Brevity & Simplicity

The Psalmist remembers how short life is.  “Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away” (Ps. 144:3).  The Lord says that his spirit shall not always strive with us.  God gives riches and wealth, “hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labor; this is the gift of God” (Eccl. 5:19).  A Pakistani novelist Moshin Hamid (b. 1971) said, “I take six or seven years to write really small books.  There is a kind of aesthetic of leanness, of brevity.”  Some might feel something is wrong with brevity and look for expanded versions of a publication.  They are right when it comes to writing, but with life it’s different.  The gift of some short lives is filled with glorious moments, while those of longer souls might not.  This has to do with the God-given talents with which people are blessed.

Amazing gifts come from above.  St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556), a Spanish knight and priest wrote, “Realize that illness and other temporal setbacks often come to us from the hand of God our Lord, and are sent to help us know ourselves better, to free ourselves of the love of created things, and to reflect on the brevity of this life and, thus, to prepare ourselves for the life which is without end.”  Despite suffering this is the preparation that leads to fulfillment.

It’s often better to come to the point than to beat around the bush.  Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 BCE), a Roman philosopher and political theorist said, “Brevity is a great charm of eloquence.”  Hosea Ballou (1771–1852), a Universalist clergyman and theological writer supported this concept, but wrote, “Brevity and conciseness are the parents of correction.”  That’s why minutes of meetings are focused on the essentials and summarized for easy comprehension.

Rules of Life

It’s clear that many people like simplicity in life.  Confucius (551– 497 BCE), a Chinese teacher and philosopher wrote, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”  Do you see life this way?  Are you willing to take it as it comes?  Do you ask questions about life?  Some people feel that living by the Golden Rule is sufficient, while others believe it’s better to live by their own ethical principles.

But why do we follow rules?  People dwell on the past and think about the future.  Buddha (563 or 480 – 483 or 400 BCE), an Indian sage and founder of Buddhism said, “Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.”  Buddha lived in the present.  But could people do the same?  Many prefer to reflect on past experiences while thinking about the future.  An Italian poet, novelist, and literary critic Cesare Pavese (1908–1950) wrote, “We do not remember days, we remember moments.”  Does this statement say something about what matters most?  People often recall the good and bad moments in their lives.  These recollections tend to shape them, but living in the present evades them.

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