11 August 2009

“Simplicity! Simplicity! Simplicity!”

“Simplicity! Simplicity! Simplicity!” says Henry David Thoreau, in Walden. “I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail.” Lately, I’ve been thinking a great deal about this simple dictum.

I remember years ago a renowned ice cream company (I’ve forgotten exactly which one it might have been) advertised that they were issuing a line of simple flavors: plain, uncomplicated confections with no confusing or complexing additions, like chips or cookie dough or . . . well, or anything. And the explanation offered appealed to the notion of a desire for simplicity. The company’s spokesperson claimed that the new line addressed that person who arrived home from a difficult day out in the world just wanted a plain dish of uncluttered simple ice cream, without the complication of add-ins. Chocolate. Vanilla. Coffee. Plain. Tidy. Uncomplicated. No surprises: every bite the same.

I’ve been moving almost steadily toward this ideal of simplicity. Lately, when I dress to go out or to stay in, I don trousers of simple hue—khaki, black or blue, and I choose shirts of a single hue—white, blue, yellow, and pink. I look through the catalogs at these beautiful patterned shirts and cannot bear the thought of draping that complexity upon my body. As if it would wear me down as I attempted to move through the world. It might be a reflection of the alarming complexities of internal strife, but I feel like this simple presentment suits me well right now.


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