How much do we really need?

Minimalism has always attracted me but will by necessity become central to my lifestyle from now on, if I am to survive what is to come… The word from my spiritual father was unequivocal this time. Life as I have known it will change drastically in the months to come: the little city hermit will constantly be on the move. Little did I know back to four years ago how prophetic this would be: “My Lifestyle – Suitcases, Lover of the Theotokos, Pilgrim, Traveller and a Little City Hermit. Belonging to Neither and Both.”

 

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“Since I am a leader, I often visit different places, in luxurious salons and houses, and then I remember the cell of elder Paisios, in which there was nothing.

Do you know what this “nothing” means? Absolutely nothing, in the truest sense of the word. Some boxes and old blankets that he had found and attached were his “sofas.” He said about them:

– I specially ordered these sofas from France, from Louis! – so he told us laughingly.

At first, when we went to him, since I was young, he said to me:

– For you, pop, I have a special chair, you sit there because it is special, and I hold it for official guests!

And what do you think it was? The box was covered with a blanket, and another blanket was nailed to the wall so that you would not be cold when you lean against it.

He had nothing, the icons were paper, inserted in cellophane, there was a stool instead of a table; The old man put a board on his knees and wrote on it. Poverty. He didn’t have anything, not because he couldn’t, but because he didn’t want it. If he wanted, he would be rich, a millionaire – if he wanted, but he did not want it. All his goodness was placed in one chest, where there was a little bean, simple rice and what was sometimes worn from monasteries: some dried fruit or Turkish delight, which he treated visitors to. No pans, nothing, that is, those things that for us are self-evident, were a luxury for him.

Once the old man prepared tea for one person – what do you think? In a canned food can. Remember, grandmothers once did that? He put a few pieces of grass into it and brewed tea, and then, when he poured it into another can, all the tea leaves fell out. The man went and bought him a sieve, and he said to him:

– But, my child, why did you bring it? Do we wish luxury now?

– Geronda, one tea strainer – is it a luxury? So that tea leaves do not get into tea … What is this luxurious?

And he answered:

– Why did you bring it? Now I will have to wash it, I will need a nail to hang it, a hammer to nail it, I will have to take care of it … Why do I need all this stuff? You take this your strainer, I do not need it, I do not want it.

Such simple things were a luxury to him. But I confess to you that I would exchange all the salons in the world for this cell, infinitely poor, modest, which, however, was full of God, even the dust in it – everything in it was filled with God.

I was told what some people from America had done: they went and took a rag, about which the elder wiped his shoes, before entering the cell, cut it into many pieces and distributed them to people, and they faithfully and reverently kept this rag , with which he wiped his feet, and miracles were performed. So you say to yourself: this is what God’s man means! Even the dust from his feet will be honored.

So who succeeded now? Whether the one who lived in the palaces and the memory of him perished, and it is unknown whether even children remember him — or this extremely poor, uneducated ascetic in the middle of the mountains, who, however, was filled with blessing from God with happiness, optimism, the former like a source from which happiness and joy exuded? And we all walked, like all suffering people, drank and were saturated with this water, flowing from this poor man, who often had nothing to eat.

I remember once, when I went to Thessaloniki, I bought some dry milk for the old man, because he had problems with his stomach, and brought him to him.

– What is it?

– Geronda, for your stomach! A little water and a spoonful of powder – and it turns out milk!

– Well, leave it over there!

After a year or two, I had to do something there and found a bag of milk in the same corner. He did not even open it, did not touch it. The way I bought it, so it was.

“Geronda blessed, did you leave it there?”

And he answered me:

– If I wanted it, I would have bought it myself! I did not ask you to bring it to me!

“I don’t have it, not because I can’t, but because I don’t want it, I decided that my life would be like that. If I wanted to, I could live differently. ”

This, naturally, I am not saying so that we imitate him, because, probably, in the world where we live, we don’t need and we can’t even do such things because of our obligations. But let our heart be free, wise, and we need to learn what matters in our lives: for ultimately only God matters.

