June 7, 2011
By Duane Elgin
There is a common misconception that living more simply requires a life of sacrifice. In fact, it is just the opposite: When we live more lightly on the material side of life, we create the conditions for greater satisfaction and meaning on the non-material side of life. Lifestyles emphasizing consumerism are the ones that require sacrifice:
• Sacrifice is a lifestyle that is overstressed, overbusy, and overworked.
• Sacrifice is investing long hours doing work that is neither meaningful nor satisfying.
• Sacrifice is being apart from family and community to earn a living.
• Sacrifice is the stress of commuting long distances and coping with traffic.
• Sacrifice is the white noise of civilization blotting out the subtle sounds of nature.
• Sacrifice is hiding nature's beauty behind a jumble of billboard advertisements.
• Sacrifice is the smell of the city stronger than the scent of the Earth.
• Sacrifice is carrying more than 200 toxic chemicals in our bodies.
• Sacrifice is the massive extinction of plants and animals and an impoverished biosphere.
• Sacrifice is being cut off from nature's wildness and wisdom.
• Sacrifice is global climate disruption, crop failure, famine, and forced migration.
• Sacrifice is the absence of feelings of neighborliness and community.
• Sacrifice is the lack of opportunity for soulful encounters with others.
• Sacrifice is feeling divided among the different parts of our lives.
Voluntary simplicity is not sacrifice:
• Simplicity fosters a more harmonious relationship with the Earth.
• Simplicity promotes fairness and equity among the people of the Earth.
• Simplicity cuts through needless busyness, clutter, and complications.
• Simplicity enhances living with balance--inner and outer, work and family, and more.
• Simplicity reveals the beauty and intelligence of nature's designs.
• Simplicity increases the resources available for future generations.
• Simplicity helps save animal and plant species from extinction.
• Simplicity responds to global shortages of oil, water, and other vital resources.
• Simplicity emphasizes our relationships with family, community, nature, and the universe.
• Simplicity yields lasting satisfactions that exceed the fleeting pleasures of consumerism.
• Simplicity fosters the sanity of self-discovery and an integrated approach to life.
• Simplicity blossoms in community and connects us to the world with a feeling of belonging.
• Simplicity is a lighter lifestyle that fits elegantly into the real world.
Contrary to media myths, consumerism offers lives of sacrifice while simplicity offers lives of opportunity. Simplicity creates the opportunity for greater fulfillment in work, meaningful connection with others, feelings of kinship with all life, and awe of a living universe. This is a rich way of life that offers a compelling alternative to the stress, busyness, and alienation of the modern era.
If the material consumption of a fraction of humanity is already harming the planet, is there an alternative path that enables all of humanity to live more lightly upon the Earth while experiencing a higher quality of life? The insights described above offer a resounding answer: "Yes, there is!"
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