Thursday, October 3, 2013

Simpler Living, Compassionate Life: A Christian Perspective edited & compiled by Michael Schut (Part I: Overview)

In the prior post, I explained that disappointment about the outcome of an election led to a serendipitous visit to a religious bookstore where I happened to come across my first book on voluntary simplicity: Simpler Living, Compassionate Life: A Christian Perspective edited & compiled by Michael Schut.  I think I should say a bit about the book.

The book is a collection of essays and excerpts from longer pieces by various authors.  I have to admit that a lot of them did not really take root.  Many were over my head.  I'm a pretty well-educated person and I read a lot.  But as I read the book, many of the essays and excerpts seemed to presuppose background knowledge I did not have.  Some seemed to presuppose a fairly in-depth understanding of voluntary simplicity.  Others were out of my reach because they seemed to have been written for an audience who had graduated from seminary, which I have not.

Nonetheless, I persevered.  It was a really low point spiritually for me at that point in time.  And I somehow sensed that this particular book had something to teach me that would be important to help get me to a better place spiritually.

I tried to read one essay or excerpt each day as a daily devotional.  Some days this was interesting and fruitful; the reading gave me food for thought.  Other days, I got very little out of the reading and I was bored/lost. 

Nonetheless, after completing the book, there were some big picture things that stuck with me.  Our middle class way of life in the U.S. is luxurious compared to how most of our brothers and sisters live around the world.  If we scale down even a bit the level of luxuries we Americans enjoy, we will not die and we will not suffer deprivation.  Indeed, scaling down somewhat can actually lead to more abundance.  The more luxuries we insist on having, the more we typically have to work.  But by scaling back--or simplifying--we can work less and have more time.  Time is the real treasure in our life.  It is finite and precious, no matter how we try to forget or deny that.

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