Are we willing?

So while our rhetoric has shifted toward a more environmentally “aware” idea of stewardship, we continue to use the earth’s resources with a primary concern for our own amusement. For example, as more in our society embrace “green capitalism”–attempting to replace consumer goods with more earth-friendly alternatives–it hasn’t resulted in a slowdown of consumption overall. We are willing, when we can afford it, to use special light bulbs and buy biodegradable dish soap. But are we willing to radically simplify our lives?

Mark van Steenwyk
from The UNkingdom of God

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14 comments on “Are we willing?

  1. convicted – personally someday this body will be recycled

    • Bill says:

      As will all of ours. I’ve suggested that mine be added the compost pile, to help nourish the next years gardens, but the suggestion was not well-received.

  2. If we view simplicity as an aesthetic (and we should, I think), it’s easy to understand why so few people simplify:They think it’s ugly.

    What is beautiful for most people is excess and plenty. We are hardwired to want more, and cultures everywhere reinforce that instinct.

    Excess and plenty help us fend off the fact of our mortality.

    Purposeful simplicity is an act of irony. And living ironically long term is difficult because it is seriously high maintenance.

    The fact that clutter and junk, which is believed to improve our lives, really diminishes them, is another breed of irony altogether.

    • Bill says:

      Well said. It seems to me that the problem is our perpetual state of discontent. No matter how much we have, we always want more, even after we objectively have all we reasonably need.

  3. Bill, I think Mark has a valid point. Most folks will do just enough green conservation to make them feel good but no real cutting back into a simpler life. It can be difficult when other family members are involved. I have always tried to live a simple life style but those around me in the household were and are of another mindset. I try to have an influence on them but the culture in which we live and the advertisements on TV are tough competition. I can see a day coming in the not too distant future when people will be forced to live a much simpler life style. The one we have now is so oil dependent and just can’t be sustained forever. When it takes more oil energy to bring the food to my table then caloric energy that’s in the food, it can’t continue very long.

    I can remember when it was a big deal when the first diamond back watermelon shipment arrived from Texas to my Nebraska area. Now watermelon is available year round. Seasonal eating was special and I liked looking forward to that first fresh strawberry or when sweet corn season started. All the anticipation and first of the season savoring has been lost. Still the vegetables from my garden impress all who eat them because of the bursting flavor. Folks have become used to flavorless food or they have become used to over powering artificial flavor and can’t be satisfied with subtle flavors.

    Have a great winter gardening day.

    • Bob Braxton says:

      ‘overindulgence glorified’
      from the bottle
      down his brother’s
      throat pouring straight

    • Bill says:

      Yes, I totally understand. We’re constantly pressured, it countless ways, to want more and to buy and spend. We’re led to believe acquiring more things will make us happier.

      We’re far from perfect but we’re trying to live more sustainably. It’s a journey. We’re doing it because we want to. Maybe the day is coming, as you say, when folks will do it because they have to. But either way, I’m convinced it’s a better way to live.

      I totally agree with you about our culture’s loss of our appreciation for seasonal eating. Now it’s all about convenience and instant gratification. And I agree that along the way we’ve lost our appreciation for what food is supposed to taste like. Seasonal eating is good for us, and good for the environment, and it’s the way to get the best tasting food. Let’s keep trying to convince people of that, but we have to keep in mind there are some very powerful forces working against us.

      This extreme cold is probably going to wipe out what’s left of our winter gardens. We’ll see.

  4. shoreacres says:

    “Green capitalism” also has bred multimillionaires counseling simplicity for the plebs while they grow increasingly rich and live life-styles based on incredible levels of consumption.

    Show me Al Gore opting for skype rather than his jet, or Michelle Obama paring back a bit on state dinners, and my cynicism level might drop a bit. Oh – and then there’s GE, moving it’s light bulb manufacturing to China, while I’m told I can’t have my incandescent light. And the millions of tax dollars (perhaps billions, now?) poured into bankrupt “green energy” companies.

    I’m not arguing against the value of simplicity or against less consumption-oriented lifestyles, but having politicians and bureaucrats tell me I “must” do this or that while they do as they please and grow rich in the process leads to grumpiness.

    • Bill says:

      I’m surprised that this quote has drawn politically charged responses. That certainly wasn’t my intent. I posted it on facebook this morning and have had two responses bringing up global warming (or “climate Change hocus pocus bovine fecal matter” as one put it, while suggesting that I’m “anti-American.”) Another one brought up Al Gore and Sheryl Crow (Mr. Gore’s electric bill and Ms. Crow’s travel on airplanes).

      Maybe they’re hypocrites, or insincere profiteers. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter to me. Maybe I’m something of a hypocrite too. There are many ways our consumption could be reduced more.

      In any event, Mark is an anarchist so I’m sure he would say you should be free to buy whatever kind of light bulb you want, even while he advocates and models a life of radical simplicity.

  5. Steve Carlic says:

    Our family has committed itself to “shedding” this year. We’re cleaning out, cleaning up and reducing. It has to be done overtly, or it won’t happen. Start small, but start somewhere, I suppose.

    • Bill says:

      We just had our annual all day review of our household and farm operations, a significant part of which is devoted to finding more ways to reduce and simplify. It’s interesting that many of the things we’ve edited out in the past, that seemed to be big deals at the time, are unmissed and I can’t imagine why they ever seemed important. We’re making more changes this year. It’s cool to see how much we’ve reduced our consumption without any decrease in the quality of our lives (in fact, I’d say the quality of our lives have significantly increased). The key, for us, is to make changes that we WANT to make and not to feel that we are being forced to or that we’re being deprived of anything. It’s a journey.

  6. Amy Lou says:

    Personally, I’m getting more encouraged every day. I see quotes and thoughtful responses like what I’m seeing here on your post and I feel like the day is coming when even more people will realize that stuff doesn’t make us happy. Happiness makes us happy. Friends make us happy. Working with our hands makes us happy. Love makes us happy. Dogs and chickens and stars, touching our toes and eating a tomato we grew ourself makes us happy. And it’s all free. Stuff has acted too long as an intermediary between us and contentment. But more and more and more people are reacting against that manufactured middle man. I love seeing it, reading about it, I love hoping that this sea change will take place as more people like you and your readers help it along.
    Thanks for sharing this.

    • Bill says:

      Thanks Amy. I’m encouraged too. People like y’all are inspirational.

      Everything you say here is true, and there are likely millions of people who would agree that it’s true, but who just haven’t found the willpower or courage to start taking the first steps. I honestly believe more and more people are going to start turning their backs on consumerism and debt.

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