If you, like me, wander too much around the internet in your not-free time, you might have stumbled on the Simple Formula for Living: a meme that attempts to answer many of Life’s Big Problems through the abridged version of bite-size wisdom. I don’t have a problem really if something can be summarized to one or two lines, but one should know that there’s a lot of nuances omitted in the process of simplification.
Below, I share my inputs for each heading.
“live beneath your means.”
Personal finance enthusiasts larp about this; and would you blame them for already attaining a certain level of comfort in their lives adhering to this? That it has worked for them is the reason why they recommend this. Once you’ve consistently met every basic need (food, clean water, clothing, shelter, and maybe internet connection?), then yes, you should consider living beneath your means.
If you’re dirt poor, aren’t you already doing that, minus the comfort, plus the hell of a fear of hunger, homelessness, and plagues?
Therefore, while “live beneath your means” is a good advice for anyone above the poverty line, it hardly applies to the underprivelege of society who gets by on less than the bare minimum.
“return everything you borrow.”
RIP to all the books lent but were never returned; may the borrower got something useful out of you, and may they continue the tradition of lending you to others without expecting it to return. Start circulating books for free!
Imagine now a really, really free market here in the Archipelago, where every tool you need can be borrowed.
For example, in a community, there’s a Tool Library. Instead of books, it lends Tools. You can simply borrow a powertool that you don’t necessarily need to buy for that one big project, so you go there. Of course, you have to return it so others may have access to it also.
“stop blaming other people.”
And yet it’s hard to do this! We all have our reasons why we blame the Other for whatever bad that’s happening around us.
The grace in it is transcending the need to point fingers. The wisdom is to just start making amends, however small the method, so long as it’s sustainable.
“admit it when you make mistake.”
Unless you’re an elected public servant. You don’t just admit; you repent, and depending on the severity of the scandal, you step down from your position.
“give clothes not worn to charity.”
And once you’ve done that, fight the urge to buy new clothes!
If you’re a fashionista, consider the Project 333 Experiment which suggests to “wear only 33 articles of clothing for the next 3 months.”
“do something nice and try not to get caught.”
Not sure about the other religions, but this has Christian leaning to it.
Kindness is more noble if done even if no one is looking. It doesn’t want the limelight because attention is never its goal.
“listen more; talk less.”
(This has spawned countless adages that are mere derivative. Say no more.)
“every day take a 30 min walk.”
Great thinkers, and you know this because you looked this up before in your self-help days, walk a lot.
Walking also is also helpful as, duh, an exercise, not just idea generation, although I get why the latter would be more enticing. But if it’s exercise you’re really into, consider getting into high-intensity interval training (HIIT), more so if you have limited free time in a day. There are great tutorials online for beginners if you are one.
“strive for excellence, not perfection.”
It implies that they are mutually exclusive, but the latter being an imaginary status than practical and achievable state, like the Infinity. The competition must be against our former selves, not with other people.
“be on time. don’t make excuses.”
Unless it’s for work, then take all the time you need. Besides, the traffic gridlock won’t let you get faster anyway, considering you already left the home at, what, 5am? and still you’re unable to make it on time thanks to all the private cars that ply the main thoroughfares of major urban city centers.
But if it’s for friends and family, sure, be on time, and stop wasting everyone else’s time.
“don’t argue. get organized.”
Arguments can be made productive. But it can also divide. And the people in charge wants to divide us, so we don’t rally together against them.
The 99% is unlikely to get organized soon, and who here has the most effective way of bringing all of us together to put an end to all inequalities?
Like it or not, having arguments may be the first step, but we need to listen with intent. We need to be mindful of ideas we put forward.
“be kind to unkind people.”
Another Christian principle, although it also appears in other belief systems.
If you’re not aiming for beatification by the end of the year, then know that it’s okay to get riled up when dealing with “unkind” people. Be sure to make a conversation and try to settle the differences if it really affects you or your loved ones' life.
“let someone cut ahead of you in line.”
If and only if they are: (a) a senior citizen; (b) a person with disability; (c) a pregnant woman, and; (d) an adult accompanied by a small child. And even then, they have to at least ask the people in line if they can cut ahead, unless there’s already a rule that prioritizes them to forego the queue.
“take time to be alone.”
If you think introspection is underrated, think again. Even if it’s just three to five minutes a day, your me-time should be a distraction-free, inward-looking meditation-of-sorts, like checking up on yourself.
“cultivate good manners.”
Which can be hard if we have no idea what constitutes good manners. Start by asking the elderly, and try to update the outdated ones for them to be more inclusive of modern times.
Nothing wrong with being proud of the work you do, and if it benefits people in some way, it only makes sense that you are. Just don’t lose sense of the ground you’re treading, the people who have guided and will continue to guide you in your endeavors.
“realize and accept that life isn’t fair.”
But knowing that there are other possible realities than that of the oppressive Capitalist machination, I can’t just accept the unfairness. For the time being, yes, I can tolerate it, because doing so doesn’t maim into vegetative state of not doing anything.
I dream of a time when we can finally realize and accept that Life is fair.
“know when to keep your mouth shut.”
Several hundreds of words in, do you think I’m able to this?
“go an entire day without criticizing anyone.”
Which might involve all or a combination of the following: (a) getting off of the internet; (b) staying away from unkind people; (c) being alone. And the last two are already mentioned above, so you’d be hitting multiple birds here.
“learn from the past. plan for the future.”
As with any search for the truth, never just stick to one version of the Past presented by any historian. Check multiple sources. They say history is written by the victors. We should be wary then of the accounts of the past as they may be tainted with the biases of the storyteller.
As for the future: we can only prepare for it after we’ve done our best. As of writing this, there’s no known technology yet that can reliably, consistently predict the future. Six months ago, we made plans for the future. And then the COVID-19 happened.
“live in the present.”
Eckhart Tolle dedicated a whole book on the spirituality of staing in the Present, called The Power of Now. I’ve read it myself, and in my opinion, it has a lot of insights.
If you haven’t gotten around to it, I suggest that you find yourself a copy and read it.
“don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Not to be taken literally, I suppose?
“it’s all small stuff.”
And are we supposed to just act accordingly?