mobility, as I had accumulated a shocking array of things I wanted to transport home with me and had spent hours figuring which items to discard, which to ship back, and which to pack in my suitcase. He could conceivably pack up and leave his home in under 10 minutes. And yet, I couldn't say that Richard was any less happy than myself or any of my friends. When he did finally leave Koriyama, he spent some 3-6 months cycling around Australia, a favorite destination of his. It probably wasn't any trouble to take all his worldly possessions either!

As I ponder my eventual move to Korea, thinking ahead about what to bring and what to leave, I always think back and wonder about Richard. What should I keep, and what should go? What should I hoard and stockpile and what should I donate to the Salvation Army? And while I doubt I would ever have the courage to live life as unencumbered as he does, I do see some wisdom behind his choices.

The Simple Living Manifesto: 72 Ways to Simplify Your Life.

Here's to you Richard if you ever read this!

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