Saturday, April 16, 2011

Simple Living

Over the weekend, I discovered a now-defunct website called"Simple Living."  This organization has ceased to exist but have retained their archives here.  The archives are pretty extensive so I have not had time to explore them in depth.  For years I've been interested in the concept of simple living and strive to find ways in which to simplify my life on a daily basis.

In one section of the Simple Living archives, under "Articles," there is a section on the three steps to simpler living (and influencing others).  These steps include 1) changing ourselves; 2) sharing with others; and 3) working to change systems.  Fortunately, I started changing myself many years ago.  I recycle; I install CFLs where appropriate; I participate in Earth Hour; I buy products made from recycled materials; I try to buy nontoxic, biodegradable cleaners; I use organic methods on our farm; I'm a vegetarian; I try not to make unnecessary purchases.  All in all, I try to live lightly on the earth.  However, reading this section made me realize I have not done nearly enough.  Influencing others really begins with ourselves and we need to look at each and every action we take.  This article asks us to examine where we are in changing ourselves and trying to effect change in the world.  Three questions are asked:  

Do I support both good and evil, regardless of the social consequences?  
Do I support the good, but do not support the evil? 
Do I support the good and resist the evil? 

Applying these questions to my personal life, I realize I can only consistently respond to "yes" to the first question.  And pretty much everyone can respond yes to that question.  On the next two questions, I cannot answer "yes."  For the second question, when it comes to my shopping and other financial choices, I don't look beyond the idea of less consumption.  I find that I rarely consider the source of my purchases or how my investments might have a global and personal affect.  (By personal, I mean how my decisions affect individuals in far away places.)  The third question is also an area in which I fall short as I seldom call or write political representatives or corporate offices on important issues and I have never physically joined a protest.  Although I do boycott some organizations and institutions, I'm not consistent with this and I need to do it more often.  

My Lenten vow of "Not a Cent for Lent" should be my daily mantra.  After all, why should I spend money or purchase items unnecessarily?  An occasional treat is necessary for mental health; however, I think individuals in the western world treat themselves far too often.  In fact, I believe we over treat ourselves to the point that it is damaging to our physical and mental well-being.  Why should I buy things I don't really need?  After all, I will soon tire of them and they will end up in land fill.  All the time, energy, and resources that have gone into those unnecessary items will be for naught.  

I also need to begin taking into consideration where items have been produced and the economic, social, and environmental costs associated with their manufacture.  And I need to be aware of how the items I do need are packaged.  Products are not magically produced nor do they disappear after their time of usefulness has passed.  Every item that is manufactured and utilized comes with hidden costs.  Pretending they don't exist doesn't make them go away.

The third item on the list of changing myself involves resisting evil.  As I think of this issue, I realize it comes with risk which is why many of us don't do it.  In resisting evil, one is usually pitted against very powerful forces, which can be in the private or the public sector.  Resisting a corporation or a large organization can have results such as when Oprah tried to resist the beef industry by proclaiming she would never again eat beef.  This simple act of resistance resulted in a lawsuit.  Resisting a government also carries serious risk.  For example, resisting a heavy-handed pat down at an airport by a TSA employee that would be considered sexual assault in any other context can result in an arrest, possible imprisonment, and being put on a "no fly" list.  

When we look at some of our heroes, we need to remember that while they are revered today, they suffered serious consequences for resisting evil in their lifetime.  Think of what our world would look like if these heroes did not risk ridicule, imprisonment, and even death.  Think about what our world will look like if we don't have more risk-takers.


Shona~ LALA dex press said...

Interesting site. I do like the Shaker pledge, but then I've been very interested in Shaker culture (not just the furniture) for many years. When you find out what all they did for society you realize how important they were- too bad about the celibacy belief or they might have still been actively contributing to this day.

I was at Trader Joe's and got into a conversation with another shopper, actually it was an odd exchange. We were both buying pasta sauce + it was funny because each one of us had our own consumer conscious habits and personal heath beliefs and although they were similar, what was important to us was different. A lot was revealed about ourselves through the ingredients of the various pasta sauces at TJ's.

Now shopping at TJ's is a whole other issue, but we were both native Californians so to us it's home.

AND I can really depress myself if I think about how much water I use to rinse off a glass being more clean water than some people have access to in a day.

Cherie said...

Shona, yes, too bad about the Shakers. I understand they continued their tradition for a while through adoptions.

Funny we do have different reasons for living sustainably or simply. I have two family members who drive hybrids for different reasons - one for the planet and to save money, the other because it's "cool" and also to save money. I guess the end result is the same.

I appreciate your readership - you always have good comments for me.