Monday, April 16, 2007

Living the Simple Life...Ain't So Simple

y Christopher D. Hall

Fr. Hollywood has gone Crunchy Con, Pr. Weedon is dreaming of being a circuit bike-rider, and I found myself recently imagining living a more simple life too.

Life without television? That could work, I suppose. I enjoy “24″ and “Heroes.” As much as it pains me to admit, I also enjoy “Medium.” “The Office” and the other Thursday night NBC comedies are really very good, but I don’t watch them much. Now in the interest of full disclosure, the T.V. is on much more than for these few programs and a lot of that time I am plopped in front of it. Sometimes reading, sometimes unwinding. But I could do without. Living without movies, would be much harder, but it could work.

Life without a computer? Yikes. There is no way. I’ve used a computer since I was eight years old. I’ve used a computer for writing since I was…eight? Nine? I cannot write by hand. I need something to type on, but a typewriter wouldn’t work. I’m of the first generation that never learned to use one, that couldn’t learn to use one. The “typing” class in school became “keyboarding” half-way through the year and never switched back.

Life without the ‘net? Where would I get my news? Weather? Where would I do my research? In one of those book prisons…I mean, libraries? Now, I do have to use the library some anyway, but every month it seems you can find more and more stuff online, especially encyclopedic questions and statistical data.

Life without a cell phone? You don’t mean my new “all-in-one” device do you? You know the one with the Palm software? Where I have all my appointments and all my calls logged and all my phone numbers, the church directory, everything all integrated and digitized? I’ve only had it a few weeks, and it’s already changed my life for the better, keeping me more organized and productive. Is that the cell phone you mean?

David Lee Roth sang,

I found the simple life aint so simple
When I jumped out on that road
I got no love, no love you’d call real
Aint got nobody waiting at home(1)

He’s right. The “Simple Life” is not simple at all. Life never is simple because we fill it. We are creatures that do not–cannot–do nothing. Life must be filled with something. What we fill our lives with is the crux.

Do we fill it with noise and light and entertainment? Technology and information science and the science of information, with “news” and commentary and editorials and facts about the world? With conversation and fun and jokes and gossip with friends? With sports statistics and opinion? With the cares of this life?

Part of me wants to slam on the brakes and exclaim, “You really can’t be suggesting reading the Bible and ’spiritual’ things all the time, can you? What about your vocation? What about having a healthy balance of knowledge of the world, staying up-to-date and a spiritual life? It is the way of pietism to suggest we only should be reading the Bible all the time! God created baseball, didn’t He? Didn’t he give us friends to chat with?”

But I remember Grandma Mom. She was hopelessly clueless about technology. She had no idea about movies. Already in the early ’80s she said television was “trash,” and tried to ignore it when we were watching. But she knew how to pluck a chicken, butcher a pig, re-leather shoes, cook the best chocolate pie in the world, play with her grandchildren, make world-class quilts and countless other things. And she read her Bible most of the time, and almost exclusively the last few years of her life.

If someone asked her, “Should you read the Bible all the time?” She would probably answer, “Oh, no, you can’t do that. Your eyes would get tired, and there are chores to do everyday.”

Her simple life was that simple, filled with good things…the one thing needful, in fact. (Luke 10:42).