NOTE: This is the Yoga Journal cover story that launched Life On Purpose Institute in August of 1996. While the article was written over a decade ago, it's as pertinent today as it was back then, maybe more so.
In Lewis Carroll's childhood classic, Through the Looking-Glass,
one of Alice's misadventures in Wonderland is with the Red Queen who
takes her on a wild run through the countryside. But no matter how fast
Alice runs she can't seem to get anywhere. Finally, breathless from her
efforts, the Queen allows her to rest long enough for Alice to comment
that "Everything is just as it was!" to which the Queen replies,
"…Here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the
same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least
twice as fast as that!"
Several years ago, I remembered Alice's predicament, as I stood on the
deck outside my home, gazing into a meandering stream threading its way
through my back yard. I thought Alice must have felt similar to how I
was feeling about my life. I was physically exhausted and emotionally
out of breathe, running as fast as I could to keep up with an
out-of-control lifestyle of my own making. As I gazed across the wooded
lot and listened to the bubbling of the water across the rocks, I
realized the scene before me had been much of the reason I had
purchased the home about a year before. At the time I had imagined
spending countless hours out on the deck, basking in the sun, watching
the seasons roll by, but the seasons had rolled by without me. I'd not
so much as stepped foot on the deck in all that time. I'd been too busy
working 50-60 hours a week at my veterinary practice so I could pay the
mortgage on the house, not to mention keeping two car payments up, and
the three credit cards paid down. Like Alice, I realized something was
wrong with this picture. I was running as fast as I could just to keep
I'd like to say that out of that realization I put the house on the
market, traded the cars in for older models without payments, cut up my
credit cards, and started living a simpler life. Unfortunately, it
wasn't that easy. I hadn't suffered enough yet. It wasn't until my
second marriage ended in divorce and I came close to burn out in my
profession before the lesson finally hit home. However, the seed of an
idea was planted that day, many years ago, and though it took a while,
the harvest of a simple life my new wife and I have designed is sweet
and well worth the wait.
THE COMPLEXITIES OF SIMPLE LIVING
My personal journey to a simpler life was motivated by two factors
fatigue and frustration. I'd been on the fast track ever since taking
my first part-time job at the age of 15 working at the library
downtown. I held my nose to the proverbial grind stone through junior
and senior high school, being sure to make the types of grades that
would prove to the world that I was worthy of attending veterinary
college. I even managed to rush through undergraduate school,
completing a four year pre-vet program in less than three. By the time
the mid-eighties rolled around, I'd been hoofing it hot and heavy for
over twenty years, and by American standards, I was a success. Yet
despite all the success trappings, I kept thinking, "Is this all there
My frustration grew out of a lack of finding meaningful ways to express
my natural creative interests. Although my art teachers in high school
had urged me to continue studying art in college, I would hear none of
it. I knew artists starved and veterinarians didn't. Yet, by the time I
found myself standing on my deck contemplating the similarities between
Alice's predicament and my own, I was starved creatively and
Selling my veterinary practice in 1989 to become a freelance writer
seemed like an excellent way to take a long break from running as fast
as I could just to stay in the same place. I envisioned sitting on my
deck tapping away on the keyboard for a couple hours each day, but when
I realized how much money the deck was costing me, I decided if the
little nest egg from the sale of my practice was going to last more
than six months, I'd better find a less expensive deck to sit upon.
Although at the time I hadn't even heard the term "voluntary
simplicity," these moves to simplify my life just "felt right," even
though some of my friends and family thought I must have brain damage
from breathing too much anesthetic while performing surgery. About this
time Ann and I met and fell in love. Ann not only supported the career
change but had a small townhouse complete with deck. I rented out my
home in order to reduce expenses and paid Ann rent on her spare
bedroom. Could life be this easy, I thought? On this occasion the
answer was no. I discovered over the next year that making a living as
a freelance writer wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. After a
year of rejection letters and watching my savings rapidly dwindle, I
jumped at the chance when a good friend of mine offered me the
opportunity to come to work as a business consultant. The regular
salary allowed us to move back to the larger home and lease the smaller
one. Two years and one marriage later, I realized I had come full
circle, once again working a 50 to 60 hour job that paid well but
didn't give me the time for my creative outlet.
