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. There’s no big issue when one can summarize wisdom to one or two lines, but one should know that there are a lot of nuances omitted in the simplification.
Below, I share my inputs for each heading.
“live beneath your means.”
Personal finance enthusiasts harp about 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, social interaction, and maybe internet connection?), then yes, you should consider living beneath your means.
People below poverty line are already doing that, minus the comfort, plus the 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 underprivileged 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!
Actually, what if we can start circulating stuff for free?
Imagine now a really, really free market here in the Philippines where every tool you need can be borrowed.
Consider community tool library. One can simply borrow a power tool that one only needs sometimes. Of course, one has to return it so others may borrow it too.
“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.”
In admitting, you acknowledge your actions, an important step when making amends with those who might have been harmed or hurt by your 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!
Nothing wrong with expressing oneself through what one wears. 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.”
Kindness is more noble if done even if no one is looking. It doesn’t want the limelight because attention is never its goal.
Being mean in an increasingly polluted world only becomes easier each day. If we are to imagine a better world than this current one, we should examine anything that’s supposed to be easy.
It takes strength to be gentle and kind.
“listen more; talk less.”
(This has spawned countless adages that are mere derivative. Including this parenthetical statement. Say no more.)
“every day take a 30 min walk.”
Great thinkers walk a lot.
Walking is helpful as an exercise, not just idea generation, although I get why the latter is 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.
“strive for excellence, not perfection.”
The competition must be against our former selves, not with other people. We can also help others to be the best version of themselves, without needing to compete with them.
“be on time. don’t make excuses.”
Unless it’s for work, then take all the time you need. But if it’s for friends and family, sure, be mindful and stop wasting everyone else’s time.
“don’t argue. get organized.”
Arguments can be productive, but it can also divide. And the people in charge want to divide us, so we don’t rally together against them.
The 99% is unlikely to get organized soon. Maybe, we don’t need to be in one big agreement. Getting seven-plus billion people to agree on a few things, let alone on One Thing, is very difficult.
But the 99% is the summation of millions of affinity groups. Our focus should be in organizing with our immediate community.
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.”
It takes guts to be gentle and kind. 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.
“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.
An able-bodied person should respect the people in queue and get in line. Or at the very least, ask.
“take time to be alone.”
If you think introspection is underrated, think again. Even if it’s just three to five minutes a day, 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 the modern times.
Nothing wrong with being proud of the work you do; 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 know that, and I can tolerate it up to a point, because doing so doesn’t paralyze me.
I dream of a time when we can accept that Life is fair, because we have made it to be.
“know when to keep your mouth shut.”
“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 truth, never 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.
“live in the present.”
Eckhart Tolle dedicated a whole book on the spirituality of staing in the Present, called The Power of Now. i Regardless of spirituality, his insights can help anyone on how and why they should focus on the Here and Now.
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?