The key to finding a happy balance in modern lives is simplicity.
Sogyal Rinpoche [The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying]
This statement by Sogyal Rinpoche, in Chapter 2, Impermanence, of Part 1: Living in The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying, may seem pretty straight forward off the cuff (bordering on the feel-good motivational cliché), but it actually bears profound weight – meaning, besides its hermeneutic context, it has contemplative actuality when its existential truth is sincerely empathised with.
In this article I discuss how such a happily simple statement can have a superior influence on one’s life and deeply inspire a proactive sense of direction. I also discuss (through a gentle deconstruction) how the contextual hermeneutic of my current autoethnography taps & tunes in to the theme of *simplicity* bearing a notable mark in its axiological presence. Further, I discuss the pivotal importance of oscillating between the axiological elements of disciplined ethic and contemplative aesthetic as markers of a diligent-focused yet contemplative-tranquil life.
Okay, so before I possibly get into any semantic details or philosophical ramblings, I heed an intuitive voice (a voice I have been working on paying more attention to) that keeps reminding me to try start with my own narrative first. [Note: This contemplative listening to my narrative process acts as a means to cut through an often cryptic language that I have perpetuated for as long as I can remember – the contemplative narrative is a tool here, aiding me away from potentially confusing myself and the reader].
It seems as though certain themes and topics have been accumulating over time, surfacing and submerging as life proceeds in its dancing flux. I have been drawn to elements in life that often bear a mark of impermanence and simplicity – from a fascination with Death (and its frightening realness), to Japanese Wabi-Sabi aesthetic, to certain Jazz scores (that I attribute to design, music, and art), and my long love with varieties of spirituality (especially the contemplative life of monasticism as well as the radical – often unconventional – approaches of the yogi/wanderer/hermit/wizard etc.). I guess, my intrigue with these things have been reminders to me that I should let-go sometimes, appreciate this human life for its relative shortness, deeply think about things other than my social profile or planning the next 10 years of my life.
This intrigue also seems to be a necessary counteractive to my inclination to over-complicate often menial matters, or getting caught up in the soap of political-economical hypes. In fact, a good reminder of appreciating the simple-life is a good dose of meditating on the reality of Death’s presence in this life; and if we think it to be far from us currently we are sadly mistaken – Death is present in every aspect of life – from the moment a child is born it is born into its gift of death, those prize roses you planted last season may perish in the coming winter, the person you see and project in the mirror is certainly not the same appearance you had 10 years ago, not to mention 5 minutes ago, and we will lose our beloved-ones (especially your beloved-self). This may sound macabre but, and borrowing a note from Sogyal Rinpoche and so many good teachers alike, the presence of Death does not mean that life is not precious and worth pursuing, if anything, Death should inspire one to live (and not casually wait for dreams to come true until we are already one foot in the grave).
Back to the axiology of simplicity. Axiology is a broad philosophical branch that mainly consists of two subsets, namely 1) Ethics, and 2) Aesthetics. Beside being a broad study of value systems and how they are approached and presented, my intention here is to return the attention of axiology to a ‘way’ life is lived. Hint_ Hint_ *The Middle-Hand Path*… Yet, what I wish to point out is that I am not placing a golden stamp of certification on an ethical guideline with a marketable aesthetic package – although I do sense that in some social perceptions this may come about whether I like it or not. Rather, what I am pointing toward is a middle-point philosophy between an ethic and aesthetic; as well as between a transcendant and existential (with certain pragmatic clauses), in other words, in the so-called way of simplicity there is ground for ethic and aesthetic guidance. Rough example, We can approach simplicity in Design of our technology to simplicity in Being Mature and Being Intercommunicative, simplicity in our Business models, to simplicity in our lifestyles.
Okay, so simplicity can mean many things, and there is probably a general consensus around what simplicity is. In the axiology of the Middle-Hand Path, I draw on seven Japanese principles of aesthetic and an overall sense of Wabi-Sabi. These aesthetic principles tend to be directed toward the peripheries of lifestyle but do have origins in Zen Buddhism and the wisdoms of impermanence, contemplativity, and nature/naturalness. The seven principles are:
- Kanso – Simplicity (also an elimination of clutter),
- Shizen – Naturalness,
- Fukinsei – Asymmetry / Irregularity,
- Seijaku – Quietude / Stillness / Tranquility,
- Yugen – Subtlety,
- Datsuzoku – At Ease (a break from routine),
- Shibui / Shibumi – Austerity.
