Pure Happiness

From The Way of Contentment (17th century, translated by Ken Hoshino in 1913), by Kaibara Ekken.

There is a happiness called pure happiness, and it is enjoyed by him who has neither too much nor too little. Though he is not recognised by the world and possesses neither position nor wealth, yet he enjoys his peace of mind and leisure hours. He lives in a house which is sufficient to protect him from wind and rain. He wears cotton cloth, and enjoys simple vegetable food. He reads books quietly, and enjoys poetry. To follow the teaching of the Sages is his delight, to see and feel the beauty of Nature his joy. Friends he has also who share with him this pure and simple pleasure in life.

The Need for Empty Places

From The Serpent and the Wave: A Guide to Movement Meditation (1995), by Jalaja Bonheim.

To rebalance ourselves, we must consciously search out empty places. Spend some time in the desert or by the ocean. Lie down on a hillside and gaze into the sky, or into the infinity of a starlit night. Create an empty, uncluttered, yet beautiful space in your home–a room with white walls, a simple seat, and perhaps a flower, or a candle. Dare to spend more time alone, granting yourself moments of nothingness–of sitting quietly, breathing, just being. Such spaces of simplicity and non-doing are healing medicine. In the same way, the most healing movements are empty ones, free of intention and purpose. Like the wind, like the falling of snowflakes, they simply are. We need open spaces inside us. We should take care not to obliterate such spaces, for they are like the stained glass windows in a cathedral, letting in the sunlight.

Two Elizabethans on Wisdom vs. Riches

From The Sixth Booke of the Faerie Qveene, Canto IX, Stanza XXX (1590), by Edmund Spenser.

It is the mynd, that maketh good or ill,
That maketh wretch or happie, rich or poore:
For some, that hath abundance at his will,
Hath not enough, but wants in greatest store;
And other, that hath litle, askes no more,
But in that litle is both rich and wise.
For wisedome is most riches; fooles therefore
They are, which fortunes doe by vowes deuize,
Sith each vnto himselfe his life may fortunize.

And from Pericles, Prince of Tyre (1607), by William Shakespeare.

I hold it ever,
Virtue and cunning were endowments greater
Than nobleness and riches: careless heirs
May the two latter darken and expend;
But immortality attends the former,
Making a man a god. ‘Tis known, I ever
Have studied physic, through which secret art,
By turning o’er authorities, I have,
Together with my practise, made familiar
To me and to my aid the blest infusions
That dwell in vegetives, in metals, stones;
And I can speak of the disturbances
That nature works, and of her cures; which doth give me
A more content in course of true delight
Than to be thirsty after tottering honour,
Or tie my treasure up in silken bags,
To please the fool and death.

(The word cunning is used here with its older meaning of dexterity or knowing.)

Stoicism and the Simple Life

From From the Greeks to the Greens: Images of the Simple Life (1989), edited by Reinhold Grimm and Jost Hermand.

The Stoic concept of the “simple life” can be briefly summarized. The aim of the philosopher is to live in harmony with nature whose guiding principle is the logos or reason, also identified with God. Those who do live in harmony with reason are virtuous, which is the only good. To enable the human being to turn to and embrace the logos, moderation must be exercised in all areas of natural existence. The individual must become free of desires for externals and live simply. Wine does not slake thirst better than water, nor does a luxurious house keep one more sheltered than a simple one. The one who lives in harmony with the logos is truly free and happy, and since this state is the only real good, the presence of such things as health, pain, and death are of no importance. The Stoic “simple life” does not find its sense in itself; rather, it serves the freedom of the individual and, thus, allows one to pursue the goal of attaining the true good.