A good life is defined differently for everyone. Our parents, friends, and the media all comprise a vision that we see as the best way of experiencing our lives. This is different for every person, because nobody follows the exact same path in life, and events influencing someone’s existence are what eventually set the course for one‘s perception of a good, fulfilling, purposeful life. In the cases of some, a good life does not have to be complex. A modest life is often more fulfilling as a busy, complicated lifestyle.
Although I don’t necessarily agree that my life would be better if it were suddenly made much simpler, there are people in the world who believe that the best thing one could ask for is simplicity. Taoists are a wonderful example of people who prefer a less-complex life in favour of a simplistic one. Taoism, a Chinese philosophy we learn about and touch upon in the story “Substance, Shadow, and Spirit”. Substance represents the body, shadow represents fame, and spirit is self explanatory.
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In the story we learn that someone who chooses to stress substance in their life would spend much of their time gathering material possessions. Their priority in life would be trying to preserve it through building monuments that last beyond their own life span. Someone who chooses to emphasize shadow doesn’t care much about their life being preserved through time. They know eventually it will all slip away and focus on doing things that other people will praise. One who lives by the spirit does not concern themselves with noble deeds.
They seem more interested in self-fulfillment as opposed to what others think about them. When you eliminate certain superficial factors that our society puts too much emphasis on, life gets a whole lot simpler. Buddhists are another great example. Choosing to eliminate the need for desires through self-discipline is what it emphasizes. Desires such as material possessions are not nearly as important to a Buddhist living in China as say the average North American. The lack of want for physical objects arguably makes a persons life a lot simpler.
When you don’t have to stress or worry about having the latest phone, most money or nicest car – it makes living seem like less of a competition. Spirituality and understanding yourself better are far more important to a Buddhist then other trivial things people in our society don’t need to spend so much effort worrying about. Instead of “keeping up with the Jones’s” and worrying yourself with what you think you need, your focus can be on more important things like people and relationships. In conclusion, I do not necessarily believe a humble existence is the “best” way to live and it is most definitely not for me.
I am content with my way of life, but I share some of the views that the people I mentioned do. I believe more emphasis should be put on the great memories and times you can have with people, because these things are much more valuable than a thing you can own. I don’t mean to preach, and I’m not declaring how much happier I would be if I rid myself of everything I own and moved to Tibet. I don’t think I have the self discipline or the desire to live in such a simple manner, but with hundreds of millions of Buddhists and Taoists around the world, the simple life is what they choose – and it works just fine for them.