You may notice that these aesthetic principles are reflective of a lifestyle philosophy, embodying much more than *simplicity* as a superficial notion; rather *simplicity* as a gateway into a phronesis of Being in existence, as being radically and naturally in tune with oneself and the world, and owning-up to and embracing one’s impermanence, irregularity, imperfection and being settled into the ‘cool-cognitive-air’ of a simple life (uncomplicated yet full),,, I call this simplicity of cool the Blue-Note of Mindfulness.
It is this very Blue-Note of Mindfulness – as a tune of presence in uncertainty of life and certainty of death, as well as having a settled awareness that is both regal and playful – that acts as a presence directing needless-compass; not pointing out any designation and rather a intuitive trust in being here and now,,, listening to the opportunities of wisdom integrated with compassion constantly arising from within and out. Many religious moral-compasses tend to lead toward constructed ideologies that do not raise the necessary questions of life enough – such as moving away from the phenomenology of death toward an honest and sincere communication with death, that asks you “What am I doing with my life?” to “Am I living out the true passion of my life?” to “Am I ready for Death?”. The last question may be approached with replies of “We can never be ready for death” or “I have been investing in life insurance for the last two decades”. Both answers have their worth, so, in turn, I want to ask the rhetoric, 1) If so, why do you live as though death will not happen to you?, and 2) If you plan for your passing day in such preparation, why are you not living your life freely? Sure, these questions may not appeal to everyone, but they may give incentive to reconsider how we prioritise our lives, and how we appreciate this life, and consequently (arousing the bigger picture) the lives of others and the Other.
Taking a step back, I have seen how certain topics arise consistently in my life – through my own doing, but also through the resounding influences of others. I guess, and to avoid the common cliché here, is that the Laws of Attraction have their place. So I have taken considerable interest in the idea of developing, intercommunicating, and establishing a secular-monastic community that appeals to the founding of a modular communal environment seated in wisdom, and active in contemplative productivity and discipline (from art to innovation to permaculture to community work to,,, living a simple life). In another post (that may follow) I will discuss this secular monastic initiative in more detail, for now, I give a few glimpses into the research I have been doing – mostly within the axiology of a secular monastic environment and its productivity, as well as a contemporary curriculum and guideline for such an initiative (much of which originates with established monastic settlements of antiquity (from Christian to Buddhist… inspiration), as well as explorations into New Monasticism, Adhocracy, Metamodernism, and the inspiring work of ThePhilosopherMonk, TheArtMonasteryProject, TheAbbeyOfTheArts, and maybe this UrbanMonk (of the many now coming out of the worx,,, I expect there will be more,,, and we will network).
I raise the above points and relate them to the concept of simplicity, because I see a need for a life that has more contemplative principles but also being able to meet the demands of contemporary productivity. I think a balance can be struck, as long as it is founded in an insight into a more comprehensive sense of reality (from the confines of intellectual property to open-platform wisdom); and this trend in mindfulness can re-appropriate its flesh in wisdom tradition into the wide varieties of contemporary lives and changing socio-philosophical paradigms.
Interesting things can happen when like-minded folk come together with a cool determination and an uncomplicated means; more so when we set a common intention driven by wisdom-seeking and wisdom-seed planting. When we invest spiritually we move closer to each other, and work better with each other, sure, lots of crap has to be filtered through first, or shifted aside, but it opens a common denominator that extends through happiness toward a purposeful being – not necessarily a being toward a something, but much more toward what already is and arises from ‘this’ (this being, this life, this purpose, this moment). The theme of simplicity can become a quotient in our interactivity with existence par excellence… as a mindfulness of the layers we project and unnecessarily attach. Simplicity (along with the other aesthetic principles) have their ethical play in our openness in listening, learning, contemplating, and interacting.
I am inspired by those who share such visions, and hope we can work together on promoting deeper senses of self beyond the self and between each other. Please feel free to comment or provide voice of opinion / support / insight.
Be Blessed As You Are.