In many of the cases studied here, simple living consists in quieting the noise of a busy life in order to hear the soft sounds which are emitted by life. Once heard, the quiet activity that animates all living beings erases differences to create a world which is experienced as onefold – etymologically, as a simple world.

Embracing the sanctity of life in all beings and questioning the arbitrariness of convention motivates some people to change the course of their lives. Their life reforms lead to the conclusion that living simply is not simply living.

Simplicity is the muting of an imperious self-consciousness that is ultimately disillusioned about itself.

A simple heart does not care about what is given nor is it concerned with how something is given. A simple heart gives willingly and with joy. When it gives, it does nothing else but give. A simple heart wills giving; and in return, the will and the joy make the heart simpler.

At noon on 20 January 2009, Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Anthony McGill, and Gabriela Montero played a classical quartet composed by John Williams. At noon that day, Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States of America. The title of the piece composed for the inauguration is ‘Air and Simple Gifts’. The Shaker hymn is woven into a complex musical fabric within which it struggles to convey ideas of austerity, patriotism, solemnity, profundity, and ‘clean, honest, all-American values’, according to the Washington Post. Because of weather conditions detrimental to musical instruments that day, the piece was pre-recorded, played and mimed on Inauguration Day. On several occasions, the new President turned towards the silent instruments pretending to be moved by the solemn music, all this in a great game of political make-believe. Not much was left of Shakers simplicity that day. It was not different on 20 January 1993, when Marilyn Horne with all her mezzo-soprano virtuosity sang ‘Simple Gifts’ for the inauguration of Bill Clinton. In 1985, on 20 January, the Wagnerian Jessye Norman sang the Shaker song for the newly elected Ronald Reagan. On these days, a simple song dressed up for the occasion was there to remind world leaders to remain simple. Lesson learnt?

The simple mind is not full of recesses, nooks, and hiding places formed by a consciousness fearful of its own shadow. It is level and one.

‘Simplify, simplify.’
Henry David Thoreau

Simplicity is the silence of consciousness readying itself to hear the quiet murmurs of the divine.

Simplicity is an intellectual and moral imperative of self-evaluation and permanent moral reassessment, so that we are neither our own tyrants nor the tyrants of nature. To know oneself, to catch a glimpse of the simple man in oneself, is not self-absorption or withdrawal within oneself; it is a necessary exercise that may benefit man, society, and nature.

Resisting the temptation of whatever seems too simple at first sight is one of the first steps towards simple living.

Simple living can, however, awaken dormant imaginations; it can weaken the force of habit. Simple living offers suggestions for being in the world to those willing to listen to the still small voice of life emitted by all and echoed in all.

Living a simple life is embracing the possibility that things may change unexpectedly, that true virtue is not premeditated but heroic, because accidental. Social man is prepared, adapted, qualified, predisposed, and rehearsed, always focusing on the future, and preparing for it. The simple man is ready for everything because he is ready for nothing in particular.

‘Simplify, simplify.’
Henry David Thoreau


[Ken] Segall had beaten the icon of American simplicity at his own game. Could anything be simpler in the American cultural landscape than a hut near a pond? Yes, a computer, the epitome of technological complexity for laypeople. He had even simplified Thoreau’s formula by removing a superfluous ‘simplify’ from the motto. The name of the famous author of the first quotation even seems excessively long compared to the nicely concise ‘Apple’, fruit of the earth.