A pivotal time came with the arrival of my daughter, Amber. While she
was still an infant, I slowed down long enough to notice the families
around me. With most of our friends, both the husband and wife worked,
and the kids were farmed out to overflowing day care centers. Neither
Ann nor I wanted that for Amber. It had taken me over forty years to
get around to having a child and I wasn't interested in being an
Still, it took me several weeks before I built up enough nerve to
discuss my thoughts with Ann. After all, I had a secure job complete
with an excellent salary and long term benefits. So what if I wasn't
happy? I was a good provider. Finally, one afternoon while driving home
from visiting friends, I poured my feelings out, ending with, "I think
I should quit my job and go back to writing. What do you think?" To my
astonishment, Ann replied, "I agree." Instantly, a great burden lifted
from my shoulders and we started making plans for "right-sizing" our
life to fit our new direction.
After struggling to keep two different houses for over two years, we
sold the larger house within a few short months, in the process
consolidating two houses of furniture into one. The more we sold and
gave away, the more freedom we experienced.
Looking back, I realize now that there was a certain "chicken or the
egg" phenomenon to simplifying my life. There was an inner as well as
outer process that seemed to work simultaneously or were so interwoven
that it's difficult to tell which came first.
Richard Gregg, who coined the term "voluntary simplicity" back in 1936
points to this outward slowing down process that frees up ones time to
pursue the inner work that continues the cycle. One of the first things
our decision to slow down gave us was time time to take long walks with
Amber in the stroller; time to get to know each other better and to
explore our values. Fortunately, we discovered we shared many of the
same values. With each discovery our relationship grew stronger. Gregg,
himself an interesting mixture of Eastern and Western cultures, having
lived in India as a student of Gandhi as well as attending Harvard,
describes this inner and outer work in this way:
"Voluntary simplicity involves both inner and outer condition. It means
singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, as well as
avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the
chief purpose of life. It means an ordering and guiding of our energy
and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to
secure greater abundance of life in other directions. It involves a
deliberate organization of life for a purpose."
While I wasn't sure what my life purpose was yet, the urge to write was
too strong to ignore, and it became increasingly clear that we were
willing to reduce our material wants so I could focus more on my
writing and so we would have time together as a family. Ann learned
from reading The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyzyn that we could save
significantly by buying our food in bulk and storing it under our bed.
We cut back on eating out as well as our movie going. Instead we waited
a few months for the movies we wanted to see to come out on video. Then
we discovered if we waited a few more months, we could find the same
videos for rent at a local discount store for one-third the price. Each
discovery was a small victory for our new lifestyle.
Although these steps might sound like a move to deprivation and
austerity, we didn't find it to be so. "That is the greatest
misconception about what simple living is about," says Bo Lozoff,
cofounder with his wife, Sita, of the Human Kindness Foundation.
The Lozoff's have practiced voluntary simplicity for close to thirty
years, after living on a boat while in their twenties and realizing the
joys of such simple living. "If someone approaches it in that way, they
will feel poor," says Bo. "The whole point of giving things up is that
you feel the richness that results, a psychic release of just not
having a bunch of stuff, and not having to be on this constant
treadmill to keep the stuff. Simplicity is a great joy, not a
punishment or stern discipline."
Meanwhile we continued making inner discoveries as well, including that
we shared an intense interest in further developing our spirituality. A
whole new dimension of simple living began to unfold. Having turned my
back on my southern Baptist background around the fourth grade, I had
missed Jesus' message to "not store up treasures on earth," but to
share our wealth and ourselves with others.
I've since learned that Jesus wasn't the only spiritual leader who
advocated the virtues of simple living. Buddha also urged a balanced
path between indulgence and deprivation, and Confucius, Lao-tzu,
Mohammed, and many others also taught the value of simplicity as well
as finding a balance between the inner and outer aspects of our lives.
The idea of simple living isn't new in our American culture, dating
back at least to the days of Thoreau's two-plus years at Walden Pond,
as well as to the frugal, self-reliant lifestyles of the Puritans. The
idea has, at times, struggled with its own identity crisis, being
called many different names including, "the frugality phenomenon,"
"creative simplicity," and more recently "down-sizing," "right-sizing"
Although we weren't sure what to call what we were doing either, we did
notice that the more steps we took to simplify, including purging the
clutter around us through yards sales and through donating boxes upon
boxes of clothes, knickknacks, and household items to the Salvation
Army, the more time we had to explore what truly satisfied us.
