This blog article is technically written by me, but the story below is not mine. I never knew where it came from, and after some research, I still don’t know. I found some variations out there, but this is the version that I heard when I was young, and have been re-telling for all of my adult life. The interesting thing about this story is that different people take different lessons from it. Those are my favorite kinds of stories.
The Shepherd and the Two Travelers (as retold by Moxie)
A shepherd tending to his flock meets a traveler passing by the outskirts of his village. The traveler calls to the shepherd, “Hello, my friend! I have traveled far looking for a new home. What are the people like in your village?”
The shepherd replies,” “How were the people in the village you came from?”
The traveler explains, “The people where I come from are selfish, petty, and corrupt, the worst sort of people you could know”
The shepherd shakes his head sadly and says “Well my friend, you will find the people in my village are just the same.”
Sometime later, another traveler passing through called out to the shepherd. He too asked about the people in the village. Again, the shepherd asked, “How were the people in your village?”
The new traveler replied, “The people in my village are kind, generous, and good people.”
The shepherd smiled and said, “Well my friend, you will find the people in my town are just the same.”
What does all of this ‘Simple Living’ stuff have to do with being a “super hero”, “extreme altruist” or whatever the current catch-phrase? Nothing. Everything.
Thoreau said, “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”
Generally speaking, Americans’ lives are cluttered with distractions and centered on “wants”. Simplicity helps us gain a very fine understanding of what our “needs” really are. It is not so much about having fewer possessions; it is an approach to life and an attitude that guides our actions with clarity and purpose.
Simplicity is about separating “needs” from the “wants”, focusing on things that really matter and eliminating everything else. I can tell you from experience that this process involves a lot of letting go. When you live with simplicity in mind, you are less likely to get caught up in distractions and drama; it becomes easier to see the heart of a situation, conversation, or problem.
For me, living simply is a daily effort that touches every part of my life. My kitchen has very few gadgets, yet I cook quite a lot. It’s amazing how many gadgets can be replaced with a fork and a little muscle power. The gear I use is fairly simple, as well. I’ve got a sturdy pair of boots, a very bright flashlight, a cell phone, and a first aid kit. The basics are covered and I can focus on using my eyes-and-ears.
Choosing to live simply can take almost any form, yet the intent is often the same: a pursuit of finer understanding and sharper focus, better efficiency in all actions.