Thursday, October 8, 2009

Alternatives for Simple Living

I grew up in a Catholic Worker house in which part of our life was living simply. It was a conscious and difficult decision that we had to remake every day. The main motivation for this lifestyle was our faith. Jesus always could be found with the poor, and advocated giving up your possessions and embracing a life founded on people not objects. With all the poverty throughout the world, and the many ways that what we buy affects the poor, we tried to buy used whenever possible, and save as much energy as possible. Much of it was environmental, and being in solidarity with the poor around the world. I've always wanted to learn more about simple living and the motivation for it so that I can fully explain myself, so when I found Alternatives for simple living I was interested in reading more about faith based simplicity.

The website was founded in 1973 to "promote an alternative biblical vision of life based on voluntary simplicity, stewardship of creation, and encouraging meaningful celebrations that reflect conscientious earth friendly ways of living." They publish a magazine twice a year, have many resources, and lead a workshops. One resource from their website I think will be one of the best is a paper entitled " The Art of Simple Living." It highlights the main reasons for living simply from a religious standpoint vs. a secular one. The main point is to explain what they call the five life principles related to voluntary simplicity. They are borrowed from the book
Living More with Less by Doris Janzen Longacre, and are:

  • Do Justice
  • Learn from the World Community
  • Cherish the Natural Order
  • Celebrate Responsibly
  • Nonconform Freely

The 5 points are explained in a logical way that paints simple living as just what is, a very good and practical way to help the planet and humankind.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Source

I found the first source I examined especially interesting when I was first stumbled upon it. It is the website for a TV documentary series that aired on PBS in the late 90s (premiered in 1997) about over-consumption in America. The producers call the problems related to over-consumption and capitalism a disease called "Affluenza." I can't wait to watch some of the episodes they produced- although they are apparently kind of hard to find. The website is very in depth and has a lot of resources.

Since I'm going to be a teacher next year I was excited to see the teacher's guide to teach about this subject as well. There are even questions for viewers to use while watching and ways to promote the series. I'm glad that the website has such a vast array of resources because this will be a great tool as I write my paper. The site is laid out with different sections. On the sidebar there are the following categories: the show, the diagnosis, the treatment, and the site map and home page. I love that they approach simple living in a satirical kind of way, yet the site also offers a lot of practical ways to live simpler, and clear cut answers about the benefits of doing so. The diagnosis offers quizzes readers can take to see if they "suffer from" Affluenza. I think the episodes as well as the website are going to be helpful perspectives when I examine the art of living simply.
I found myself playing around on the website for awhile; taking the quizzes and reading facts about America's seemingly chronic over-consumption. The site also lists further resources, and reviews of the resources, that promote simplicity and sustainability. Just reading through them I was impressed at the quality and the quantity of what's out there. I'm glad that I won't have trouble trying to compile sources for this paper.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Best Advice

The best advice I've received, and therefore can give, is somewhat religious but spans across more religion than one. Growing up when I would get angry or be mean to my little sister my dad would say to me " Imagine she's the baby Jesus, Jesus is everyone you meet." At the time I thought, "Pssh, yeah ok dad," but as I got older I started to hear this message reiterated in different ways. I remember distinctly hearing Robert Thurman, a famous Buddhist monk, and Uma Thurman's dad, speak about the teachings of Buddhism. I was beyond impressed with what he had to say, but one thing that I've never forgotten was something he said about their belief in reincarnation. He said that because they believe in reincarnation, everyone you pass on the street, could be your mother, or grandmother, or relative, and therefore you should acknowledge everyone you meet as if they were your mother in a previous life. I think of this as a similar teaching, because mother's are typically someone we hold very dear to us. He used the example of when we walk down the street, people tend to avert their eyes from one another, instead of looking and smiling, like you would (hopefully) if you saw your mother, the one who gave you life, walk by. Even to an extent the word "namaste"- the light in my soul acknowledges the light in yours, speaks to this idea of seeing everyone as if they are special, and important.

