Simple Gifts

On our walk this morning, my wife Joan and I were deconstructing the Shaker dance tune "Simple Gifts:"

'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.


What does it mean "to come down where we ought to be?" And why is that a gift?

I looked up the word "simple" and found that it comes from the Latin simplex meaning single, the opposite of complex. A simple gift, therefore, is just one thing: basic, essential, and indivisible.

With that in mind, I think the Shakers were trying to achieve a simple way of life. That's where they felt they "ought to be." In that place, free of the complications and complexities of the Outside World, they could bring their lives into right relationship with God. Such a place would indeed be a gift.

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 07/25/06

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