Monday, October 18, 2010

'Tis a Gift to be Simple

"Tis a Gift to be Simple" -- As the lyrics of this old Shaker hymn tell us, simplicity is a good thing. While the economic downturn has forced many of us to downsize in various ways, it has also given emphasis to the movement that promotes voluntary simplicity.

A collection of essays explaining the whys and hows of this movement can be found in a book appropriately titled Less Is More by Cecile Andrews and Wanda Urbanska. Many of the contributors to Less Is More have written extensively about the need to live simpler lives and how this can be accomplished by individuals, communities and nations.

Juliet Schor explains “why we want what we don’t need” in The Overspent American. In Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic John DeGraaf and David Wann explain all the problems brought about by modern society’s quest for material gain. They discuss strategies and movements, including "voluntary simplicity," that can help us realize that “the best things in life aren’t things.”
Theodore Roszak tells us that teaching the world to live simply is the task of the aging boomer generation in America the Wise. Suggestions for downsizing one’s living space are offered by Sarah Susanka in The Not So Big House. Robyn Griggs Lawrence explains the need to re-use, recycle and appreciate the beauty in items that are not new in The Wabi-Sabi House: The Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty.

For many years, Bill McKibben has been an advocate of scaling back and learning to live more simply. In The End of Nature he points out the damage being done to the planet by our too-complex way of life. He offers specific examples of changes that lead to recovery and renewal in Hope, Human and Wild. His latest book, Eaarth, describes the damage to our climate and environment that will have lasting effects. He offers not only a new name for this changed planet, “Eaarth”, but also thoughts about the lifestyle changes necessary to survive well on it.
Enjoy one or all of these thought-provoking books. Here’s to the simple life!

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