Live in harmony with nature : Living well within | Sunday Observer

Live in harmony with nature : Living well within

“I must strip my vines of all useless foliage and concentrate on what is truth, justice and charity,” wrote Pope John XXIII in his Journal of a Soul. “The older I grow, the more clearly I perceive the dignity and winning beauty of simplicity in thought, conduct and speech; a desire to simplify all that is complicated and treat everything with the greatest naturalness and clarity.”

John’s simplicity gave his actions the force of parables. As Pope from 1958 until 1963, he was driven by one grand and simple idea; peace. He was a reconciler.

His Catholic people had stood apart from the Jews for 19 centuries; but when Jewish leaders visited him he did not quote intricate doctrines to overcome the distance.

He simply acted out the Bible story of-a man separated from his family. John reached out to his visitors and said, “I am Joseph - your brother.”

Part of genius

All the truly deep people have at the core of their being the genius to be simple or to know how to see simplicity. The inner and outer aspects of their lives match; there is something transparent about them.

They may keep the secret of their existence a private preserve, but they are uncluttered from any self- importance within them.

They have, what one philosopher called, a certain 24-hour availability”; they are ready to be at the disposal of others at any moment.

Part of genius is simplicity, in the sense of oneness of life, of gathered force. We sense a kinship between Albert Einstein’s admiration of childlike simplicity and his own powers of wonder and concentration. We sense a connection as well between simplicity and depth.

Albert Schweitzer was a musician, philosopher, historian, physician; but his deepness lay in one simple idea, the focus of his years of service in Africa: his reverence for life.

Successful living is a journey toward simplicity and a triumph over confusion. Many use the term “spirituality” to describe the route for this journey. Some find their centre in God. Some others, find it in deep mindful meditation. All of them, reach a sudden enlightenment that records their lives.


In all these approaches, the common thread is the genius to be simple. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and an anti-Nazi dissident. He was accused of being associated with the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, quickly tried and executed.

In his hand-written diaries, later published, he says “To be simple, is to fix one’s eye solely on the simple truth of your religion at a time when all concepts are being confused, distorted and turned upside down. It is to be single-hearted.”

What assets await those who achieve this inner grace? When we are truly in this interior of simplicity our whole appearance is frank, natural. This true simplicity makes us conscious of a certain openness, gentleness, innocence, gaiety and serenity.

Though the search for simplicity is a difficult journey through the wilderness, we can learn from guides, both ancient and modern. In a way, the old American group called the ‘Shakers’ had the right idea when its members sang of the ‘gift to be simple.’

It often looks like grace to enjoy more than a goal to sweat over. Nature is not stingy with this gift, but expects some effort.

People who despair because their calendars are crowded and their duties demanding, have to turn, to put a premium on simplicity.

Some find a way by clearing a special room and a certain hour in which they can strip away what matters finally in their lives, from the things they have to take seriously, but in the end, not too seriously.

The guides on this journey advise others to follow role models. Some find them through reading; some with little gardening or spending time with their pets. The religious may do it through meditation and prayer; the thoughtful often keep journals of their soul’s journey.

Those who admire Mohandas Gandhi know that the great Hindu leader was a cunning politician who upset empires, but they see how he focused his life with passion on people he called “the last, the least, the lowest and the lost.”


The lives of such leaders offer clues, not codes, for the simple way. Each individual has to discover and nurture the appropriate path for himself. Searchers often band together for the journey.

Some have tried communes, only to find them complicated. Others have found both freedom and communion in congregations, societies or causes.

Sooner or later, the searchers learn to live in harmony with nature. But the genius of simplicity has to do with more than the material world, so the seekers have to prune and sort ideas until the lasting ones alone survive.

Wherever I looked in the 1940s and 50s, it became clear that most of the national leaders followed simple lives.

Today, our existence is bewildering, but we still have to endow our joys and sorrows with meaning, refusing to let them ‘ ‘merely happen.” Millions turn to spiritual life, to sort out the complexities. This search for order and simplicity is a constant in any religion and may be close to a definition of it.


Simplicity does not call for anyone to turn back to the good old days, or even back to nature. True simplicity demands no commune or cult.

The popular song in the 1950s from the film -Wake up and dream, “Give Me the Simple Life,” by Rube Bloom and Harry Ruby, does a good job of summing up the principle of voluntary simplicity: “A cottage small is all I’m after, not one that’s spacious and wide, a house that rings with joy and laughter and the ones you love inside.”

In other words, living simply means focusing less on material belongings and more on the people you care about – and there’s nothing extreme about that.What does simple life mean to you?