High School Wish List: The Gifts of Simplicity and Quiet
I didn’t know what to expect on my first meeting with Student Council officers at Albemarle High School. What would they think of the chapter on Simplicity in How Philosophy Can Save Your Life? The new philosophers wholeheartedly embraced the concept of simplicity and had lots to say in our hour and twenty minutes together.
The Council’s sponsor, history teacher Rich Lindsay, listened with me to their observations: “I need to be still.” “I love lacrosse and my friends and know I need to get away from my phone and not worry about what I’m missing. I want more communication in-person. I need to remember how happy I am when I turn off the phone.” “The best part of practice is how relaxing and peaceful it is when we stretch and don’t talk.” “I’d like to just live life like it is, without adding on my drama and personalizing everything and looking for something or someone to blame. How stupid is road rage! Just live my life.” “I know the difference between what I truly need and what I only want—I can do better and simplify and make my life easier.” “I want to stay clear about what’s really important. I can if I could be silent sometimes.” “I know what’s enough. Enough!”
Rich asked his students what they’d like to do if they had five free minutes. Tellingly, every reply put them outside—looking around from a mountain, lying on a beach, snorkeling or riding the waves, fishing. I described my college classes, which began on right on time with students sitting quietly for the first ten minutes of class—a practice that they grew to love and soon had them arriving early. “Could we do this?!” the high schoolers enthusiastically requested. Starting with the next Student Council meeting, the high school philosophers will reap the benefits of quiet, ten precious minutes of just sitting. “We need more quiet places at school—there really aren’t any,” a student lamented to general agreement. They decided to look around for a space, preferably outdoors, but at least they would get a start in the room in which we met—not completely quiet, but the least noisy space available.
Until we meet again in late January, the young philosophers determined to seek more quiet time and try to live more simply. Less commotion, more balance. Importantly, they understood that “you can know it and not do it.” I suggested that the choice was theirs to make—commit to periods of just sitting quietly a couple of times a day—or not. Sitting quietly requires time but no special talent. It works, delivering gifts of improved concentration, mental clarity, inner peace.
And it’s free, this gift of unplugged sitting that keeps on giving. Wrap it up—a present from you to you. Enough.
Marietta McCarty is a New York Times bestselling author, philosopher, and teacher. She defines philosophy as “the art of clear thinking," and invites every one she encounters (or anyone who picks up one of her books) into the good life, marked by simplicity, gratitude, and joy.