I’m going to tell you something about our Western culture. It is simple. It is easy. Hungry? Eat a snickers. Lonely? Social network. Bored? Flip the channels; or watch You Tube; or play Angry Birds. Everything is at our fingertips, and we don’t have to work hard for almost anything. We are a culture of open access and consumerism.
I, however, am a wily counter-culturist. I am not satisfied with living simply. I don’t want to roll over and sip a McDonalds fake-milkshake. I want to make life better. I want to grow. I want to learn. I want to give my spirit a chance to soar.
I want to live extravagantly.
The phrase “live simply” really irritates me. First of all, I usually see it, embellished and for sale at a ridiculous price, or on display in a gaudy and overcrowded room. The whole idea of selling people the phrase “live simply” goes against the entire point of the virtue. If you want to simplify, start by getting rid of The Stuff. And, if you need a token on your wall, turn over the junk mail envelope you were about to recycle, and scribble your virtuous reminder in your own handwriting, then stick it in plain sight with a thumbtack.
On a deeper note, the phrase “live simply” irritates me because it implies a sort of ease and abandon. As in: “If only we would shun all of the things that bind us, and could release ourselves to just live…to Live…to simply and poignantly LIVE.” I call rubbish. Anything worth having, doing or being in life isn’t easy; neither is it simple. I’m not satisfied with having a simple marriage; I want a passionate one where we dream together and build a wonderful life together while having lots and lots of sex. I’m not satisfied with having simple friendships; I want to bear my soul to people, to let them see how complex and ugly I can get, and to still know that they will stand by me when the going gets tough. I’m not satisfied with being a simple parent; I want to be extraordinary, to show my baby true compassion, humility and imagination.
I want to live extravagantly.
A tangible example of what I’m talking about is our food choices. If you want to be an automaton about nutrition, just eat whatever you’re advertised and don’t give it a second thought. If, however, you want to eat better food, you have to learn more about how to cook, or which restaurants to go to, or how to garden…and it’s a complicated process. Now, I love to eat fresh, local, in-season foods, but five years ago I couldn’t see past the Happy Meal and Hamburger Helper. I had to let myself get confused. I had to challenge myself to find different sources of food. I had to be willing to prepare foods I’d never even heard of before. But now I’m becoming an excellent cook, and this year I’m trying my hand at gardening, never satisfied to let inertia set in. I will grow. I will learn. I will throw my hat into the ever-complex and changing ring we call “life.”
And here’s the deeper truth: Life. Is. Complex. Whether or not you see that reality, it’s true. The food at the grocery store had a long road to get there, whether or not you are aware of it. The choices we make in relationships affect us and others in profound psychological and sociological ways. Therefore, we can tune out and waste our time away with simple, easy diversions that muffle our souls. Or, we grow, bit by bit, into colorful, imperfect, graceful, awkward beings. Let us fill ourselves with strength, beauty, fears and dreams. Let us pour out the cups of our hearts, leaving room for God to move in our deepest ditches. Let us romance and giggle and cry and forgive.
Let us all live a little more extravagantly.