The Pastoral Lifestyle: A Life Removed from Day-to-Day Concerns

This is a guest post from Karl Staib.

A few months ago, J.D. wrote an interesting review of Voluntary Simplicity, a book dedicated to living a stress-free life. What I found most interesting was not the review, but J.D.'s introduction:

For years, one of my goals has been to achieve a “pastoral lifestyle”. This amuses my friends, but it's true. By “pastoral lifestyle” I mean that I want to create for myself a life that flows at a slower pace, a life removed from the concerns of the day-to-day world.

This paragraph really made me think. Who exactly lives a “pastoral lifestyle”? Is it someone rich who doesn't need to worry about money? Or is it someone who doesn't care about money, but who doesn't have any worries?

When I look at American society, it's easy to find examples of “rich and famous people” who aren't happy:

  • Owen Wilson's attempted suicide
  • Paris Hilton's sex tapes and wild parties
  • Lindsey Lohan's messy life

These are just drops in the bucket of angry, depressed, and lonely celebrities.

Looking for perspectives from the other extreme, I went out and talked to a couple of local homeless people. “It's hard out here,” one of them told me. “I'm going to tell you like it is. I need money for some beer. Do you have any spare change?” It's funny, but as I thought back to all the homeless people I've talked to in Philadelphia, London, Baltimore, and Austin, I realized that I've never met a homeless person who didn't like to complain.

It's not money — or the lack of it — that brings happiness.

I used to believe that the only way you could remove yourself from daily concerns was to not care. For me, that was impossible. What about my wife? My friends? My family? I put “my” in front of everything as if I owned it. That's the key! Stop creating separation between yourself and others and accept everything as a part of you. It's not about removing yourself from needing and wanting, but about seeing the splendor in all of it. I've been trying to grasp on to life instead of creating an inner “pastoral lifestyle.”

It's not just me writing these words. It's my fifth grade teacher, my mom, my wife, you, oxygen, the food I eat, and everything else. If everything is helping me do what I do, then I can't create a separation. I need to open my perspective to create the lifestyle that fits me. By tweaking the perspective that I have on money, relationships, career and the other things I struggle with, then I can create inner simplicity.

You can create a “pastoral lifestyle” by finding the right combinations of thoughts to make it happen. It has nothing to do with how much money you have or how many people rely on you, but how you perceive the data around you. J.D. uses his knowledge to help others get out of debt. Jerry Seinfeld uses his abilities to make others laugh. Others seek meaning elsewhere. You can look at life as a burden, or as an opportunity to make the world a better place.

What it all comes down to is: you! You can create the “pastoral lifestyle”, or you can keep searching for answers through money, relationships, or your career. But I don't think these answers exist outside of yourself. You can look within and adjust your perspective — you can voluntarily see each moment as simply divine. Then your perception of wealth is no longer measured by dollars and cents, but by your ability to enjoy the life that fits your needs.

More about...Psychology

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Dreadnought
Dreadnought
13 years ago

I am confused. What does herding sheep have to do with personal finance?

Bobby
Bobby
13 years ago

Interesting post. I must have missed the previous post of JD’s about the “pastoral lifestyle”. But using the phrase pastoral lifestyle to indicate “…a life that flows at a slower pace, a life removed from the concerns of the day-to-day world…” is not very realisitc. My brother-in-law is a pastor for a small country church. You would think a small church would mean a slower pace. Not really as he handles most things in the church with his wife. They can’t pay for a lot of staff, so alot of actions fall into the “other duties as assigned” category most… Read more »

Jerry
Jerry
13 years ago

I am quite sure that the term “pastoral life” is not referring to pastors, but rather to the first four dictionary definitions seen below. pastoral-adj. 1. having the simplicity, charm, serenity, or other characteristics generally attributed to rural areas: pastoral scenery; the pastoral life. 2. pertaining to the country or to life in the country; rural; rustic. 3. portraying or suggesting idyllically the life of shepherds or of the country, as a work of literature, art, or music: pastoral poetry; a pastoral symphony. 4. of, pertaining to, or consisting of shepherds. 5. of or pertaining to a pastor or the… Read more »

Plan Your Escape
Plan Your Escape
13 years ago

I think a balanced approach is best for most of us. I don’t think it is a good idea not measure your wealth but I also don’t think it is healthy to focus solely on money. I think if you can balance your simple living activities with some solid personal financial knowledge you’ll be setting yourself up of a happy existence.

Thanks for this interesting post!

Peter

Karl Staib
Karl Staib
13 years ago

My belief is that anyone can slow down and enjoy any situation. It’s about using our concerns to help us make good decisions. Then instead of letting our concerns worry us they help us take good action. Your brother-in-law probably felt wonderful giving the cooked turkey to the family that needed it. He took the burden upon himself and made other people’s lives better.

