Stay close to who and what you really are.
Every tool invented by mankind is essentially an extension of man’s hand or mind.
- A pneumatic hammer, which drives a nail into wood or masonry, is basically a claw hammer on steroids. The claw hammer itself is just a fancy rock. And a rock is what a primitive human used to bash things that he couldn’t bash with his hand.
- A jet plane is a horse and wagon, crossed with a ship, only really fast. Any vehicle does exactly what the human body can do—travel distances over land or water—only faster, farther, and loaded with cargo.
- A computer does exactly what the human mind can do: store and retrieve information, perform mathematical computations, and manipulate data, only more quickly, more accurately, and at greater volume. These days a computer also frequently takes the place of paper and pen, and can even replace a drawer full of art supplies.
So, simplicity means doing only what you can do with your bare hands, traveling only as far as your own feet will take you, and doing all mathematics and information management in your head.
Tools and technology improve our lot in life by protecting us from the elements, enabling us to procure and prepare better food, allowing us to prevent and treat diseases and injuries, and making it possible to do things beyond the tasks essential for sheer survival.
Modern modes of travel are wonderful, allowing us to connect quickly with all points of the globe for purposes of commerce, education and cultural enrichment. On a more local level, technological transportation, such as automobiles and mass transit, increases a person’s employment options, allows greater autonomy and personal liberty, and makes available a wider range of goods and services. (Even a person who doesn’t own an automobile can get around by taxi, bus, or train.)
But too much reliance on tools and technology has negative effects on us:
- Technological advances in high-speed transportation and communication have indeed shrunk the world and made it easier than ever to “connect” with other people. Nevertheless, modern men and women in technologically advanced countries typically report a prevalence of loneliness, psychological disorders, stress, and dissatisfaction with life.
- Despite advances in agriculture and the availability of more and more options for healthy food and more and more leisure time that could be used to stay active, modern men and women in technological societies are fat and unhealthy like never before in history.
- The stay-at-home mom may be one of the loneliest occupations in America. Where did everybody go? They’re all at work, doing everything they can to earn enough money to pay for their numerous cars, their spacious homes, their cable or satellite TV subscription and the several flat screen plasma TVs to watch, their internet service providers, their handheld smart phones, tablet, laptop, and desktop computers, their ready-made, pre-packaged boxes, cans, bags, and jars of food.
The 8th and final principle of simplicity is about preserving at least some of the essentially human touches in our lives and keeping at least some things immediate and scaled to human proportions. Examples of this principle in action:
- If the weather is nice and the distance is reasonable, walk.
- Instead of listening to prerecorded music on an mp3 player, grab a guitar, some friends, and sit around a bonfire making music.
- For entertainment, when was the last time you attended a live theatre production? Or got together with a bunch of people and played board games?
- Do we really need to buy pre-packaged cheese and crackers? How hard is it to put a handful of crackers in one Ziploc bag, a few slices of cheese in another? Instead of buying chili powder for seasoning your taco meat, did you know that you can make your own from salt, pepper, cumin, paprika, and cayenne pepper?
- Connect to living food by growing at least some of what you eat. Even an apartment dweller can enjoy fresh summer tomatoes from a container on the balcony or grown in a rented plot at the community center. If you have a sunny window you could grow fresh herbs year-round.
A review of the previous Principles of Simplicity:
 See Josef Pieper’s Leisure: The Basis of Culture for much more on this last subject. Men and women who do nothing but work degrade their humanity and actually begin to lose their cultural refinement.