“The Secret of Life”
by Judd H. Burton—11.4.07
“The secret to life is that it is simple.” So said a Mongolian herder to an American once.
Let that sink in, because we Westerners like to complicate things sometimes.
This man, sixty years old, living a pastoral life, active, lean, and taking pleasure in the simple elemental things
in life, exemplifies that which for which we all should strive—the simple things.
It’s not as if we didn’t know this. Our grandparents always told us to take pleasure in the simple things, and to live
by clear rules. But in a world that seems to be stuck on fast-forward, it is
a lesson that we must relearn. And certainly, the West has had its share of singular
individuals modeling the simple life. The author of Ecclesiastes (presumably
Solomon) warns us that anything too terribly complicated is dangerous. A man
should enjoy his work and serve God to garner the most from this life. Solomon,
in Proverbs, prescribes the same sort of lifestyle in his poetic wisdom.
Thomas Jefferson also advised a simple life. This fact may come as a surprise, given that he was a man of many talents, including
agriculture, philosophy, law, mathematics, history, music, and science (to name but a precious few), but Jefferson’s
personal life was remarkably simple. His daily life was ordered, often around
his agricultural pursuits. Jefferson was a paragon of healthy living, as his diet was mainly vegetarian, with only the slightest portions of meat, and
his exercise included walking, running, and horseback riding. The rest of his
time was spent in study, with family, or in matters of state. At the end of the
day a book always graced his nightstand. The key was keeping his mind and body
active, feeding both with the correct nutriment. Jefferson once remarked in his
old age that he had never lost a tooth due to age (which speaks volumes of his diet), he read prodigiously, and continued
an exercise regimen all through his life. If such simple habits produce a great
man, it surely behooves us to take note of his lifestyle.
My own Great Aunt and Uncle embraced such simple
habits and both lived long lives. They learned much of these lessons in rural
Texas, during the Great Depression, when all one could do was take pleasure in the simple things. They talked with neighbors in the evening, they grew their own vegetables, kept chickens, used well water,
loved relatives and friends, loved to read (despite neither of them having more than a middle school education), and embraced
the principles of the Bible.
Simplicity allows for intellectual, physical,
and spiritual growth, and gives order and contentment to our lives. It doesn’t take a hearty life on the steppes of
Mongolia to move one to appreciate the beauty of the simple. It takes awareness,
willingness, and application. Let us all slow down and examine. The secret of life truly is simple.