This is the second in a series of Reflections posts about Quaker testimonies.
In his book “A Quaker Book of Wisdom”, Robert Lawrence Smith wrote “If I were asked to define Quaker simplicity in a nutshell, I would say that it has little to do with how many things you own and everything to do with not letting your possessions own you.”
Smith also wrote, “Living simply is also not about finding a quiet corner where you can contemplate your life and feel good about yourself. Far from it. It’s about giving yourself the freedom to pursue that indestructible impulse to do good in the world, to go toward the best.”
Simplicity can also support other Quaker testimonies. A simpler life requires fewer resources, supporting the testimony of stewardship. Needing fewer resources makes those resources available to others, supporting equality. And with few distractions, our time and attention are available to help build community.
Even outside of the Quaker community, many people have been drawn to the practice of minimalism. Although some proponents of minimalism say it’s about limiting the number of possessions you own, others view it more like the Quaker approach to simplicity.
Minimalist Joshua Becker said, “Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value, and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.” Colin Wright tells us to “Get rid of the things in your life that don’t add value so you can focus on the things that do.”
A simpler life, with fewer possessions, fewer demands, and fewer distractions, brings into focus that “indestructible impulse” Smith wrote about, and can help us identify and pursue what it will take to make our lives and our society as good as they can be.