The Simple Life

Francis of Assisi is known for, among other things, preaching a message of peace through simplicity of life. I don’t know about you, but that sounds pretty attractive – but very hard to attain. In my own book, Spiritual Blueprint (not to compare myself to the saint at all, believe me) I have also talked about how “less is more.” But for someone who is driven to accomplish goals (and with the big 5-0 staring me down from its vantage point in 2013), sometimes it feels like a paradoxical choice between pursuing my passions and stopping to smell the rosary, as it were.

The other day I was on my way to the recording studio (did I mention I’m also working on a new CD?), and as it happened, I was a bit early. So I stopped at a gas station to fill up and to treat myself to that gift from heaven known as the Hostess Apple Pie. The thing is, having a few extra minutes to sit in my car and eat the Apple Pie was almost as sweet as the pie itself. While I was putting gas in the car, I had noticed a guy on a motorcycle, trying to start it by pushing the motorcycle, then jumping on and throwing it into gear. Since I had extra time, I offered to help push. It turned out the guy was able to get the bike started without me pushing, but he was grateful for the offer. Now, I’m not telling you this to brag because the truth is, on any other day I might have seen that guy as an annoyance – someone in my way when I was in a hurry. The guy is the same, the motorcycle is the same – what was different was my sense of time, and my sense of urgency (or not) about the things I have to accomplish in any given day.

So what’s the point? The point is: I’m a nicer person when I’m not pressed for time. Sounds simple (and maybe you can relate) but it’s important to be self-aware enough to recognize and admit stuff like this.

Shortly after enjoying my Apple Pie, the song that came up in my “driving mix” was Alanis Morissette’s You Learn, in which she sings a line about recommending biting off more than you can chew. Yep – that’s me all right. I always have multiple projects going on, including writing a couple of books, the music thing, speaking gigs, and the list goes on.

It’s hard to find the balance of work and rest (let alone prayer), and it’s even harder to figure out what to set aside in order to have more time between things. I don’t claim to have figured this one out, though I do have some concrete suggestions in Spiritual Blueprint. But even though I’ve written about it, it’s sometimes hard to follow my own advice. All I know for sure is that St. Francis was right. Less really is more, and in fact, the more time I have, the more kind I am, because I’m not as stressed, and I have more time to think about people other than myself.

Speaking of peace, I can’t end this week’s blog without mentioning the most recent mass murder, this time at the Sikh temple in Wisconsin (not too far from where I grew up by the way). As far as I know, the Sikhs never hurt anybody, and I can’t figure out why someone would target them. The media keep talking about white supremacists, but really – trying to prove white people are better by committing mass murder is like trying to prove your car is faster by taking the wheels off and filling the gas tank with sand. You’re actually proving the opposite. When you kill people in cold blood, you’re just demonstrating that your crazier, not better. I don’t know what else to say about that. Anyone who wants to prove the supremacy of their group should do it by loving their neighbor more perfectly than everyone else. Let’s have that kind of contest, shall we?

And so this brings me back to my point. If the lack of stress makes me a better person, what kind of stress causes someone to snap? It must be a lifetime of pressure and frustration that leads to such acts of insanity. But maybe if people like me try a little harder to slow down and claim the peace that comes from living a more simple life – maybe it will be contagious. Maybe having the time to think of others will catch on and go viral in the real world. Anyway it’s worth a try.


Jim Papandrea


About Jim Papandrea

Jim Papandrea is an author, educator, and singer/songwriter. Visit his website at:
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