Wednesday, June 22, 2005

If Less Is More (Part 1 of 3)

One aspect of modern western civilization is our penchant for thinking WE know better. We often look at past civilizations or so-called primitive cultures within our midst and shake our heads condescendingly. If THEY only knew what we KNOW today...

In recent years, however, many in our society have begun to realize that this egocentric position is not all it's cracked up to be. Modern medicine is discovering that many of the old folkways of indigenous people were better clued in to the ways to regenerate the body than we once thought. Social scientists are discovering that many primitive societies had more effective social and political relations than we do today.

One concept that is gaining resonance with many today is the age old belief in simplicity. For centuries, the Aborigines of Australia knew that "the more you know, the less you need". This same idea is expressed in Taoism as "When seeking knowledge, much is acquired. When seeking wisdom, much is discarded".

Most of us in modern society have committed the offense of cluttering our lives. The capitalist system urges us constantly to acquire more and more things. We surround ourselves with gadgets, doodads, cars, furnishings, jewelry and even people. No matter what we have today, the push for tomorrow is ALWAYS to acquire more, both individually and collectively.

This constant activity leads to stress. We're always pushing and driving toward the next material goal; we rarely stop to smell the roses. And this constant drive is killing us!

Yes, I know that life expectancy continues to rise. People today live longer, on average, than people 100 years ago. But while our quantity of years continues to increase, I'm certainly not convinced our quality of life has kept step.

Medical researchers are finding more and more that stress plays a major role in disease. Some have postulated that our recent surge in auto-immune diseases ultimately will be traced back to increased stress as the trigger. Alcohol and substance abuse plague many of our communities today and the desire to escape the pain of stress is one of the causes of the overuse of such substances. Road rage, spousal abuse and child abuse are intensified by stress.

All of these diseases and behaviors are natures way of screaming at us, "You're stressing yourselves out". Unfortunately, too few are listening.

If we would only unclutter and simplify our lives, we would soon find that each life would be happier and less stressed. We would find that we could take the time to enjoy a good book, a serene sunset, quiet conversation and/or introspective contemplation.

In essence, we would come to fully understand and embrace the idea that The MORE we know, the LESS we need.

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