Didn’t you just love the story this week about the couple from Yorkshire who won the lottery only to declare they wouldn’t be holidaying in a yacht off the Amalfi coast or buying a Maserati, but rather, they were quite happy to keep up their annual holiday in a caravan in Skegness and more than delighted replace their clapped out motorcar with Skoda’s latest model? It gave me pause, made me reflect on how interesting it is that their ‘happy-with-our-lot’ approach made it as a headline story. In essence, the story we were really reading was: ‘Couple Choose Simple Life.’ I would like to think I would choose the same, although I’ll never know, as I’m almost certain I’ll never be tested by the burden (!) of unspeakable wealth. I have no doubt their new-found fortune will resolve a few problems in their lives, but there is something profoundly appealing in their attitude to remaining true to themselves, something refreshing about their straightforwardness.
Would that more of us were content to be ordinary, happy to have enough to do us, able to recognise the joy to be had in living simply. There seems to be a crescendo in wanting: living for the next mini-break; chasing the sun; craving the glamour of flashy fast cars; ‘needing’ a new fitted kitchen. Justly, we are obsessed with climate change right now, we are fixated by how we might sustain the planet in the coming decades, but it seems to me that we’ve known all along how to at least assuage the crisis that has been looming long and is now gathering and building momentum: embrace simplicity. How about eschewing Marbella for Margate, Puerto Banús for Portrush – maybe not every holiday, but at least every other one. The time has come to stay put, sit on our bums, look up at the blue sky and quit searching – enjoy our lot!
Yet there is something in human nature that plants ants in our pants. We want to get and go, to spend and see. We insist upon equating accumulation with success, growth with progress, and, as far as I can see, it has been like that for hundreds of years. Two hundred anyway, for it was around 1800 when Wordsworth chided us humans for becoming overly absorbed in materialism. Back then he recognised how the pursuit of ‘getting and spending’ was slowly dismantling us. It was, and still is, an act of distancing oneself from nature, from the earth, from all that keeps and sustains us. How prescient he was to see that we ought not to treat nature as a commodity, but rather co-exist with it and tread a little more lightly. We must not give our hearts away through chasing, even if we are blessed with winning the lottery.
The World Is Too Much With Us, William Wordsworth
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune,
It moves us not.–Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.