We began volunteering some of our newly found time to organizations and
causes we believed in. Again, many of our friends didn't understood
what we were doing. "You spend that much time working without pay?"
they'd ask incredulously. We tried to explain that, although our pay
could not be socked away in the bank, we were being more than
adequately compensated by being able to contribute to others. Some
understood, others walked away shaking their heads. In this way we
slowly found ourselves encircled with people who understood and
supported our efforts, and we started to notice there were more people
interested in living a simple life than we'd first imagined.
Then one day, while reading a book review in the newspaper, I found out
what we had become DOMOs. According to the book, Trash Cash, Fizzbos,
and Flatliners: A Dictionary of Today's Words, DOMOs are "downwardly
mobile professionals, typically under 40, who abandon a successful or
promising career to concentrate on more meaningful or spiritual
activities." It was a relief to realize that there were enough other
people out there doing what we were doing to finally be named. Down
with Yuppies, up with DOMOs.
Despite having trouble coming up with a term that satisfies everyone,
we may look back at the nineties as the decade when simple living
finally caught on as an "idea whose time has come." According to a
recent study, Yearning for Balance, prepared for the Merck Family Fund
by The Harwood Group, the road to DOMOdom is filled with former Yuppie
baby-boomers with 72% of people aged 40-49 agreeing with the survey
statement, "I would like to simplify my life." Of course, that doesn't
mean everyone who would like to simplify has taken the necessary steps,
but many of them appear to be moving in that direction. Twenty-eight
percent of all the respondents said that "in the last five years, they
had voluntarily made changes in their life which resulted in making
less money not including those who had taken a regularly scheduled
THE OUTER ROADS OF SIMPLICITY
"It's not a cookie cutter lifestyle," says Vicki Robin of the New Road Map Foundation and co-author of the book, Your Money or Your Life,
referring to the varied approaches people have taken to simplifying
their lives. Vicki and her partner, Joe Dominguez, have lived for over
twenty years on about $6,000 of annual investment income each, even
though their book has been a top seller since being published in 1992.
The proceeds of the book go to organizations that promote a sustainable
future for our country and the world, such as the Northwest Earth
Institute which offers classes on voluntary simplicity. Along with Joe
and Vicki many other DOMOs are simplifying their life by becoming
debt-free. According to John Cummuta, president and founder of
Financial Independence Network Limited, Inc. (F.I.N.L.), the Yuppie
model of the eighties has turned up empty for many people living it,
and the next generation that would be expected to step into that
lifestyle is rejecting it, saying, "No, these people aren't happy."
Up until a few years ago, Cummuta led such a lifestyle, working in a
top paying position for a company that was doing very well. "I thought,
'this is it, we've achieved the American Dream.'" At the time Cummuta
drove a leased Corvette, his wife a leased Oldsmobile Regency Brougham,
and they were making payments on an airplane they kept at the airport
not far from their large home. "We did it all on credit," admits
Cummuta, "but we could make all the payments. We were not being
irresponsible in terms of our culture's norms."
Then the company Cummuta worked for suddenly went out of business, and
he found himself without any income. "It was the worst two years of my
life, and also the best two years of my life because it burned into me
an understanding that I was not a success. I didn't own anything. I was
renting a lifestyle and when I could no longer afford the rent payment,
I was evicted from the lifestyle." Out of that experience, Cummuta
developed a system that allows people to get completely out of debt,
including their mortgage, in about five to seven years and F.I.N.L. was
born. Even though Cummuta's company has experienced rapid growth and
was listed as one of INC. Magazine's 500 hundred fastest-growing companies in 1994, he continues to run the company with no debt.
Cummuta's approach to debt elimination is simple. Start by cutting up
your credit cards. When I heard this, it made sense. If you have a
patient who is bleeding to death, first stop the bleeding. But I found
doing it not so easy. "What if an emergency arises? I'll need that
credit," was just one of several excuses. When I listened to myself
justify keeping my cards intact, I realized how hooked I was on them.
