It has come to amuse me over recent years: the way we use the expression “The Simple Life”. I recall back in the 1970’s, in my 20’s, I had a yearning for having a smallholding in an idyllic setting, growing vegetables, plants and whatever took my fancy. Already by then, such a notification was concerned as wanting a return to the “simple life”.

Not many years later came a popular tv situation comedy in England called The Good Life. It made for a good comedy situation too: a well to do couple in a slightly upmarket and unevenifiably snobbish suburb of London, trying to scrape a living from growing vegetables and raising wildfowl in their modest sized garden. They had a yearning to return to the “simple life”, but within the comfort zone of suburbia.

It was good entertainment, and I was reminded of it this week when an American situation comedy called The Simple Life was advertised here in the Philippines on tv. I’ve never seen it, but from the brief trailers, the simple life in this context means “getting away from the city”.

Now, I ask, why is it that those caught up in the humdrum existence of the rat race consider their life the norm, and anything else as “the simple life”? The vast majority of those people rushing to work every day are like birds with their wings clipped, living a half life which is probably human life in its simplest form.

At a rough estimate, I would say over 90% of employed people have jobs they dislike or even hate. They have little scope to think for themselves as they should: their employers dictate what time they should get to work and leave; while they are at work, they are told what to do by their bosses, they have strict rules and regulations to follow, deviation from which can lead to dismissal. What can be simpler than that? No need to even think for yourself when most of your day is dictated to you. Get up like clockwork, commute like clockwork, work like one hand of a multi handed clock, and go home like clockwork. Some may salvage a few moments of individuality each day, but more often than not, by the time they get home they are too tired to re-emerge into the wonderful world of individual human existence.

The rat race, which start and finish lines are the cities of the western world, is the simple life, where the chrysalis of humanity is cocooned by the hard, tight coat of modern employment. Those of us fortunately enough to escape its grip, know this only too well. Those who do find their freedom, whether to raise vegetables, flowers and fowl in the country side, or any other form of self employment where they can use their human faculties all day, can only stand amused when those still trapped dismiss anything beyond their daily existence as “the simple life.”

After all, we can see where the simple life really is.


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