The richness of simple life

Grace Shi / University of Tasmania | 27-Jun-2016
When Socrates strode through Athens' central marketplace, he exclaimed, "How many things there are that I don't need!" The richness of a simple life can only be appreciated by the ones who know how to keep the material desires at bay. Maybe, we have paid too dear a price for those wonderful rich materials, to some extent, at the sacrifice of the richness of our simple life.
Launceston is a very small and quiet place compared to the cities I used to live in in China. For a person who has been living in the most populated areas of the world all her life, in the first few days of my arrival, I was appalled at the sight of so few pedestrians walking on the street, even in broad daylight. In some coastal cities of my country, the hustle and bustle of life continues until midnight. You have no worries buying daily commodities at any time for there always lies a 24-hour store around the corner. Whenever you are peckish, it is never too hard to find an affordable eatery where various delicious snacks are offered. Being brought up in such an environment, I enjoy the convenience of highly commercialized cities.

In contrast, shopping malls here are few and far between and shopping time is limited. At the outset of my living here, I was so unaccustomed to living in a place without flamboyantly neon-lit skyscrapers that even pictures or pieces of information of metropolitan areas could arouse extreme anguish and eagerness in my heart. I wondered whether I would be crazy or become a moron in this outer part of Australia after a few years.

Out of pure idleness, I learned to stare out of the window mindlessly. I noticed that in the morning the Tamar River was often shrouded a veil of pale, milky, misty fog which rose up like a blowing translucent curtain blurring the objects around. The hills that rear above fitted snugly in the frame of the window's flyscreen as if they were no more than bits of a mirage. There were very beautiful golden wattle trees dotted along the road. The golden canopies formed by their opulent flowers reflect the robust vitality awakened by the touch of warm wind. Some birds with unknown names chirped exultantly everywhere. They were not afraid of humans, flapping their wings valiantly above the heads of the pedestrians. Sometimes some foraging wallabies rooted around in my backyard. They were so shy. Once they saw me staring at them, they always jumped swiftly away. To welcome them, I often put our leftovers on the ground. Whenever I saw they were finished, even not by those intended wallabies, my heart would be filled with indescribable delight.

There are fabulous clouds here, especially when the sun sets. Once the dazzling sun diminishes into a rosy-visaged round face, the fronts of the clouds are tinted with glorious orange while the other parts of the clouds are dyed in blocks of various shades of blue. Capricious in character, the colours and shapes transform incessantly as if there is a subtle magician behind them. The beauty of them is hard to define as they are easy to enjoy. Just by watching them, I am easily content. My husband was curious why I spent hours watching and taking photos of so common a scene and asked why. I replied, "They are so beautiful! I love the clouds here!" My husband chuckled, "You love the clouds here? Is there any difference between the clouds here and that of China? "

His question made me think. Yes, but what's the difference? The Chinese saying "the moon is rounder abroad" is used to sneer at those who flatter on every foreign object. Am I now one of them? In fact, I can't describe the clouds in my hometown exactly for I scarcely looked up into the sky when I was living in the crowded city. It's hard to slow down to enjoy the splendour of nature in a highly commercialized place with so much bling tantalizing you. People there are busy with making money, getting a promotion or becoming more powerful. We become the slaves of our own desire. That is why Thoreau wrote, "men sell themselves into perpetual bondage by conforming to the traditional ways of the world". When I realized that life could go smoothly without those used-to-be necessities, another aspect of life elegantly unfolded before me. The slow pace of life here restores the stable equilibrium of my soul. With a more tranquil mind, I find there are so many things around me that are worthy of appreciating, just as William Hale White said, "there is enough in a very common object to satisfy all our hunger". This awareness can provide me with immunity from the endless restlessness and disorder so often experienced in societies subjected to rapid social changes.

When Socrates strode through Athens' central marketplace, he exclaimed, "How many things there are that I don't need!" The richness of a simple life can only be appreciated by the ones who know how to keep the material desires at bay. Maybe, we have paid too dear a price for those wonderful rich materials, to some extent, at the sacrifice of the richness of our simple life.

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