Instead of going "cold turkey," I weaned myself off of them, keeping
one card safely tucked away in a safe deposit box to avoid impulse
Once you've stopped the bleeding, Cummuta's Financial Freedom Strategy
has three major stages: Pay off ALL debt first, operate strictly on a
cash basis, and then focus all available cash on wealth-building. A
fourth stage that Cummuta claims more and more Americans are choosing
is to move to a cheaper, safer, and more enjoyable location.
This was the case for Frank Levering and Wanda Urbanska, who
acknowledge they were 'fast trackers' living in Los Angeles. Frank was
a successful, though harried, screenwriter and freelance journalist,
and Wanda a newspaper reporter for the Examiner.
But after seven years of LA living, they realized they were miserable.
"It reached a point that the marriage wasn't going to make it without
more time for each other and other pursuits," says Levering.
When Frank's father, who owned an orchard in Virginia, suffered a
serious heart attack and none of the other six kids expressed an
interest in taking over the orchard, Frank and Wanda decided to move
back east. While they were fortunate to have such a place to move to,
the orchard also came with a debt of over a $100,OOO and was going down
hill. "Those two factors forced us to simplify," admits Levering, and
with such a large debt, all their spare cash went to paying it off. "We
were looking for ways to cut costs and save money. In a number of areas
we started cutting costs and found out that we liked it."
After moving into an old farmhouse, they decided, rather then go deeper
in debt to furnish it, to live with what they had and economize
wherever they could. "We discovered that we liked the whole process and
we were feeling better about ourselves, despite the hard work," in part
because they often worked together which gave them back time for their
relationship which had been missing in L. A. Since they were both
writers, they eventually decided to write about their experiences, and
co-authored Simple Living: One Couple's Search for a Better Life.
Although many people have found moving to the country approach works
well for them, it's not a necessity. Jeff Beal, his wife and child,
live in the Los Angeles area because that is what works for their
careers. As a song writer and singer, respectively, the Beals prefer
the city setting, although they do feel that moving to a more country
setting may be in their future. "Because I'm an artist, some of the
things that mean the most to me as a composer don't generate the most
amount of money. I'm concerned with having a lifestyle that isn't so
extravagant that I have to sale my artistic soul to support my
lifestyle." The Beals have managed to live simply despite their urban
setting by becoming more conscious of what they spend their money on.
Rather than trading in their cars every couple of years for new models,
they've chosen to keep their older ones. Around the house, they're much
more likely to try to fix a broken appliance than rushing out and
buying a new one, as well as making their own home repairs rather than
hiring someone. Eating out is another place where they've been able to
save substantially. "People in L. A. tend to eat out a lot," observes
Beal. "We've found that when we do it less, it's more enjoyable when we
do go out."
Penny Yunuba is another example of someone living the simple life in
the city. She quit her job in 1988 to live her life the way she wanted.
She rented one of her bedrooms to someone and sold her car because
public transportation and friends made it possible to live without one.
She volunteers her time to an organization that in turn pays her health
insurance. In this way she has designed a life far different from the
get-ahead treadmill of her previous career in microcomputer sales.
Yunuba says one of the side benefits of living a simple lifestyle is
the depth and closeness of her friendships. Although it was not
something she expected, it is one of the greatest joys in her life.
Simple living "gives people a fresh set of eyes to look at old habitual
patterns to discover for themselves empowered new ways of doing
things," observes Vicki Robin. "It's the joy that comes from that
awakening that leads to tremendous savings and feelings of freedom and
One of Vicki's favorite stories comes from a family who followed the
steps outlined in their book to simplify their lives. After following
the program for awhile, they suddenly noticed they were not using their
dining room, preferring to eat their meals in the family room. So, they
sold the dining room furniture. They, then, converted the room into a
spare bedroom and had a couple move in trading room and board for yard
work, house work, and child care. The room became known as their
"$6,000 room" because they calculated they had been spending that much
for those services. Such creative ideas become the norm when people
begin to take back their lives and have time for what's truly important
THE INNER ROADS TO SIMPLICITY
As Mark Burch points out in his book, Simplicity: Notes, Stories and Exercises for Developing Unimaginable Wealth,
simplicity starts with a fundamental shift in consciousness, otherwise
you will continue to be uptight, worried and stressed, whether you have
a lot of possessions or you have none at all. For Burch, simple living
"does not begin with discarding personal possessions and then searching
for alternative, simpler ways of meeting the same needs. Rather, the
technology begins with the cultivation of mindfulness. As we grow in
our capacity for and enjoyment of mindfulness, then the outer aspects
of our lives eventually and progressively come into alignment with this
As Ann and I continued along our path of simple living, we found this
process occurring naturally and with little effort. Even though we
enjoyed living in Greensboro NC, a midsize city in the central part of
the state, we found we shared a hidden fantasy of one day living in the
mountains, so we began taking weekend trips exploring likely locations.
