Some thoughts on revisiting Voluntary Simplicity

My husband and I have been reading Duane Elgin’s “Voluntary Simplicity” together.  We have been bouncing ideas off each other as  we read, and what our life together has become.

Part of the attraction before marriage was  we  had some of the same interests:  ecology, small farming, intensive gardening, permaculture, pioneering, green technology like solar and wind, and the general issue of  ‘living in harmony with Nature’.

Not at all different from many of the people of our age, generation.  However, these are mostly ‘external’ issues….things you do or embrace.

We got caught up in the usual ‘prosperity’ issues over the years: as you make more money, or at least a ‘comfortable’ income, you apply to the consumer ideal and ‘growth’  can be measured in gadgets, convenience and clutter.  Case in point, my husband has built houses, and this house has been the recipient of his abilities.  We now have 12 rooms and some of them are rarely used, except to pass through and some are just storage for clutter.  What happened?  Well, this was an outwardly expression of some inward detours, but not the worse of the whole issue.

“Growth” is one thing; “Inner Growth” is something else.  And that is what we are struggling with right now.

These inner growth issues are the engine that drives this approach to VS for us:  we have to reconnect to those aspects of inner growth that will allow the fuller blooming of VS.  Right now we are discussing issues of faith, spirituality, seeking, family, relationships with others, and in particular, friends.  How do we nourish our family and our friends, in particular attend to the needs of others and at the same time attend to our family?

Time is an element that we can rearrange to have ‘enough’ only by shifting the things we already do now.  It’s an issue of what IS important in light of a particular philosophy, and what isn’t.  It takes some effort and a lot of mental change.  Fred and I have to consider  our son who is supportive of some of these philosophical concepts, but also has his own interests.  He’s into most forms of technology, and a big part of it seems to be around computers.  But again, the most important issues are internal, not external.

Perhaps an important issue  outside our ‘inner growth’ considerations, is that we have little  (so far) support for VS in our community.  Well, perhaps I am speaking before further research because  this was the condition before this recent economic situation.  But VS is not poverty by any means.  It’s very much bound up with an appreciation of beauty and things of real value.  Perhaps having time to pursue interests that were beyond possibilities because you were chasing a standard that encompassed all your time and energies and resources, well, with a change in perspective, other things become possible.  And perhaps these things are definitely of more ‘value’.

We struggle to come out of the hypnosis of the culture of affluence.  We struggle to discern those things of personal value and worth keeping and those which are really clutter or of little future value. But these only address material possessions.  We are looking deeper:  we are testing those things that insulated us from discomforts while maximizing our personal pleasures.  Life has been lived by most of us as a constant process of pushing away discomfort and grabbing at those things (or acquiring them) that give usually immediate pleasure.  This seems shallow and shortsighted, in fact, there are great lessons in some discomforts, and we already understand the transitory nature of some immediate pleasures.  They glitter and don’t last.

So, we are struggling towards a better understanding as to the inners of VS for us, and it’s not a ‘one size fits all’.   It’s a very personal balance for us, and will look very different from others approach to similar issues.

We really are excited right now, because though the issues are enormous,  a bit overwhelming, we see this as something we can work on together, build and sculpt together, for a new and in part, different life.  Lighter, cleaner, more focused, more balanced, and with more time freed up ….ultimately, to serve others.

Best, we are doing it together, and this has the greatest value, even in the short term.

I’ll write more down the road on what we are finding and what we are applying through VS and other issues.

Lady Nyo

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