TosaJen
TosaJen
13 years ago

I think JD meant “pastoral” more in classical and literary terms of the idealized, innocent, bucolic, and non-urban (Merriam-Webster’s 1st def: http://m-w.com/dictionary/pastoral). I agree that pastors are some of the hardest-working folks I know! Not a simple life, but I hope a satisfying one. I agree with the fundamental premise of this article, that I am responsible for finding our own sense of happy, low-stress, equanimity about my life. However, I’m having a hard time relating to the “one with the universe-ness” I am reading in it, but I was originally taught to worry overmuch about what everyone else wants… Read more »

Xias
Xias
13 years ago

I think building your life to be simple, low-stress and flexible is one of the key elements of happiness. I know some people like to be “busy” doing somethings at all times, and I don’t really feel the need. What’s the point of loading up on stuff and then never feeling comfortable sitting down and using it? (A flat-screen TV or Wii, for example. If you want to practice voluntary simplicity you need to learn to love and embrace the leisure time you have. Don’t feel like you need to be productive at all times, whether that be working, building… Read more »

J.D.
J.D.
13 years ago

Yes, in my world the phrase “pastoral lifestyle” has nothing whatsoever to do with religion, and everything to do with a slower, simpler way of life. I think of Thomas Hardy’s Wessex when I think of a “pastoral lifestyle”.

The fact that this phrase so often confuses people, though, tells me I’m doing a poor job of communication. I need to find another phrase, one that conveys the same thing, but which doesn’t bring up thoughts of flocks — either sheep or congregations.

Jeff
Jeff
13 years ago

How about The Simple Life!

Jean
Jean
13 years ago

Karl,

Thanks for this insightful and right on post! As one who has previously been ascribed as a loner, I can attest that my past efforts to “not care” have been unsuccessful. Perspective is key indeed. Am I really broke if there sits $500 dollars within my inside coat pocket – BUT I forgot it was there?

Jean

Gnashchick
Gnashchick
13 years ago

I guess this is where I chime in about living an actual pastoral life. From ages 9 to 15, my parents decided that farm living was for them. We had a flock of sheep, some goats, chickens, geese, and rabbits. My mother tended a 1/2 acre vegetable garden. It was grueling, backbreaking work. Not idyllic at all. My stepfather worked at various jobs (or for cash under the table) in order to make the land payment. He had no time to devote to actual farming, so most of that fell to my mother and I. We weren’t hungry – we… Read more »

perri
perri
13 years ago

i have met plenty of homeless people who do not “like to complain.”

Steve
Steve
13 years ago

“Paris Hilton’s sex tapes and wild parties”

Hardly signs of unhappiness.

Gregg
Gregg
13 years ago

JD, you communicated your ideas very clearly to me. I cannot think of a better word than “pastoral.” You captured the dictionary definition, as was clearly explained by Jerry.

I consider you a wordsmith who can open the reader’s eyes to thoughts and ideals. I ask you to reflect–how many times has someone responded to a post with an idea gleaned from one of your writings–specifically gaining an insight that you had not thought of, but was valid and applicable.

Don’t discount your communication. It is excellent.

Gregg

J
J
13 years ago

I think I have a pastoral lifestyle. I have a job I like, am not in debt, am putting away money for retirement, have interesting friends, am in excellent health, am addiction free. No worries. Life is great! J.

Sarah
Sarah
13 years ago

Do you mean to imply that homeless people have ended up where they are because of their attitude towards life? That’s what is coming across to me from what you wrote.

Deanne
Deanne
13 years ago

I must agree with TosaJen – in my case, boundaries are the key to a simpler life.

Of course, other readers need to consider their own definitions of simplicity, too, so that when making their own life and financial decisions, they decide develop what truly matters to them and discard the rest. I believe this is the key to sticking to any plans – financial or otherwise.

Karl Staib
Karl Staib
12 years ago

Hey Sarah, I don’t mean to imply that all people are homeless because of their attitude toward life. I’m trying to convey that everyone has difficulty in their life whether they have money or not. It’s up to each individual to find what makes them happy so they don’t feel the need to complain or at least reduce their complaining. I love my life and I still complain, but the more awareness I bring into my life the more happiness occurs and less complaining. It’s hard to break the complaining cycle, but once you do your pastoral lifestyle will start… Read more »

Kevin Kuzia
Kevin Kuzia
12 years ago

I think the idea of perspective is really what nails this post home and it’s a great point. I’ve consistently found when I am not doing a great job of maintaining perspective is when I am at my least happy moments. I have found a good way to kick start my perspective back into gear is to travel to some area that is very different from your own home. For me, it’s a nice psychological lift because when I am not seeing the same stuff every day, I honestly begin to think differently about a lot of things in my… Read more »

fathersez
fathersez
12 years ago

“Pastoral Lifestyle”.

To me, there is a difference amongst country people and town people.

CP almost always seem to have time, a commodity TP cherish, but seem to have to juggle like mad to meet all the demands of modern day city life.

How this has come to pass, I suppose can be endlessly debated.

Maybe dealing with Mother Nature, which sets quite strict rules on the need for patience does this trick.

I, too, want to have this pastoral livestyle. And am working towards this.

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