This is a guest post from my friend Jesse over at Slowing Down.
Someone asked me that the other day, and we won’t get into the cultural differences that made the conversation even more interesting, but rather I’d like to focus on the question and how I would answer it. In his book Beyond Civilization, Daniel Quinn sums up what he sees as the driving force behind civilizations failure to curb it’s own destruction like this:
Old minds think: if it didn’t work last year, let’s do MORE of it this year.
New minds think: If it didn’t work last year, let’s do something ELSE this year.
So the short answer to the question I started the post with is: Simplicity is about changing what society sees when it looks at consumer culture. It’s about changing what our felt needs are as a society, and making people realize that Keeping Up With The Jones’ is actually dragging us down. It’s about making small changes to the way we live, that when added up will bring about the paradigm shift we are looking for.
If the need for “the next big thing” is what drives our consumer culture – and has been driving it for the better part of the last century – has brought us to the brink of cultural collapse…maybe it’s time to try something else?
Maybe it’s time to take a walk instead of seeing a movie.
Maybe it’s time to make dinner at home for you and a couple of your closest friends, using local, in season produce.
Maybe it’s time to give away a box of STUFF that you didn’t even remember you had.
Maybe it’s time to rethink driving everywhere you go and try commuting by bus one day a week.
The little steps that each of us take everyday to move in this direction are what’s going to create a tipping point. Once enough of us take one of these steps every day, or every week, whatever feels comfortable for you – we will finally start to see the changes in our society that we long for. Once enough of us see that you can find true happiness without having to buy it on credit…we can finally stop calling ourselves “consumers” and start to think about each other as “people.”
That, in a large nutshell, is what simplicity means to me. You don’t have to become an ascetic, you don’t have to move into a cave in the mountains. You can start right here, right now by doing one small thing. And for each small thing you do, remember that someone else is doing their own one small thing, and someone else is too…