In the process, we found the mountains soothing to our inner nature. It
gave us both a feeling like we had come home, even though neither of us
had ever lived in the mountains. One area in particular beckoned to us,
but we heard from everyone we talked to that it was a resort and
retirement community and far too expensive an area to settle in. Still,
we couldn't get it out of our minds. We each sat with it, meditating
and praying. A few months later, upon returning from a spiritual
retreat in Alabama, I swung out of my way to drive through the area
once more. Within less then 30-minutes of returning to our "favorite
spot" I discovered the perfect house for sale. On further investigation
we found that since the home had a lower level apartment which could be
rented at seasonal rates, we could live exactly where we wanted to in a
larger home for significantly less money. It even had not one but two
decks. Such synchronicity seems to run hand-in-hand with the
mindfulness that Burch speaks about. The inner knowing becomes clearer
as one becomes more focused in life.
Another aspect of the inner journey of simplicity is the willingness to
simplify mentally, emotionally and spiritually — to let go of old ways
of thinking that no longer serve you, old emotional wounds of regret,
jealousy, and resentments. As Birch points out it also means for many
of us, letting go of what we think we know about God. "I had to let go
of huge hunks of stuff that I was taught in the name of religion," says
Birch who was raised as a Roman Catholic.
Over the years I have come to realize as I simplify my outer world,
that my inner world deserves equal time. A simpler life provides this
time to focus, to stop, breath, and reflect on what needs to be
released as well as examine what is really important. Whether this is
done in a quiet mountain setting, at the local coffee house, or
privately in one's home, the opportunity to reflect upon one's life is
an important one. When one takes the time to do this, one of the things
they realize is that there is a close relationship between simplicity
and spiritual growth. Often, it is also a part that terrifies many
people. "What happens if I turn off the TV and there's silence, then
what?" asks Burch. "That idea is so anxiety provoking that usually we
keep the TV on, or go to the beach, or get a new car, or stay busy and
in motion? But if I turn off the TV and it's quiet then what do I do?
Where will I point my mind and what will I do with my will? The
spiritual writers tell us that if you will stay with that, stay in that
quiet, in fact, enter it more deeply, and you move beyond the feeling
anxious and be in the silence and emptiness of that moment, then grace
and God be willing, you will know God a little more."
Ernest Callenbach, author of Living Cheaply with Style and the classic, Ecotopia,
says it more bluntly. "I don't think it's possible to live a rich
spiritual life if you are very concerned with buying and selling as the
main thing about your life. Leading a reflective life requires you to
detach from a lot of petty, passing human concerns, and consumerism is
about the most petty and passing human concern that we're exposed to.
"To my knowledge, all known religions, including Christianity,
recommends, not austerity, but simplicity as a spiritual discipline,"
continues Callenbach. As it says in the Bible, "it is easier for a
camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter
the kingdom of God."
"I think we can translate that pretty directly into modern terms. If
you are caught up in the consumer economy to the extent that it
impoverishes the rest of your spiritual being, you certainly aren't
going to obtain any kind of enlightenment."
If however one uses the practice of simplicity to free up some time,
then uses that time to deepen spiritually and emotionally, it tends to
motivate the person to simplify further which leads to more free time.
For some, this newly found "free time" may lead to a renewed level of
creativity; for others the time may be spent more introspectively in
meditation or other spiritual practices; still others may find their
time spent in service of their fellow human beings. "You'll find what
your time is for once you start to have it," observes Vicki Robins.
SIMPLE LIVING AND GAIA
Many of the people who choose to live a simpler lifestyle, do so, at
least in part, because it allows them to walk gentler upon the face of
Mother Earth. According to the Yearning for Balance study,
environmental sustainability is an important question for many
Americans, with 86% of the survey respondents saying they are concerned
with the quality of the environment, and 93% of them admitting that an
underlying cause of environmental problems is that "the way we live
produces too much waste."
