Monday, November 30, 2009

Less Is More

Yesterday's Boston Globe featured an article, "Living in Unity," which described the serendipitous settling of eight Amish families in the town of Unity, Maine. The town had a lot of vacant land and wanted to preserve its rural character. The Amish families sought land for farming. The town's residents value sustainable agriculture and environmentally sound practices, which the Amish lifestyle embodies. So, the townspeople have welcomed the new arrivals. The article's author aptly summed up the Amish philosophy by quoting a sign on the wall of one of the Amish homes—"To be content with little is hard, to be content with much is impossible."

I'm about as far removed from the Amish way of life as imaginable. I live in a big city and I'm dependent on cars, fond of dining in restaurants, and completely lacking a green thumb. Yet those words resonate with me. Over and over, I've learned the lesson that just because I can afford something—a bigger house, a fancier car, a more extravagant vacation—doesn't mean that it will make me happier. That may seem self-evident, yet our contemporary culture embraces the assumption that more is better.

Yesterday, Eric and I drove out to Key Biscayne with friends for a look around. While we didn't find the exact house where Bebe Rebozo used to entertain Richard Nixon, I'm pretty sure we were in the neighborhood—lavishly appointed mansions fronting directly on Biscayne Bay, many behind imposing locked gates. Quite a few had discreet For Sale signs posted, not surprising in the current economy. But the signs were a reminder that even (or perhaps especially) among the supposedly wealthiest of people, there are a large number who live on the edge, maxing out their credit just to acquire as many impressive possessions as possible.

Coconut palms at Crandon Park
Before our drive through the posh neighborhood, Eric and I shared a lovely picnic lunch with our friends at Crandon Park, one of Key Biscayne's beautiful public beaches, followed by a walk through Crandon Park Gardens, which is comprised of over two hundred acres of lush vegetation and small lakes. During our walk we saw peacocks, ibises, herons, and other tropical birds, plus a couple of crocodiles basking in the sun. It was a delightful way to spend an afternoon and a reminder that the best times are often those shared with good friends and family, doing simple things.

1 comment:

  1. When we moved to Austin I realized one day that the most difficult part of the move was leaving the good friends behind. Here’s a little story from the Aztec Tribe in Mexico.

    This story has been going through my head for days. People are running from Key Biscayne and elsewhere. What can we do?

    “A long time ago there was a great fire in the forests that covered our Earth. People and animals started to run, trying to escape from the fire. Our brother owl, Tecolotl, was running away also when he noticed a small
    bird hurrying back and forth between the nearest river and the fire. He headed towards this small bird. He noticed that it was our brother the Quetzal bird running to the river, picking up small drops of water in his beak, then returning to the fire to throw that tiny bit of water on the flame. Owl approached Quetzal bird and yelled at him: ‘What are you doing brother? Are you crazy? You are not going to achieve anything by doing this. You must run for your life!’ Quetzal bird stopped for a moment and looked at the owl, and then answered: ‘I am doing the best I can with what I have.’ It is remembered by our Grandparents that a long time ago the forests that covered our Earth were saved from a great fire by a small Quetzal bird, and owl, and many other animals and people who got together to put out the flame.”