‘Tis a Gift

Tao Te Ching – Chapter 75


Why do the poor lack what they need?
Because the rich consume too much.
Why do people become restless and discontent?
Because those in power try to control every aspect of their lives.

Everyone is so concerned
with getting and keeping
that no one learns to really live
before they die.

To follow this path
we must abandon overconsumption
and embrace true simplicity.



Lao-Tzu does not equivocate about simple living. He does not define it in detail, but insists that it is an essential part of the Tao. Without it, the gap between poor and rich will expand until societies self-destruct. Power and wealth will be used to control and dominate.

I can’t define simplicity for another person, but I know that my own life has been set free and empowered by it. Embracing simplicity is not just a “good” thing to do. It is a “natural” thing to do. Greed and overconsumption are not natural to humanity but are qualities that have been conditioned into us by economic and political systems over the past few thousand years.

Deep within my nature, this longing for authentic simple living has kept me somewhat on track, despite the circuitous detours. It has been a touchstone for my happiness. As the old Shaker hymn says, “’Tis a gift to be simple, ’tis a gift to be free. ’Tis a gift to come down where we want to be. To turn, turn, will be our delight, ‘till by turning, turning, we come out right.”

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