In his wonderful little book “Before I Go” Peter Kreeft has a commentary on simplicity. He reflects that everyone today complains that life is too complex. Everyone yearns for a more simple life. He says that according to St. Thomas Aquinas there are only three kinds of goods: the morally good, the practically good, and the delightfully good. So there are only three good reasons to do anything: because it’s morally good (an act of virtue, justice, charity, heroism); because it’s a practical necessity (like eating or making enough money to eat); or because it makes you happy. That’s it. Period. How many things do we do that are none of those three? Kreeft suggests we stop doing them. Throw the excess cargo overboard. Lighten the ship. It’s sinking with all the extra weight. While we can probably all agree with his assessment, the area that poses the most problem, it seems to me, is what truly constitutes a practical necessity. That’s where the rubber meets the road. How can I not mow the lawn, bring the rubbish to the landfill, bring the kids to all their activities and pick them up afterward, do the grocery shopping, get to the doctor for my annual physical, etc. It’s in jamming all those practical things into a daily schedule where things get complicated. If we could eliminate a few of those sorts of things, life would surely be simpler. But that’s not easy to do. But even so, if we feel stressed and overwrought, Kreeft’s analysis is worth considering. Maybe there are some things we do that are really not pursuing what is truly good.
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