You say: “I did not succeed in one thing, did not succeed in the other, did not become what I wanted.” Why do you want this? All this is transient, vain. Achieve what has value. Have you attained God? Do you have God in your heart? Do you have the expectation of the kingdom of God? That is what has value. And everything else – for a short time.

Well, add everything else, and what happened? Those who have should be as not having. You will not be with this for long, you will lose it, you will not have it all your life. Even the most expensive things, even they will not be with you in the hour of your difficulty. God is here Who will be with you always, you need Him, you need Christ. We will look for Him.”

Metropolitan Athanasius of Limassol

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Simplicity, the Ultimate Sophistication

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Leonardo da Vinci. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
In Paulo Coelho’s brilliant little book, The Alchemist, the author tells of a young lad sent by his father to a wise man to discover the secret of happiness. The wise man lived in a magnificent, faraway castle complete with sweet music, beautiful artwork, delicious food, and sprawling gardens. It was a wonder of the world. After a long journey to the castle and waiting for hours to speak to the sage, the boy finally gained an audience. The wise man listened to the boy’s explanation for his visit, then answered, “I do not have time to reveal the secret of happiness to you.” Instead, he handed the boy a teaspoon with two tiny drops of oil in it, and instructed him to wander around the castle for two hours without spilling the oil.

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The lad did as instructed, carefully climbing the high stairwells and creeping down the long hallways of the palace, his eyes always fixed on the teaspoon. When he returned to the wise man, he was asked, “Did you see my Persian tapestries, my extravagant gardens, my parchments in the library?” Embarrassed, the boy replied that he had not. He had been focused solely on the drops of oil in the spoon. With this confession the boy was sent back to tour the castle, and this time he focused all his attention on the beauty that surrounded him. He returned to the wise man with excitement, thrilled at all he had seen. The wise man then asked, “And where are the two drops of oil I gave you?”

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The boy realized that he had spilt them along the way. The wise man then revealed his “secret” to happiness: “Happiness lies in looking at all the wonders of the world and never forgetting the two drops of oil in the spoon.” This parabolic story calls for a much needed balance: Joy is the product of being in tune with the world around us, while caring for the few precious things we have been given to carry on our journey. We cannot ignore the realities of our surroundings, and we cannot ignore our personal responsibilities.

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But the real brains of Coelho’s story is that the wise man gave the boy only two drops to carry in his spoon; not a quart of oil, not a five-gallon bucket full, and certainly not a heavy, back-breaking tank of the stuff. It was only a couple of drops, revealing that happiness is maintained by keeping our personal load as light as possible. Do you want to be happy? Lighten your load and simplify your life. The most deeply spiritual thing that some of us could do is have a garage sale. Purge our calendars. Resign from a few of our many activities. Our unhappiness isn’t related to a poor prayer life, the lack of reading the Scriptures, or going to church too little.

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We are carrying too much baggage. We are trying to manage too much stuff. We have too many possessions, too many obligations, and too many batons juggling in the air. This is an unqualified recipe for misery. Because all of these weights and concerns of life — most of which we have assumed (they haven’t been put upon us by anyone else) — are choking out any real chance at being happy, as we simply cannot carry our self-loaded burdens or lift our heads to see the beauty around us.

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None of us can live our lives, worship our God, enjoy our world, or take care of those who have been given to us to love (these are the few, priceless drops in the spoon by the way), if we are constantly looking at our own shoelaces, burdened with ourselves and our many concerns. Thus, when we simplify, we are doing much more than getting rid of physical possessions or conserving our precious time. We are sharpening our emotional focus; we are making spiritual space. We are choosing to be happy. Happiness, after all, is an intentional choice, and it is the wisest choice of all.

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“The Wisdom of Simplicity” by Ronnie McBrayer at http://www.wilsoncountynews.com/article.php?id=50850&n=keeping-faith-ronnie-mcbrayer-keeping-faith-wisdom-simplicity