Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Voluntary Simplicity v. Involuntary, Material Poverty

I recognize that not everyone reading this blog necessarily understands yet what the concept of "voluntary simplicity" is.  I'll explore that in more depth later in the blog.  But for now I just want to address one thing, of which I'm very conscious.  That is the privilege of embracing voluntary simplicity. 

By its name, the concept of voluntary simplicity suggests an affirmative decision to forego material things and excess activities in order to be more present in our lives and to be good stewards of our resources.  The concept is the opposite of involuntary material poverty that is thrust upon someone by circumstances beyond his or her control. 

The former is a choice to give up things that weigh us down and keep us from what is really important in life.  The former also recognizes that our modern Western consumptive lifestyle is not healthy or sustainable on either a micro or macro level.  The notion of voluntary simplicity presumes one's basic needs are met.  There is adequate food and shelter to maintain health.  But when one embraces voluntary simplicity, there is a conscious effort to try to avoid excess and overindulgence because such things distract from true happiness, and are unhealthy for both our bodies and our planet.

By contrast, involuntary, material poverty is not something to be glorified.  It is awful.  Working three demeaning jobs for minimum wage to avoid being kicked out of your apartment is not anything to which a rational human would aspire.  It is unfair that some have so many luxuries while others don't have enough to satisfy their bellies.  Such poverty also hurts in less tangible ways, particularly when you have dependents looking to you to fill their basic needs.  In no way do I embrace or advocate voluntary simplicity because I think being poor is glamorous or fun.  Due to various life experiences, I am under so such illusion. 

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