Primitive purity

Cabin room

A cozy cabin room at a northern California bed and breakfast inn, 2003

“How has it come about that we use the highly emotive word ‘stagnation,’ with all its malodorous and malarial overtones, for what other ages would have called ‘permanence?’ Why does the word ‘primitive’ at once suggest to us clumsiness, inefficiency, barbarity? When our ancestors talked of the primitive church or the primitive purity of our constitution they meant nothing of that sort…”
C. S. Lewis

It’s  mistake to romanticize the past, but it is equally erroneous to assume that new is always better.  Although the word “primitive” has taken on the negative connotations Lewis mentions, it also implies simplicity and freedom from complexity.  In today’s world, perhaps these are traits we would do well to reclaim whenever possible.  What areas of life have grown too complicated?  How can we untangle ourselves from needless involvement with too many details?


  1. Telephonics.

    • Eric, I agree that phones (and various other forms of communication) have gotten totally out of control. It’s the tail wagging the dog now. I don’t use a cell phone, let alone a smart phone, except to carry an ancient pay-by-the-minute phone as an emergency contact point when I’m away from home and Matt is at work or with a caregiver, and I never text. Voicemail, email and postal mail are way more than I want to fool with most days anyway.

      • How long has it been since any of us used two cans and a string? That’s what I want to know – where has the joy gone?

        • There’s still a lot of joy floating around, it’s just that you might need to seek it out sometimes. Your question about two cans and a string reminded me of one of the most joyful people we know, a dear Hawaiian friend who has lived on the mainland for over 30 years now but still has that wonderful island spirit. He is in close touch with so many other Hawaiians in a very widespread area, I’m always amazed at their strong sense community. I’ve been told they keep in touch via the “coconut wireless” (word of mouth). It’s what we haoles would call “the grapevine” or maybe even “gossip.” 🙂

  2. Simplicity, or a more primitive way of doing things if that’s what one wants to call it, is quite refreshing and cleansing in the complex world we are living in today. I would not choose to be without “modern conveniences”. However, it is a real blessing to step back from the grind that current “modern” daily activities can bring.

    • Carla, I agree! My friend and I were talking yesterday about how many things people have to keep up with today. Sometimes what seems like a bad memory is really just overoad. As you used to tell me when we were very young, it’s not good to have too much stuff “junking up your brain!”

  3. Thanks for reminding me how words change…and how we change them to meet our purposes.

    • Yes, words are fascinating, aren’t they? The great thing about being online in the blogosphere is that I’m “surrounded” by others who are as interested in words as I am! Thanks for visiting with us here.

  4. The cabin looks so cozy and has all the comforts I’d need (except my computer). It’s not primitive – it’s practical.

    • I agree completely!

  5. Mike Bertoglio

    This one is very ironic as I am down checking our beach cabin in Westport. Unfortunately, it is 28 degrees here and I am freezing. It has been a nice get away for some time for us, though becoming a little expensive. But I still dream of retiring here away from the rat race.
    Did you get a chance to read the Schwalbe book? Blessings.

    • I think beaches can be very appealing in cold, windy weather, but 28 would be a little much to take for me too. I have a hold through my local library for the unabridged audio of the Schwalbe book (I get most of my “reading” done by listening to unabridged audiobooks while walking, doing housework, etc.) so I’ll probably be getting it soon.

  6. Mike Bertoglio

    What is the Quaker song.? “Tis a gift to be simple…”

    • Yes, I learned that song from an old Judy Collins album when I was in high school, and have sung it often over the years.

    • Rene

      I believe it’s called “Simple Gifts.” My son had to learn it in 3rd grade.

      • Yes, that’s a beautiful song. I learned it from a Judy Collins record my mother bought when I was young, and have sung it often to myself over the years.

  7. Good question Julia, I guess we consider living in a condo in our downtown area somewhat more simplified from our previous country home. There are no water pumps, purifiers, cisterns, septics or back up systems to maintain. I just turn on the tap, boom…done. So in my case, the modern conveniences make my life simpler….I guess that seems backwards.

    • I think that’s not necessarily backwards; urban life is simpler in some ways. At our Alexandria home I can walk to almost anyplace I need to go regularly. And with the public transportation nearby, I could almost do without a car completely. Also, we have no yard maintenance to worry about since it’s a townhome. But the stress level at our York home, in a semi-rural location, is definitely lower overall. I think the sort of modern conveniences that put us at a disadvantage are those that create “necessities” that did not formerly exist – like the idea that people need to be able to contact us 24/7 no matter what degree of urgency their messsages carry. I think the important thing is to really examine each “great new thing” that comes along and make sure it becomes our servant, not our master…and also to remember that “traditional” or even “old” is not necessarily obsolete; in some cases, it may be superior.

      • true that 🙂

        • Thanks for being here! Hope you have a lovely day.

          • In the craft room today..yes so lovely, thank you 🙂 U2!!

  8. Sheila

    Julia,when I read the phrase “in todays world” I was inspired to share an obituary of a well known local pediatrician in today’s paper that stated simply that the doctor died yesterday on the front porch of his home overlooking the Great Pee Dee River. It was brief to assure that people knew of his passing but yet it said so much. I have read obituaries that were several columns and that too is fine. In this case southern simple was perfect!

    • Concise eloquence is always impressive, isn’t it? I’m so hypergraphic that I tend to write (and say) far too much. I admire those who can pack great meaning into a few words. The doctor’s life surely inspired such a tribute. Thanks for sharing it!

  9. Kathy

    A simpler life was part of our generation’s upbringing. We look back fondly at playing “statue-maker” and “mother may I” and know the value in re-capturing simplicity to recharge on a regular basis. I’m concerned about the younger generations who have grown up with techno-overload since toddlerhood.

    • Kathy, I feel the same way. I even have to limit my time on the computer or I get increasingly irritable/agitated with “real life.” I cannot imagine spending my youth walking around connected to a smart phone 24/7. Every time I talk like this, Jeff says “this just proves we are getting old!” 🙂 I’m proud to be old!

  10. Reblogged this on Defeat Despair and commented:

    Here’s the post that was published seven years ago today. I noticed immediately how much shorter my entries were in those early days. Maybe that is part of what enabled me to post every single day for those first two years. I have re-posted entries a few times in the past (which Raynard humorously an accurately referred to as “re-runs”) but with a total of 1116 posts, I can’t begin to remember all of them, and I’m guessing if I can’t, nobody else can either. Should I continue to re-post entries from seven years ago, now that I’m not writing any new ones?


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