Posts Tagged ‘community’

Beginning Fruits on Voluntary Simplicity

July 2, 2009

I took this idea of VS out to my local community recently, not sure of the response I would receive.  I should have more faith! because the idea is good and solid and people generally want answers to issues that effect life and all.

The way I formed it was a discussion group and potluck dinner once a month, and we can meet at our house.  Our house, named “Clach Mhullinn”, Gaelic for “Millstone” (around our necks) , is an interesting place, built by some farmer English in 1880 in the Georgian style.  Think farmhouse.

Here in the South, this is ‘old’, because of the ravages of war and fire (Sherman) during the Civil War.  So, a swath was cut to the sea, and all before it fell.  Of course there are houses that didn’t, but they were off the beaten path.

It’s an interesting neighborhood in any case, a combination of three neighborhoods, Capitol View, Capitol View Manor and Sylvan Hills.  They are substanial brick (mostly) houses, some rather stylish, most of the sturdy bungalow design.  But they are old enough (1900’s) to have very large trees and woods , and a 127 acre Perkerson Park in the midst.

In the past 10 years we have had a boom of gentrification: young, mostly white professionals moving in, and of course now they are hit hard, as are all others, by the economic conditions generally.  Georgia is especially hard hit in employment stats, but we hear that the recession is bottoming out.  Whatever that means.

However, I think it’s time to draw a line in the sand:  to rethink our position in these economic upturns and downturns, because they will never stop.  We are a product of a rampant consumer society  and we are at the mercy of this IF we don’t put the philosophical and practical brakes on this.

There is the broader question of ‘community’ and what it really means.  When I feel the most isolationist, something will come along (if I am receptive) and break that apart.  This morning, a fellow gardener called with a gift of a ‘lot of lettuce’.  What a gift and a blessing!  Right now the garden is pretty backward (see sewer, backhoe entries…) but I have last years canning, and all who come with gifts leave with jellies and jams.  The natural order of things here.

I wasn’t sure of the reception, but I was wrong.  I contacted a few people, and they contacted a few people, and my message of a VS discussion group was put on two different community websites.  I received a number of responses to my email this morning, and it’s a very good start. This one below from my blog, but he is local and someone I have known for years.  We have worked together on many issues, and I am glad that we will be working again on this one.

You articulated the issue well and I suspect blogging on it could result
in a wide-open dialogue with readers.  I find the conflict is between
having to make a living and the energy expended to do to meet today’s
“supposed standard”.  Obviously those are experiencing a sea change and
maybe a new  rudimentary standard will evolve.  You want to be self
sufficient to live comfortably, so one has to determine what that is for
themselves but many of us are having to do that out of necessity.  This
financial crisis is a wakeup call for many but some will not recognize


These issues  S. raised are exactly the point.  The conflict of making a living and all the energy expended in doing so.  What is left for a good life that gives us satisfaction and means something to our values?  Do we subsume our values just to make a living?  When we examine our lives, is this how we want to live them?

Well, we will see what fruit this discussion group grows, but I know for Fred and I and some others here locally, we want something different.  We will make compromises but we want to go towards something ‘fuller’ and with more balance than the general rat race.

Perhaps this national situation is the best thing to turn our collective eyes towards a better future.  One that is  “Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich”.

Lady Nyo

Some thoughts on revisiting Voluntary Simplicity

July 1, 2009

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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