Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Simplicity versus Minimalism

You may have noticed that most blog posts have labels at the bottom, helpfully collected for you on the right sidebar for browsing. One of my labels is minimalism. I do not have a label for simplicity. The reason is that I am much better at working toward the former. What's the difference?

I have been re-reading Freedom of Simplicity by Richard J. Foster, a book I highly recommend. He describes the quest for a simple lifestyle (minimalism) as a good starting point, but ultimately lacking. Paring down our possessions and cutting back our schedules becomes another set of rules to follow. We replace one standard with another, but still feel as if this life is artificial, without a deeper meaning. Minimalism is a behavior change.

In contrast, simplicity is much richer. It is both a grace bestowed upon us by God and a discipline we must follow. As a grace, it is something we cannot earn or attain by doing the right things. It is a gift, freely given when God calls us to it. It is also a discipline, so the outward appearance of simplicity may be identical to minimalism. Simplicity is a discipline because it calls us to action. Foster writes, "What we do does not give us simplicity, but it does put us in the place where we can receive it." In this, it is much like faith.

Letter of the law? Check. Spirit of the law? Working on it...

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