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Life is Short, but Should We Really Be in a Rush?

The Importance of Simplicity

By Teng HueyPublished 2 months ago 3 min read

When we hear the phrase "life is short," it often compels us to live more and do more. However, perhaps we should take this phrase to mean the opposite. Since our time is limited, we should slow down and simplify. Many of us want an extraordinary life filled with constant activity, social engagements, and material possessions. However, none of this is inherently good or bad. What is bad is not knowing the difference and not living according to what is necessary and real.

Many of us, at least at some point, have wanted an extraordinary life. A lifestyle in which the calendar is always full, and everyone wants us to be somewhere doing something. Where we have tons of friends and contacts, things to do, places to visit, new items to acquire, new social levels to achieve. Perhaps this ideal came from childhood, where we were conveyed that our sense of self-worth was validated only by our display of extraordinary scholastic achievement. Perhaps it came from the particular culture through which we were programmed. Perhaps it is in our own personal nature. Perhaps it is all of the above or something else entirely.

Whatever the origins, this idealization can compel many of us to pursue these sorts of highly active, highly consumptive lives. None of which is inherently bad, but likewise, none of it is inherently good. What is bad, however, is not knowing the difference for oneself and not living accordingly.

Transcendentalist philosopher Henry David Thoreau believed in simplicity, stating, "Simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real." Stoic philosopher Seneca wrote that we are not given a short life, but we make it short by wasting it on heedless luxury and no good activity. We should strive to reduce all dependencies on unnecessary externalities and focus our time on fulfilling our responsibilities, cultivating a command over our internal domain, and preserving time for philosophically focused leisure.

The philosophy of stoicism provides an excellent starting point for those looking to simplify their lives. Stoics believe that we should reduce our dependency on externalities such as wealth, material items, and control over people and things. Instead, we should focus on fulfilling our responsibilities, cultivating internal strength, and preserving time for leisure.

Although we do not need to arrive at the exact same conclusion as the stoics, it is at the very least, a good place to start. We should conceptually strip all unnecessary spending of time away and only put back what we truly want and need. In the end, we should see time clearly and determine what we believe is a valuable use of it.

French philosopher Rene Descartes provided an analogy for a sort of thought experiment in order to determine what he could know with absolute certainty to be true. He suggested imagining a basket of apples, concerned that some might be rotten and the rot will spread to the other fresh apples. The only way to ensure that this doesn't happen is to empty the whole basket, inspect each apple for rot one by one, and then only place back the fresh apples. This process can also be applied when considering how we should spend our time. We need to strip away unnecessary activities and only focus on what is essential.

Ultimately, life is what we make of it, and our perception of it is what's valuable. We should handle and consider time wisely, regardless of how much we have. Having more or less time makes no difference if the majority of it is not spent and experienced well. By slowing down and simplifying, we can truly live in the moment and appreciate the time we have.

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About the Creator

Teng Huey

As a tech enthusiast with a passion for learning and exploring new topics, I write about the latest trends in technology, as well as a variety of other subjects. From science to culture and everything in between.

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