Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. (Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of The Little Prince)
The quote above came from a book I am reading titled, “Subtract: The Untapped Science of Less” by Leidy Klotz. The author points out that we are much better at adding than we are subtracting when it comes to daily life. We add more roads, more rules, more stuff, more ideas, more everything but rarely do we take anything away. Klotz examines the psychological, emotional, even cultural reasons why.
Can anyone deny that we drive ourselves crazy by constantly adding more and more? The closet is already full, but we still buy a new shirt. My schedule is already overbooked but sure, I’ll go to one more event. The basement is full, the attic is full, the garage is full – time to rent a storage unit. How much more can we add?
The season of Lent begins today with Ash Wednesday, a day to reflect on our mortality and remember that someday we will surely die. I am reminded of the parable Jesus told of the rich man who had a great harvest, too much for his existing barns. So, he tears down his barns and builds bigger ones to hold his bounty. Now, he says to himself, I will relax.
Do you remember how the parable ends?
But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?” (Luke 12:16-21)
Much of life is spent dreaming of what it would be like to have more; more money, more time, more things, more.
Perhaps in this season of Lent we should spend some time dreaming of what life would be with less; less stress, less demands, less wants, less. Let us practice the art of subtraction. It may not lead to perfection, but it may lead us closer to God.
Besides, it will give our kids less stuff to sort through after we are gone.