“When the fever-stricken patient is undermined with heat and craving with thirst, he dreams in his dozing of a fresh brook where he might bathe or a clear spring where he might drink in long drafts. In the same way, in the complex agitation of modern existence, our wearied souls yearn for simplicity.” — Charles Wagner
The most remarkable thing about today’s quote is that it was written in May 1895, as part of the author’s preface to his book A Simple Life which is now available for free downloads at Project Gutenberg. I found the quote in one of the original editions of the book, a lovely antique (published in 1905) which was a gift from my Aunt Peggy, to whom it belonged for many years.
I have to wonder what could have been complex about life before electricity, telephones or automobiles were widely available, not to mention smart phones, iPads, DVRs or other trappings of our times. Yet the term “complex agitation” was applied to life over 100 years ago. Could it be that this tendency toward over-stimulated frustration is more a function of human nature than of any particular era or location? If so, then its opposites, serenity and simplicity, would seem to be traits that require cultivation regardless of external circumstances.
Today, whatever our day is like, I hope we realize we can choose between serenity or agitation no matter what comes our way. Contented simplicity is probably no more easy or difficult than it has ever been. The good news is that it surely lies within our reach. Given the multitude of advantages we enjoy compared to the audience to whom Wagner was writing, we have the perfect opportunity to choose wisely.