Lately I've been fascinated with the explanations of voluntary simplicity that I've found on the web. In a society oriented around maximizing productivity, materialism, and wealth, it is refreshing to find lifestyle models that take a step back from the madness and focus on what we really need. The line between wants and needs in our society has faded to the degree that we pressure ourselves into a frenzy over what we believe are non-negotiable requirements. This dizzying loop may appear to take us to an elevated lifestyle, when measured by material wealth. When the relative amount of leisure, another measure of elevated lifestyle, is taken into account, we are toiling ourselves into poverty. The pattern of maximized gain has left us without a moment to ourselves--without the time to devote to the things that matter.
A few quotes can be found on a popular, modern resource, Wikipedia. Duane Elgin defines voluntary simplicity as "a manner of living that is outwardly more simple and inwardly more rich, a way of being in which our most authentic and alive self is brought into direct and conscious contact with living." Mahatma Ghandi adds more neccesity to the basic lifestyle and advises us to "live simply that others may simply live." Not only do our hoardsome habits inhibit our freedoms, but they can prevent others from simply subsisting. Our planet does not have the resources to support the swelling population's needs (or perhaps wants)...we need to slow down! "But what about the economy?" You might ask. It's true--our current economic system would collapse if we all adopted subsistence lifestyles. A major redesign would be needed. It is called a subsistence economy. Our trusty Wikipedia tells us that "Before the invention of currency, subsistence economies were the dominant economic system throughout the world." E.F. Schumacker exclaims "Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction" While it is very counter-intuitive to reverse "progress" to such a degree, I wonder if it is time we employ a bit more of that genius.