- Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter. [John Muir, at Glacier Bay, July 7, 1890.]
- . . . let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand . . . [Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854).]
Home may not have been a simple place but because we learned our earliest lessons there, they may seem the simplest. I grew up on a dairy farm, the son of a farmer and his wife: it was a traditional family of the American Midwest, and by comparison to my life since a model of simplicity. After many years practicing law on Wall Street, my father’s dairy farm seems a long way off.
Many of us travel far from our homes. The physical journey is the lesser of the two. Sometimes we can profit from a return home to recall simple things.
- Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854).
- Kevin Dann, Expect Great Things: The Life and Search of Henry David Thoreau (TarcherPerigree, 2017). “The beloved saunterer’s encuring popularity has turned on a parting-down of his spiritual eccentricities in order to fit an increasingly reductionist conception of the natural world.”
- Kyle Chayka, The Longing for Less: Living With Minimalism (Bloomsbury, 2020): “What’s most striking about Chayka’s minimalist gestures is how frail they seem next to the larger upheavals that are taking place."
Japanese culture emphasizes simplicity in many of its art forms.
- Shizuo Tsuji, Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art (Kodansha International, 1980).
- Harumi Kurihara, Harumi's Japanese Home Cooking: Simple, Elegant Recipes for Contemporary Tastes (HP Trade, 2007).
- Elizabeth Andoh, Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen (Ten Speed Press, 2005).
- Tadashi Ono and Harris Salat, Japanese Hot Pots: Comforting One-Pot Meals(Ten Speed Press, 2009).
- William Malm, Traditional Japanese Music and Musical Instruments (Kodansha, 2001).
- Yoko Takenami, The Simple Art of Japanese Calligraphy (CICO, 2003).
- Stephen Addiss, 77 Dances: Japanese Calligraphy by Poets, Monks, and Scholars, 1568-1868 (Weatherhill, 2006).
- Mari Ono, The Simple Art of Japanese Papercrafts (North Light Books, 2006).
- Michael G. LaFosse, Japanese Papercrafting Create 17 Paper Craft Projects & Make Your Own Beautiful Washi Paper (Tuttle Publishing, 2007).
- Polly Pinder, Handmade Oriental Cards (Search Press, 2007).
Technical and Analytical Readings
- Linda Breen Pierce, Choosing Simplicity: Real People Finding Peace and Fulfillment in a Complex World (Gallagher Press, 2000).
- Janet Luhrs, The Simple Living Guide: A Sourcebook for Less Stressful, More Joyful Living (Broadway Books, 1997).
- Duane Elgin, Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich (Quill, 1998).
- Donald Richie, A Tractate on Japanese Aesthetics (Stone Bridge Press, 2007).
- Thich Nhat Hanh, A Pebble for Your Pocket (Plum Blossom Books, 2010).
Emphasizing simplicity, Wabi Sabi is prominent in Zen Buddhism.
- Diane Durston, Wabi Sabi: The Art of Everyday Life (Storey Publishing, 2006).
- Taro Gold, Living Wabi Sabi: The True Beauty of Your Life (Andrews McMeel Universal, 2007).
- Richard R. Powell, Wabi Sabi for Writers: Find Inspiration. Respect Imperfection. Create Peerless Beauty. (Adams Media, 2006).
- Leonard Koren, Wabi-Sabi for Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers(Imperfect Publishing, 2008).
- Robyn Griggs Lawrence, The Wabi-Sabi House: the Japanese art of imperfect beauty (Robson-Potter, 2004).
Documentary and Educational Films
- Presented in a minimalist style, Lung Neaw Visits His Neighbors, about a rural Asian farmer seen “” displays simplicity in film making and in life.
- Mark Reibstein, Wabi Sabi (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2008).
- Tonke Dragt, The Letter for the King (David Fickling Books, 2015): “If the reader responds with impatience at the simplicity, there is still satisfaction in a sound story so simply told.”
- Kenji Miyazawa, Once and Forever: The Tales of Kanji Miyazawa (NYRB Classics, 2018): “‘Once and Forever’ offers glimpses into a vanished, semi-mythic agrarian world.”
