It’s interesting, when I started on this path of simplicity, knowing somehow that by having less we would find more, I didn’t understand the what or the how. I knew slowing down, eliminating or reducing the distractions was key. I can’t say how many times in our Powered Big House I deemed days or weeks to be “Electronic Free” or even “Electricity Free Days” all in this effort to find that missing something. That magical, just out of reach peace in the simplicity. I was on to something, but I couldn’t figure out why we were not getting there.
I think I am beginning to get it now.
My experiments didn’t work because there is a transition time needed. A time to retrain your brain, to slow down, to not always need to be entertained but to find the entertainment in the now – in the conversations, in the playing with simple things, in doing repetitive mindless tasks. We are a hard headed family, a day or two just won’t cut it. We needed to go drastic.
We traded so much during our powered years, things that we are completely unaware of. I can see them now. There is no TV on for “background noise”, nature and children playing is the background noise. No computer running that requires a touch on the pad to fill empty time, doing the next task fills that time. Often, that “next task” is simply listening and watching. There are no distractions from this moment. This right now moment.
It was mentioned today how people used to have to do all these things just to live. Their days filled with picking veggies from the garden, gathering eggs, hand washing clothes then line drying, cooking from scratch, all while their children were with them. I chuckled If only they knew what we were doing. It’s amazing to think of how much they had to do, how full their days were. What happened to our modern days with all of our modern conveniences?
I am reminded of a story I was told from a missionary friend. While in Africa, the missionary team brought in a grinder for the corn, saving hours of time for the ladies of the tribe who used to have to hand grind every kernel of corn. Within weeks the tribe started bickering and discord came upon the people. That’s when it occurred to them – yes, they gained time and saved energy but gave up sitting together in a group, just talking. Older women teaching the younger women, little ones learning as they play around the ladies, discussing problems as they arose, working together for a common goal, finding solutions.
Our grandmothers must have been tickled pink when they got washing machines – no more hours with hands in soapy water scrubbing away the weeks messiness and Lord have mercy! All that time they could spend on other tasks. While they saw the goodness and blessing, we grew up with it, we just want our clothes cleaner, quicker, even going so far as to prefer someone else do it. What have we traded? No more seeing the ice cream stain, remembering that special treat that the little 4 year old boy got just a little too excited over. Scrub. The filthy pants of the eager young adult helping in the garden. Dunk. The chocolate smear on the sleeve turned napkin from a shared treat between siblings. Rub. And we fill that time with… something.
We grab hunks of clothes from the washer and throw them in the dryer and have another hour or two of time to fill. Maybe we go clean the kitchen with our modern dishwasher or we sit down in front of the TV for “just a minute”. Our grandmothers used to carefully touch each piece of fabric in our lives, give a good hard shake or two, lay it over the line and carefully pin it, to not leave noticeable marks or stretched areas. It is almost an art. They got to see, smell and feel each article. And Be Still. She could pray, she could sing, she could really listen and speak when needed.
I know that quiet; I feel it as I knead the dough. Roll. Press. Turn. Did you know that by saying the The Lord’s prayer twice, one knead for each word, you will have perfectly kneaded dough? Even knowing it was a perfect prayer time, I traded that simple task over to the bread making machine.
This simplicity of hanging out the clothes, kneading bread, tending a garden, grinding kernels, there has to be something to it.
Could it be as simple as busy hands. The body is occupied, the mind is free. We are surrounded by God’s beauty and blessings, but we don’t see it the way they did. Perhaps it’s because we are distanced from it by our modern conveniences. There is no quite moment naturally happening in our day to let thoughts, prayers, conversations develop.
We’ve reversed it. We have busied our minds with all these distractions and then fill up our bodies on even more distractions. Then wonder how, with all these conveniences, are we so stressed and tired all the time. We have to be even more disciplined to purposefully make the choices, schedule prayer and play time in. And it’s exhausting.
Maybe, hopefully, you are able to do it where you are in life and not need to take such drastic measures as we have. Find it where you are. It’s amazing and totally worth it.