“If you seek tranquility, do less (and better).” -Marcus Aurelius
I have a friend in Indianapolis who I respect a lot. He rides a bicycle to and from work each day. It’s not easy. He’s been hit by a car and had another near miss. He’s okay, but as a result he’s made some adjustments in terms of the route he takes each day.
I was thinking of my friend and the people who mess with him this morning because of a mail list I belong to. The topic is Stoicism and today’s post was particularly relevant. Choose to do less. Choose to do it better. Words to live by.
I’ve been seeking simplicity and “less” for most of my adult life. I think it’s ultimately what led me to this small town in Iowa. I think it’s why I feel a certain contentment here that I haven’t felt elsewhere.
I read a story the other day about a house in Sunnyvale California that just sold for a little over two million dollars. That home would sell for less than $100,000 here. That’s a factor of twenty times.
Choosing to live with that kind of math brings an undeniable complexity to life. The average worker in Silicon Valley can no longer afford the average home there so now he or she is moving to Bend Oregon and commuting 700 miles each way to work…not every day, of course, but still. That takes more than a little time. No wonder people drive so aggressively.
We all make choices. The trick is to recognize the choices we make and to understand the trade offs that come with them. Before I chose simplicity, I chose complexity. I didn’t see it as a choice. It felt mostly inevitable.
But it wasn’t and I now understand this because I opted out. I came to realize that Marcus Aurelius was right. To live a life with fewer things and activities is an opportunity to be more fully present and alive in whatever it is that’s most important to us. We all have to decide for ourselves what that is. Then we have to own our choices.
From the saddle of my bicycle, life looks like one great big old paradox. Less is more. More is less. When it comes right down to it, I cycle because it reinforces my simplicity ethos and allows me to live mas, as the folks at Taco Bell like to say. I know because I used to be the guy in traffic wishing that everyone would just get the hell out of my way. Now I’m the guy he’s bearing down on. Not perfect, but better. Much better.