- Anna Mary Robertson (Grandma Moses) My Hills of Home (1941)
- Claude Monet's numerous paintings of water lilies
- John Constable, Hampstead Heath (c. 1820)
Music: songs and other short pieces
When I heard at the close of the day how my name had been receiv'd with plaudits in the capitol, still it was not a happy night for me that follow'd,
And else when I carous'd, or when my plans were accomplish'd, still I was not happy,
But the day when I rose at dawn from the bed of perfect health, refresh'd, singing, inhaling the ripe breath of autumn,
When I saw the full moon in the west grow pale and disappear in the morning light,
When I wander'd alone over the beach, and undressing bathed, laughing with the cool waters, and saw the sun rise,
And when I thought how my dear friend my lover was on his way coming,
O then I was happy,
O then each breath tasted sweeter, and all that day my food nourish'd me more, and the beautiful day pass'd well,
And the next came with equal joy, and with the next at evening came my friend,
And that night while all was still I heard the waters roll slowly continually up the shores,
I heard the hissing rustle of the liquid and sands as directed to me whispering to congratulate me,
For the one I love most lay sleeping by me under the same cover in the cool night,
In the stillness in the autumn moonbeams his face was inclined toward me,
And his arm lay lightly around my breast—and that night I was happy.
Books of Haiku poetry:
- Matsuo Bashō, Bashō’s Haiku: Selected Poems of Matsuo Bashō (State University of New York Press, 2004).
- links to Bashō's Haiku poems
- Stephen Addiss, Fumiko Y. Yamamoto and Akira Y. Yamamoto, eds., Haiku: An Anthology of Japanese Poems (Shambhala, 2009).
- Peter Washington, ed.., Haiku (Everyman’s Library, 2003).
- Sam Hammill, trans., The Sound of Water: Haiku by Bashō, Buson, Issa and Other Poets (Shambhala, 2006).
- Richard Wright, Haiku: The Last Poems of an American Icon (Arcade Publishing, 2012).
- Robert Frost, “The Gum-Gatherer”
From the dark side:
- Edgar Lee Masters, “Thomas Rhodes”
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Japanese Koto music:
Chinese pipa music:
- “Hao Yifan”
- Liu Fang, artist
- Wu Man, artist; “Silkroad Home Sessions”
- Yang Qin, artist
- Pipa with a New Age twist
Chinese erhu music:
Marty Regan is an American composer and Shakuhachi player, who has composed dozens of pieces for Japanese instruments. Many of these can be found on his album series, “Selected Works for Japanese Instruments”, Volume 1 (“Forest Whispers”); Volume 2 (“Magic Mirror”); Volume 3 (“Scattering Light, Scattering Flowers”); and Volume 4 (“Lost Mountains, Quiet Valleys”).
Timothy Archambault has recorded several albums of simple Native American flute tunes:
- “Chìsake ” (2015): “‘Chìsake’ means to chant or to conjure, and on this moving selection of solos, he reworks Anishinaabeg ritual music used for divining. The Anishinaabeg are a group of indigenous peoples who now live in the USA and Canada, and would sing chants, accompanied by drummers, in shaking rituals performed by a shamen to connect the world of humans to that of meditating beings. . . . Across 24 pieces, Archambault shares his understanding of the form, mutating chants as each is repeated seven times to represent the seven sacred directions: east, south, west, north, above/sky, below/earth, and center.”
- “Canadian Algonquin Flute Songs, Vol. 1” (2014)
- “American Indian Hymns” (2016)
- “The Ghost Dance” (2017)
- Composed to assist congregants in singing hymns, Anthoni van Noordt’s seventeenth-century organ works (particularly his Tablature Book of Psalms and Fantasias ) are simple, even sparse. Yet they leave the listener satisfied and wanting more.
- Monsigny, Le Roi et le Fermier (The King and the Farmer) (1762): a king embraces a farmer’s simple ways.
- David Bird, Of Being: the core and essence of self
- Ingrid Laubrock + Aki Takase, “Kasumi”
- Emiliano Gonzalez Toro & I Gimelli, “Soleil Noir” (Black Sun): a clear tenor voice and a few unadorned instruments performing Renaissance songs
- John Luther Adams, In a Treeless Place, Only Snow (1999) (approx. 16-18 minutes): “White is not the absence of colour. It is the fullness of light. Silence is not the absence of sound. It is the presence of stillness.”