Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Simplify

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007

Back in May, Sarah’s friend Julia came to visit. We spent a couple of hours with her cousin, Christopher. We went over to his place to hang out for a while, and as soon as we entered his kitchen, Julia spotted a sign that said “Simplify” in block letters. She started laughing and asked, “You have one, too?” Apparently, one of their relatives gave a “Simplify” sign to each of them. Both of them kept it, but neither seemed to be sure why.

This “Simplify” sign had a surprising impact on me.  I’ve thought about it a few times since then. Then yesterday, I looked at my bank statement online and felt stupid — “this transaction was unnecessary,” I thought. “This one, too.” There were several things on there that I just didn’t need. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how much stuff is cluttering up my life.

Then, on my way home from work (I drove, since my bike had a flat tire), I saw a man laying on the ground and a cyclist trying to help him. I turned off on a side street so I could turn around and see if I could help. I turned around, and I was stuck at the intersection, but I could see across. A few people were trying to help the man, and at least two people had already called 911. The man appeared to be unconscious. He started to convulse a little bit. Moments later, he regained consciousness and tried to get up. Someone helped him to his feet. He seemed to have enough help, and I could hear an ambulance already, so I decided to continue on my way.

Another reason I didn’t stick around was that I knew I couldn’t do much. I don’t know much about first aid, and I took a CPR class back in high school, but that was a long time ago. I felt helpless. Fortunately, this guy already had people helping him, but what if I was the only one there, and I didn’t know what to do? I felt silly that I had worried earlier that day about my flat tire and getting a new tire and how I was anxious to get home quickly. Those things are so trivial compared to a human life.

I need to get back to basics. I’m going to make a concerted effort to simplify my life. I’m not sure yet what that will mean, but I need to figure that out. Two things I know it will involve are buying less crap and learning some first aid and CPR. Especially with all the cycling I do, and the hiking Sarah and I do together, I really need to know those things. Sarah said she’d take some classes with me, which is a great idea. I think I can get rid of a lot of the junk I already have, too. I have a lot of clothes that don’t fit anymore, and stuff I don’t use. It needs to go. I have two old bicycles I’ve been meaning to get rid of, but haven’t. I have no idea why, I just keep putting it off.

I’m hoping this simplification will help on several levels. It should help me save money, and I think having less clutter will make me more comfortable. It’ll be easier to find things if I don’t have so much junk to dig through. But more importantly, I have been trying to be more self-reliant in general, and I think that learning first aid — and trying to depend less on things I should be able to do without — should help me do that. I already feel more self-reliant from cycling. If my car broke down, or I crashed it, or something happened and oil prices skyrocketed even further, I could still get around. But if one of my loved ones got hurt, I wouldn’t be able to do much of anything. That is unacceptable.

4 Responses to “Simplify”

  1. furiousBall Says:

    Get yourself First Aid and CPR certified, your local Red Cross does classes, it costs me $60 a year for the class. I do the day long version on a Saturday. Do it, it’s a good thing to know.

  2. Noah Says:

    That sounds like a plan. As I was moving, I realized what a freaking pack-rat I’d become. As much as I love middle-school (not quite electron-tube old-school) technology that helped shape who I am today, do I really need to keep all these old computers?

    Also, I was pretty low-income for a while, so I spent a lot of time salvaging things — either to repair and sell, or to use for parts to repair something in the future. I think I can honestly say I threw out over one ton of “stuff” when I moved – of course, that included a 350-pound ATM machine – don’t ask.

    I’m TRYING to take a similar outlook on simplification. My wife is making it a little difficult, as the more I cut back, the more so-called “disposable” income it looks like we have. It makes it look like we’re doing better off than we really are. We went the first 4 years of our marriage living within our means, paycheck to paycheck, barely scraping by. While it’s not that bad anymore, I really wish I could get my wife to cut back to basics as well.

    It sounds like you might have a little more support than I get.

  3. Marty Says:

    It’s a good perspective – there are so many things you CAN do, but when it really counts are those the things that will matter. The CPR course is a great start. In fact, I need to get my certification re-upped. Sadly, it’s not because I don’t remember the stuff, but that being current means I’m protected by Good Samaritan laws (don’t get me started on THAT).

    On a lighter side, I got my bike down yesterday and started working on it. I need a new tube in the back tire (bad stem), and some serious love in general, but your posts have gotten me finally moving on riding again. Bonus: my wife wants to do it, too…

  4. Apertome Says:

    Thanks for these thoughtful responses.

    Noah: Yes, Sarah is very supportive of this idea. In fact, I’m the one who tends to spend more than I should in the first place, so she’s thrilled that I’m thinking in these terms. In fact, she thinks it’s hot!

    We’ve done the whole paycheck-to-paycheck thing, too, but that has improved for us as well in the past year or so. However, we aren’t doing as well as we should be, either.

    Marty: Fantastic! I’m glad you’re moving in that direction. It is incredibly fun. I am looking forward to hearing about your cycling adventures.

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