"The level of consumption that we identify with success is utterly unsustainable," says John Robbins, author of Diet
for a New America and the forthcoming Reclaiming Our Health: Exploding
the Medical Myth and Embracing the Source of True Healing (H.J.
Kramer). "We're gobbling up the world." Many Americans are still coming
to grip with the fact that the world's resource base is limited. More
and more, living simply is not only a good idea, it is becoming
paramount to our survival. "Prosperity based on pollution is not
prosperity," continues Robbins. "It's short term profit, long term
disaster." Robbins, the heir-apparent to the Baskin-Robbins ice cream
fortune until he walked away from it at the age of twenty-one, has an
interesting prospective on the affluent lifestyle so long held as the
American Dream. "I had the privilege of growing up in a very wealthy
family. Among my parents' friends were some of the wealthiest people in
the world, and, I must tell you in all honesty, they were also some of
the most neurotic people in the world. So I've had the opportunity to
learn first hand that acquiring things can be a total distraction. What
we've done in our society is to make greed into a lifestyle; we've
almost made it into a religion."
In his book, Living Cheaply with Style, Callenbach points
out that, as with other aspects of simple living, leading an
ecologically responsible life doesn't mean self-sacrifice or austerity.
It does, in fact, result in a richer, fuller, longer and healthier
life. One way to understand this is to consider what Callenbach calls
the Green Triangle. The three points of the triangle are environment,
health and saving money, with the basic connecting principle being,
"Anytime you do something beneficial for one of them, you will almost
inevitably also do something beneficial for the other two whether
you're aiming to or not."
Callenbach claims this principle holds true 96-98 percent of the time.
He cites as an example, people's diet. The American culture is obsessed
right now with eating less fat in their diet. Interestingly enough,
"eating a lower fat diet also saves you, sometimes astonishing amounts
of money," says Callenbach, "and of course, it's also good for the
Earth since raising cattle is ecologically destructive."
Dick and Jeanne Roy are two people who have not only promised to tread
lightly on the earth but are also teaching thousands of others how to
do the same through their nonprofit organization, the Northwest Earth
Institute (NWEI) in Portland Oregon. For over 20 years, the Roys have
held true to their promise, despite their six-figure income from Dick's
job as managing partner of one the largest law firms in the Northwest,
a position he retired from in 1993 to work full time as a volunteer at
NWEI offers three discussion courses in workplaces, churches and
schools; Deep Ecology and Related Topics, Voluntary Simplicity, and The
Bioregional Perspective – Discovering Your Natural Community. Says Roy
about the Voluntary Simplicity course, "Once you've gone through the
course, it's hard to live in denial. Fundamentally, people find that
simplicity is taking control and through simplicity you enrich your
life. It's hard not to come to that conclusion." Unfortunately,
according to the Yearning for Balance study, although Americans realize
something must be done, many are "waiting for somebody else to act
first: their neighbors, big corporations, or the government." Others
feel that technology will be our environmental savior. As one
participant of the study said, "technology will make your life easier
and cheaper and environmentally as it develops. I don't think simplifying your life is going to do one bit."
If such thinking persists in our culture, we may be in for a rude
awakening within the not-too-distant future. "Probably in the 2020's
we, as a planet, are going to hit an ecological wall," predicts Duane
Elgin, author of The Awakening Earth: Exploring the Evolution of Human Culture and Consciousness, and his 1983 book, Voluntary Simplicity,
which is considered a classic by many people pursuing a simpler life.
Elgin has chosen to take an "earn as you go" approach to simple living,
rather than build up a nest egg and living off the interest. "I don't
think there is going to be some magical transformation within the year
2000. There might be a TV special, but that's about it. If we have not
prepared for this, in terms of evolving our culture and consciousness,
and in terms of creating tools of mass communication so we can talk our
way through it, we're going to descend into resource wars, massive
civil unrest, and a huge die-off of people on the planet. The
combination of the ecological adversity and the psychological and
political problems could send us into an evolutionary detour."
THE NEXT MILLENNIUM: GLOBAL COMMUNITY OR THE NEXT DARK AGE?
