Something about Pico Iyer's piece about the virtues of living simply in today's New York Times irritated the hell out of me. To give you the ten-cent version, he raves about how living in a smallish two-bedroom apartment in Japan instead of on Park Avenue, while downsizing his mass media consumption and big-time career dreams, has lead to greater piece of mind and more time to enjoy the simple things in life, like novels and tangerines. He writes:
I agree, in principle, with these thoughts. Of course we shouldn't waste our lives on ephemera, on chasing money and the Next Big Job.
First of all, he can afford to rest on his laurels; he's done the big time, he's had his pad on Park Ave, and published many books; some of which, as I recall, were best-sellers. He's still writing for the Times from his little hovel in Kyoto. His kids are grown; of course he doesn't need a car. And he's in Japan, living as an expat, which is itself endlessly stimulating and interesting, and must also be pretty darn expensive, by the way. Ever think the reason people live simply there is because they can't afford to live largely, Pico?
What I want to read about is someone who manages to have that kind of mindset while raising young kids in the middle of crowded city or suburbia. Who tries to scale back on consuming for herself and her kids, all the while being bombarded by social and media messaging. Who finds healthy organic food on a budget, because the condo association would sure be pissed if she tried to grow it herself. Who has to spend the better part of days sort out bills and various insurances. Who can't filter out the media because she works for it, which, by the way, involves being ruthlessly competitive and having a very, very tough skin these days. Aiming small just ain't the way to make it as a journalist.
Otherwise, simple living people, I don't want to hear about it anymore. Wallow in your serenity quietly next time, and spare us the lecture. It's just more media chatter for me to filter.