This morning, as I often do, I drove very early to the neighbouring village of Alp, to have my usual “tallat” (Catalan for a small coffee with milk and pronounced “tie-yat”). As I drove I marvelled at the sharp silhouettes of the Pyrenees against the dawn sky, and the sparkling lights of the many villages dotted all over the valley. And I reflected that I am privileged to live in such a beautiful place. Each day is a surprise and a pleasure. I also reflected that I chose to live here. I chose this place partly because there is an abundance of mountains where I can climb and ski, but also because it felt consistent with my resolve to live in intelligent simplicity. I mention this today because I now realise that living in intelligent simplicity has helped my conscious evolution. But perhaps I should say what I mean by “intelligent simplicity”.
Let’s start with simplicity. You may be surprised to hear that the word “simple” has quite a few meanings, and that only one of them is negative (“of low intelligence”). All the other meanings are desirable qualities. They include “straightforward”, “uncomplicated”, “easy”, “direct”, and “uncluttered”. Thus, in many respects a simple life is a desirable life. Incidentally, the fictional character Forrest Gump was depicted as “simple” (e.g. his haircut and his way of speaking), yet as we shall see shortly, he was surprisingly intelligent, because he behaved wisely and well.
There are three points about intelligence that I think are important. First, intelligence is about the whole of you, and not just about your mind. Although mental intelligence is clearly important, I believe that all the other intelligences are equally important. There are many of them, and they include physical intelligence, emotional intelligence, intuitive intelligence, social intelligence, and spiritual intelligence. You are truly intelligent only if all of these are functioning well.
Second, intelligence is not fixed. Whatever your starting point, you can become significantly more intelligent if you work on yourself in certain ways. I wrote about this in my book Full Spectrum Intelligence: 2014.
Third, and arguably most important, intelligence is not about being “brainy” or “intellectual”. It is primarily about your behaviour. If you behave wisely and well – in ways that enhance other people and this planet, and that also help you evolve – then you are intelligent. Intelligent is as intelligent does! There is absolutely no point in being intelligent inn theory.
So, combining the two concepts, intelligent simplicity is behaving wisely and well, in the simplest ways. There are some powerful guidelines for doing this. The ones that I find most useful are Less is Better; Being Natural; and Being a 21st Century Taoist. I will write about all of these in future blogs.