Simplicity – it’s Complicated

ALLAN DAVID SMITH-REEVE – What if we all just lived more simply? As Mahatma Gandhi once said, ‘Live simply so that others may simply live.”

Sometimes called the quiet revolution, the “Simplicity” approach to life involves:

  • providing for material needs as simply and directly as possible,
  • minimizing expenditure on consumer goods and services,
  • and directing progressively more time and energy towards pursuing non-materialistic sources of satisfaction and meaning.

This generally means accepting a lower income and a lower level of consumption,
in exchange for more time and freedom to pursue other life goals, such as:

  • community or social engagements,
  • more time with lover and family,
  • artistic or intellectual projects,
  • more fulfilling employment,
  • political participation,
  • pursuit of sustainable living practices,
  • spiritual exploration, reading, contemplation,
  • relaxation, pleasure seeking, and so on.

None of which need to rely on money, or much money.

How’s that for a list of New Year’s resolutions? To me it looks like a bucket list for retirement – if I could afford to retire… I’ve found after many years of attempting to implement such a lifestyle that holding down a full-time job, juggling part time jobs, raising children, caring for health-challenged family members, family break-downs and divorce, and making time for volunteering in social change efforts – COMPLICATES my hopes for simplicity.

I can hear all you Transition Town folks offering advice – small steps to help me get me out of my isolated, consumer-driven, bubble. But as I dig down into Simplicity, I find limited satisfaction in the lonely pursuit of personal change.

If I am to shift my deepest hunger from the pursuit of “belongings” – find an alternative to the “dopamine hit” I receive from retail-therapy – then could I substitute my yearnings and rewards to the gratifications of “belonging” to a movement for social change.

Is it enough for me to “live Simply” while so many neighbours struggle “to simply live.”
What if the voices of marginalized neighbours – were supported by an Alliance of ordinary citizens? What if we were able to organize “all our relations” to envision a set of priorities for Peterborough and hold decision-makers accountable to those winnable issues?

As Mike Hudema tweets “We have all the solutions before us” – so why aren’t we embracing them? If there is enough for all. If there is enough food already growing. If there is enough wealth already accumulated. Then wouldn’t an equal redistribution of the earth’s wealth – create the conditions for world peace?

Is there enough security for all? Security is the feeling that results from being confident that you will have all the things you need – and your children will have them too. So, it is a derivative effect. There can be enough security for all; but only if all have security.

“The Ministry for the Future” by Kim Stanley Robinson chapter 16

If we were all simply rational creatures, we could figure our way out of the extremes of wealth and poverty, and perhaps even reverse those extreme weather disasters. There can be enough security for all; but only if all have security.

So – What if we were to put aside all our rational, ideological, arguments about what or who to blame (or perhaps simply put them on a shelf for now) – and instead begin by opening-up our hearts? If the heart is the home of our divine gift of imagination – then how might some deep, in-person, listening to the stories of our neighbours’ suffering – their simple hopes and dreams – inspire our collective imaginations? Might we discover a powerful alignment?

How might our Peterborough community change if the voices of marginalized peoples (our neighbours without enough) were supported by the collective power of everyone with hearts open enough to listen and be moved into action? How might an Alliance of Communities of Faith, Unions, social agencies, local businesses, sports clubs, societies, and ordinary citizens – begin to change the systems that are failing to serve our common good?

Next month, I’ll suggest how the power of a Listening Campaign might stir our imaginations into action. It’s Simple – really!

Reverend Alleycat is a dreamer and a community organizer of social innovations.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.