Van Morrison has released a new album entitled Keep it Simple that happens to be in line with my own values, and with the Slow Down Fast coaching philosophy. I came across a review in Rolling Stone that summed it up powerfully:
“At this point in his career, Van Morrison is less interested in surprises than in further exploring his long-standing obsessions: surviving the shocks of this life and rising gracefully toward the next one. Keep It Simple finds him looking back on his sixty-two years, filled with longing — for home, for deliverance from the world’s demands, for spiritual transcendence.”
While Van Morrison may have his own reasons for wanting to uncomplicate the twilight years of his musical career and life … I think he does a good job of expressing what we all yearn for. A kind of deliverance – not so much in death, as the above quote implies… but a relief or respite that each of us can begin to know while still in the living years. A rescue, and a sort of homecoming from the constant pressure that society imposes.
I believe that generationally, we’ve come a long way… but it took many years of fumbling down the wrong path first – and the transition is far from complete. Many people are still trapped in the image and status mentality: having the most, doing the most, being the best.
I myself am no stranger to that attitude – but it’s one that I try to release a little more with each passing day. This is what I’m constantly working on, together with my coaching clients. Living for the here and now. Appreciating the small things instead of going after the impossible. Each of us making a difference, in our own unique way.
How many of us still want the world to know that we graduated from the best schools; we’ve got the highest paying jobs; our kids are the smartest; our lives are brimming with activity; our houses are the biggest and well stocked with the finest luxuries and conveniences? How many of us say that this isn’t what really matters… but yet our behavior suggests otherwise?
What’s funny is that the harder we work to prove ourselves and our worth… the farther away from happiness we get. And we know it, too.
And yet I like to think, optimistically, that it’s not too late for society to do a complete 180 and get back to basics and what really matters.
Maybe Van Morrison knows something that the rest of us are only now just waking up to.
I believe the collectively wiser we become, the more we realize that all this stuff that we’ve been desperate to acquire, and all this complication that we invite in the name of “having a life…” doesn’t even come close to what we really need. And what we really need is peace, purpose, connection and communion with other human beings.
When I think back to my childhood years and spending time with my grandparents, I find myself charmed by the wholesomeness of their stories. It’s a quality of life that feels so elusive in this day and age. How many of us can recall being captivated by simple but magical tales of fishing trips and card games? Humble block parties and home cooked Sunday dinners and chaotic but happy summer outings in the country?
Think about the best moments of your own life. What parts stand out as unforgettable… the greatest times? Maybe a simple night of camping around an open fire, comparing our new gadgets and top pocket knives, just talking and laughing with good friends. Maybe a time when something like a power outage brought everyone together for some quiet enjoyment. Maybe funny and endearing stories about a crazy, daredevil uncle or a cherished family pet. This simple goodness is what we yearn for and want more of in our everyday lives.
Van Morrison explains the title track of his Keep it Simple album as such:
“It’s just a song about how everything’s gotten now so complex and how things have become so complicated and nothing’s easy to do anymore. “So the song’s a kind of prayer – or what have you – let’s hope we can get back to something simple, otherwise, we’re screwed.”
I don’t think we’re screwed. But I do think each of us has a long way to go of re-learning the art of simple and meaningful living.
I’m feeling alive, awake, aware, and up for the challenge. How about you? Just imagine what joys and pleasures we can discover on the way.