When “Less is More?”
At the successful conclusion of the 2018-19 schoolyear, I am happy, as always, to send recognize this year’s graduates as they start the next chapter of their journey. As our society has become ever more complex and confusing, please allow me to impart some parting observations.
Recently I had occasion to ponder this truism as I helped a good friend relocate. A former shopkeeper and an inveterate shopper, she had accumulated a prodigious amount of things spanning various categories, including clothing, housewares, decorative accessories and sundry antique collectibles. Some of these things were meant for an eventual profitable resale, but many possessions were acquired in the heat of an impulsive moment and a cheap price.
As the deadline for the move drew ever closer, she had a difficult time reconciling the fact that she had very limited space to store her possessions and that reselling personal items is inevitably a slow and cumbersome process. The many acquisitions she had previously invested with such interest and excitement had become an unmanageable and tiresome burden. Without the space to store her excess material possessions nor the time or energy to carefully curate their optimum disposition, she was forced to either sell these once prized items in a fire sale, give them away to friends or simply send them to the dumpster. All of these options were disconcerting, as these default scenarios were experienced as frustrating or dissatisfying.
I viewed her situation as a parable of other realms in our lives, either in the context of our material possessions, our social constellations, our daily behavioral routines or our emotional investments. In each case, the cumulative iterations we go through to - acquire more things, make new acquaintances, accelerate our busyness, or assume incremental emotional commitments - all ineluctably take a toll on us. Do they enhance our lives, or do they insidiously deplete our spirit? When we want or pursue too much, do we lose our focus, do we fall prey to the illusion that “more” brings more satisfaction, more meaning? Or do we succumb to complacency, distraction, mindlessness and sheer exhaustion?
I encourage our CSSW community, and especially our graduating students, to ponder the paradox of when “less is more?” As the philosopher Bertrand Russell slyly observed: “To be without some of the things you want is an indispensable part of happiness.”
On behalf of our Board of Directors and Staff, we wish you all the best.
F. J. Chu