In November 1992, the Union of Concerned Scientists met in Washington
DC where 1600 of the senior scientists, including a majority of the
living Nobel Laureates endorsed a statement entitled, "World
Scientists' Warning to Humanity." It stated: "A great change in our
stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required, if vast human
misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be
These are decisive, pivotal times for the evolution of humankind,
points out Elgin who, after twenty-five years of studying the
situation, says, "I'm not all that heartened by the swift mobilization
of the body-politic to respond to all this. I thinking we're sitting on
our hands, for the most part."
But humanity's future has not yet been engraved in stone. We still have
time to make the difficult decisions that lay before us. Necessity is,
after all the, mother of invention. Although our future is uncertain,
we need not be paralyzed by despair. Interestingly enough, arising with
the challenges we face are the solutions, both in technology and in
Building a sustainable future is well within our grasps if we are
willing to take the steps necessary. In The Awakening Earth, Elgin says
two of our priorities which will need to be addressed are: breaking the
cultural hypnosis of consumerism and developing and maintaining
ecological ways of living. But perhaps our most important priority is
the creation of "compelling visions of a sustainable future. We cannot
consciously build a future that we have not imagined," writes Elgin.
"Many people can visualize a future of worsening crisis ecological
destruction, famines, civil unrest, and material limitations but few
have a positive vision of the future. Without a hopeful future to work
toward, people will tend to withdraw into a protected world for
themselves and focus on the short run."
Our destiny has never been more in our hands. If we live in a complex
world, it is one of our own design. Perhaps it is time to create a new
vision of a sustainable, simpler, more spiritually directed world one
based on our mutually shared intrinsic values rather than one based on
the value of a dollar. I believe the Universe is on our side, deeply
committed to our success while at the same time completely unattached
to the outcome. We each have the opportunity to choose, moment by
moment, what kind of world we bring forth. Perhaps we will find after
so many years of running so hard just to stay in the same place, that
there really isn't anywhere to get to. It could be that in slowing down
we'll find that we've been living in the land of plenty all along. Now,
it's time to start taking care of it.
(I kept these resources as part of the article even though I don't know if all of them are still pertinent or in existence. One of them I know is — the one that was launched by this article – Life On Purpose.
Simplicity: Notes, Stories and Exercises for Developing Unimaginable Wealth by Mark A. Burch, New Society Publishers, Gabriola Island, BC and Philadelphia, PA
Living Cheaply with Style by Ernest Callenbach, Ronin Publishing, Inc. Berkeley, CA 94701
Awakening Earth: Exploring the Evolution of Human Culture and Consciousness by Duane Elgin, William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York NY
Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin, Quill William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York NY
Simple Living: One's Couple's Search for a Better Life by Frank Levering and Wanda Urbanska, Viking New York NY
Your Money or Your Life by Joe Domingues and Vicki Robin Viking, New York, NY
New Road Map Foundation is an all volunteer, nonprofit organization
that promotes a humane, sustainable future for our world. P.O. Box
15981, Dept. BK, Seattle, WA 98115, 206-527-5114.
Northwest Earth Institute, offers programs on the environment as well
as voluntary simplicity. 921 SW Morrison, Ste. 532 Portland, OR, 97205,
503-227-2807. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Financial Independence Network Limited, Inc. is a publishing company
that markets and distributes personal finance and small business
publications and programs including the Debt Free and Prosperous Living
program. For more information, call 1-800-321-3465 and mention 0BTW for
Life on Purpose provides educational material and programs on living
lives of service, simple living and spiritual exploration. 1160 W. Blue
Ridge Road, PO Box 834 Flat Rock, NC 28731, (828) 697-9239.
The Simple Living Journal, a quarterly newsletter that includes
practical tips and the philosophy of slowing down. Editor Janet Luhrs,
2319 N 45 Street, Box 149, Seattle, WA 98103. For information call
Simple Living News, ten issues a year about "making sane choices in an
insane world." Editor Edith Flowers Kilgo, P. O. Box 1884, Jonesboro,
The Simple Living Network, makes finding Healthy, Natural products easy
on the Internet. Their site offers low priced, helpful items including
books, natural foods, vitamins and supplements, and natural pet
products. E-mail: email@example.com WWW: http://slnet.com/ or call (509)-395-2529