05 April 2011

Ten reasons for choosing a simple lifestyle

I would like to thank the YAV office for all the support they offer us volunteers before, during, and after our year of service. One of the small -- but great! -- things they provide is a booklet entitled "A Little Collection of Readings and Reflections." I have read through it a few times, once straight through, once from back to front, but usually I just pick a random page and go from there.

One entry I keep coming back to is a list called "Ten reasons for choosing a simple lifestyle" by Jorgen Lissner of UNDP, Ethiopia. As I grant you could surmise, the list shares ten strong, concise statements in defense of a simple lifestyle. Eventually I will go through the list, but as Part One of this series, I want to discuss the foundation of the topic and start to discern what it is we are talking about.

So, here we go: Ten reasons for choosing a simple lifestyle.

What strikes me about the title is one word: choosing. For so many people around the world, there is no choice, no option at all when it comes to their lifestyle. Constrained by economic realities, these people do not have the opportunity to live differently. However, for those from more affluent backgrounds, there exists a choice not present elsewhere. So we need to recognize that the ability to choose our lifestyle is a privilege, and it is an opportunity to demonstrate our values in very real ways.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the US budget as a moral document, and this applies to personal budgets also. How we spend our money demonstrates our values more clearly than our rhetoric and resolutions. In the same way, our lifestyle choices are an expression of our morality -- how we live shows how we value life!

To choose a simple lifestyle is to accept a call to action. A simple lifestyle is not a bumper sticker or a call to idleness. It is an active engagement in what you define to be most important in human life. This is different for everybody, but for me I might say it is healthy relationships with myself, with others, with the environment, and with God.

So when we ask, "What is a simple lifestyle?" I think a good way to start is by listing single words or phrases that fit into what we are talking about. A short list to start to start us off:

A simple lifestyle is
  • Sustainable
  • Other-affirming
  • Practical
  • Healthy
  • Uplifting
  • Please add you own... 

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