It can be very difficult to see Jesus, or the light in someones soul when they are cruel, or grumpy or hurtful to you. And it can be especially hard to see that person as your mother, but I think if you focus on the idea of treating each person with dignity and love and respect, no matter what- the world will become a better place. That is why this is the best advice I've received and can offer.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Prince

I'd like to think, actually, that Machiavelli's text doesn't relate to my life in too many aspects. One small thing I can think of is the idea of change. Machiavelli's book is supposed to be a manual of sorts for a new leader, and he writes a bit about how change is often resisted.

In my life, I can relate this to a recent experience. I'm a student director at the Catholic Center for UNCW and this year we got a new Campus Minister, who is the paid adult leader of the center. Many people at the center had formed close relationships with our old Campus Minister, and we had certinely gotten used to his way of doing things. He gave the student's a lot of choice, was young, and valued building community. The new campus minister is older, an ordained nun, and very organized, something that was somewhat lacking before. When she first came in, I was borderline defiant. How could anyone replace Seung, our old and beloved minister? Was she going to try and change everything? What will we do?! As it turns out, she is doing a great job, and making a lot of changes for the better, but it took some close scrutinizing on my part before I would give her the time of day. New leaders have it tough... although I'm not sure following The Prince, as a manual will give you much more than power- it surely isn't how to win friends and influence people.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Childhood Notions

I rode the school bus to school for 6 years. Man, did I hate every minute of it. We had assigned seats, and mine was in between a 5th grader who, to me, looked 16, as she towered over my tiny frame that a friend of my mom's who taught kindergarten once described as "The smallest kindergartner" she'd ever seen, and an overweight 1st grader named Kyle who liked to pinch me for no good reason. My bus driver was one of the unhappiest, or at least angriest people I can ever remember encountering. Everyday, her voice would bellow throughout the bus full of rowdy K-5 students, as she recited her mantra... "Shut up, sit down, turn around, and face the front."

This only begins to describe the terrors that the yellow monster brought for me, but I figured out a way to escape. I figured if I had to be physically on the bus, I'd do my best to take my mind elsewhere. I'd stare out the window and dream a vivid day dream that I still remember to this day- and really in a roundabout kind of way, relates to my notions of success. I'd dream of being a bus driver, that defied everything I knew about bus drivers. I planned to take the job with pride and love for every child on that bus. I'd buy Barbies & Hotwheels, and whatever action figure the kids most desired in bulk, along with candy and treats, and everyday I'd throw them down the aisles, and smile as the kids on MY bus, smiled back. That was my childhood notion of success. Just to drive a bus, and have a happy time with the kids. Nothing more & nothing less.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Epictetus' Adivce on the Art of Living

While reading Epictetus the overriding concept that came up again and again and stood out to me was the idea of doing what you think is right without worry or care what other people think of you. Epictetus seemed to reiterate this idea in multiple entries. He advocates taking a stand for your beliefs after careful thought, but not letting your ego or reputation stop you. I think it can often be difficult to be counter cultural (Especially as I'm taking a class on popular culture right now and learning just what a force it is...), or go against the grain of things, when in reality, the only way change will ever come about is by doing so. Therefore, I found Epictetus' advice intriguing and inspiring. One blurb that comes to mind is "Character Matters More Than Reputation." Doing what's right is hardly ever easy, and often to be biblical for a moment- "The Prophet is rejected in their hometown." But if our aim is to be moral and have good character, not to be liked, than we have nothing to worry about.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

These are a few of my favorite things... or places

Since I was a kid, I've traveled quite a bit throughout the country. Now that I'm a little older I've also been to Latin America a couple times, and to Ireland. Narrowing down my thoughts to write about my #1 favorite place is tough, but I found when I really thought about it, as much as I love traveling, home is where my heart. More specifically I love the East and West parts of North Carolina. (Not to discount the Piedmont, I grew up in Raleigh and have love for it too...)

When I was looking at colleges I narrowed down my choices to either Appalachain or UNCW. Which shows you my preferences. Being in the Appalachain mountains always leaves me in awe of nature, and the small town culture that is so prevelent there. I love the way the air seems so fresh, and the mountains make me feel safe, as they surround me on all sides. The bright oranges and yellows in Autumn, and the crispness of the weather are like no other.