This I Believe
I believe in simplicity. To begin with I believe in material simplicity. I live and work in Kenya and believe in development and the need to assist those who are impoverished increase their access to necessary resources and education. However, I also believe that such development is short-sighted if it is not accompanied by equal efforts to reduce drastically my own consumption. As I look at the piles of plastic garbage and convenient “disposables” along the footpaths near my home in Kenya and in impoverished urban areas around the world, I recognize that our beautiful planet cannot sustain itself if everyone lives at my current level of consumption and waste.
Furthermore, as someone who interacts with the more materially poor on a daily basis, I have come to recognize that I am perhaps the one in great need of formation, growth, and conversion. I am the one in need of transformation and a change of lifestyle. While many of those whom I encounter on a daily basis might be in need of greater access to resources, they are often swimming in an abundance of joy and peace cultivated through time spent with family and friends; time spent observing and listening to the rhythms of life. I, on the other hand, have often failed to shake off my own cultural baggage so that I might learn from the wisdom all around me.
I believe that simple is not always cheap and cheap is not always simple. I believe that simplicity is not only about living on less. Sometimes, to be better stewards of our earth and other resources it becomes necessary to spend more to buy locally produced goods and resources. I believe in making an effort to participate in more local economies rather than frequenting the identical “big-box-stores” which are ugly reminders of our consumption that have not only taken over the landscape of American cities, towns, and villages, but also the landscape of much of the rest of our world.
I believe that by consuming less and slowing down I can enjoy more time with myself, my loved ones and my God. By reducing my consumption I can reduce my stress and instead enjoy the more subtle pleasures in my world.
Finally, my belief in simplicity inevitably sets me up to be a hypocrite. I am, for better and for worse, a product of my consuming culture. In a constant effort to swim against that current, the most I can expect of myself and others is a concerted effort to drastically reduce consumption, and as a by-product, hopefully embrace more of life and its simple pleasures. As Gandhi said “ We must keep the ideal constantly in view, and in light thereof, critically examine our possessions, and try to reduce them. Civilization, in a real sense of the term, consists not in the multiplication, but on the deliberate and voluntary reduction of wants”.
So, I cry aloud as did William Blake: “more! More! Is the cry of a mistaken soul”. I believe that, indeed this cry for more and tendencies to defend it are in fact the greatest source of conflict and violence in our world.
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