Archive for July 2013
My motto: “Make a Plan and Work It. Change it when necessary.”
The plan forces me to see the big picture, then to fill in the details. It prevents me from flailing about, feeling pulled in many directions. And it keeps me on task.
The second part is also important, being open to new ideas without being distracted by every notion.
It works whether it’s a new project or routine chores.
I also say, “Do the easy stuff first.” It’s a variation of the 80-20 rule — “20% of the people do 80% of the work.” In this case, 80% of the work is relatively easy, somewhat repetitive work. Do it first, if possible. We may learn things along the way that will prepare us for the harder 20%.
Make a plan and work it. Change it when necessary.
Some folks only want a device that works perfectly, i.e. my wife. And when it doesn’t, replace it. A few folks still repair things, as in reduce-recycle-REUSE. So many items are not designed to be repaired. They’re made cheaply and difficult to repair on purpose. Part of the plot to keep us constantly consuming is called planned obsolesense. That is, they’re designed to break.
I admit, I’m not very handy. Repair service can be expensive.
My solution is the work-around. Find some other way to do the job. Find some way to use the appliance, even if it doesn’t work perfectly. Or don’t do the job. Find another solution. It’s fun to think outside-the-box, to challenge the system.
Yes, work-arounds can be more time consuming. They’re not based on convenience, as so much of our economic system is.
Let’s say what overconsumption really is. It’s addiction. And as with any addiction, it is powerful. It takes great will power, faith and tools to beat an addiction. It can be done. In our society, we are fighting numerous addictions – the “war on drugs.” The difference is that the addiction of overconsumption is not only condoned by our culture, not just allowed, it is encouraged, fed, promoted by peer pressure and by advertising. We are told it is patriotic to buy, that our economy depends on it, that we are worth it.
I have suffered an addiction most of my life. It may seem harmless, even beneficial. It surely can’t compare to the biggies like alcohol and tobacco. But it’s an addiction nonetheless and I have struggled to overcome it. For 40+ years, I was addicted to music. I built an enormous collection of scores and recordings. For a while, it gave me a sense of security to be surrounded by all this beauty. I could easily justify it. I could play it in church. I was enriching myself. I was growing esthetically. Actually I was hoarding. I had a need to own, to possess. As if that was going to make me or anyone else a better musician! And now I have given away most of this library. Do you happen to know anybody who could really use some scratchy classical records?
This example is part of a larger plan. Quite awhile ago I vowed to reduce my possessions by half by the time I was 50. I spent a few hours a week sorting, giving away, recycling. It was time-consuming but rewarding. It’s great to feel the burden of stuff lifted from my shoulders.
For help in dealing with the addiction of overconsumption, see 12 Steps to a Simpler Life, inspired by the 12 steps of AA.
Rodale*, the respected health publisher of Prevention magazine and others, has one for young adult women called “Organic Living.” Why include fashions, as well as fitness and health care products? Because as vice-chair Maria Rodale says (in an interview in LOHAS** Journal), the younger audience wants substance, but they want to look good too…. They want to do the right thing in their hearts, but they want to be comfortable and want to feel stylish while they’re doing it.”
To paraphrase: They want to DO GOOD… and they want to LOOK GOOD doing it.
I commend a long standing, respected organization for being in touch with times. I wish them well.
However, this is another example of why most men wear almost every day the most pervasive symbol of British imperialism – the neck tie. Or why women (mostly) buy enough cosmetics annually in North America to educate all the uneducated in the world! Or why people take diet pills or steroids to look like the latest waif or maxi-abs.
The tyranny of appearances. Heaven forbid that others see us the way we really are – physically, spiritually, intellectually, emotionally!
So we surround ourselves with stuff – expensive houses, multiple Earth-killing vehicles, inane collections. And we go into debt and mortgage our lives, dividing ourselves from our families to work to pay for all this stuff.
Let’s consider living a lot more simply. Reduce stress and debt. Have more TIME to enjoy relationships. Stuff is a burden! It distracts from joy.
To break the tyranny of appearances, consider:
- Wearing simple clothing that keeps us warm or cool as needed and that meets our level of modesty.
- Living, working and worshipping in dwellings that meet our needs for shelter, that use as few resources as possible in construction and maintenance.
- Eating simple nutritious foods, processed as little as possible.
- Using alternative transportation – car pooling, bus, walking, bikes.
- Participating in sports and entertainment that respect people and the Earth.
Notice that money’s not on the list. Some parts of this lifestyle cost more in cash than the “American Way” of doing it.
Remember the 5th Life Standard of Living More with Less: Non-conform Freely.
*We recommend “The Joy of Simple Living” from Rodale.
**LOHAS means “Lifestyles of Health & Sustainability.”
People ask me why I continue to swim upstream. The purpose of my ministry continues to be helping Christians to walk their talk. A prophetic ministry is not about foretelling the future. It is about helping people to see the logical consequences of our actions.
So how do I get up each day? One of my main sources of inspiration has been the saying of St. Frances of Assisi, “We are not called to be successful but to be faithful.”
Another source is that voluntary simplicity is a comprehensive lifestyle – satisfying, effective, faithful and not deprivation. It’s so much more than wearing our favorite old clothes and growing a few tomatoes. The five Life Standards of Living More with Less give us a framework.
Sometimes when I speak people say, “You’re just preaching to the choir.” I reply, “Yes, because the choir needs to sing a whole lot louder!” People who are inclined to live more simply need support and tools. Changing those who are content with overconsumption is much harder. In case you missed Influencing Others.
I was talking with one of my relatives recently. He was obviously disappointed that SLW! was not an overt proselytizing organization. I told him about our call to care for all God’s Creation. He said that one soul was more important to him than all of the environment.
The problem is that God does not gives us that option. God calls us to care for all Creation, including both the spiritual (faith, inward) and discipleship (action, outward) parts of our Christian life.
My cousin’s attitude is typical of Christians who justify abuse (domination) of the Earth because “Jesus is coming back anyway and all will be destroyed.” But God does not give us that option as Christians. We are called to care for all Creation, regardless of when Jesus comes back. We don’t know when. WHEN is irrelevant. We have our calling now!
I love the ELCA* motto: “God’s Work. Our Hands.”
How about the bumper sticker What if we destroy the planet before Jesus gets back? (Yes, I wrote it.)
My neighbor Vern’s never met a garden chemical he didn’t like. His lawn is unnaturally immaculate. He slaughtered twelve mature trees in his back yard last year because they dropped seeds in his dog’s water dish. I couldn’t bring myself to talk to him for a month.
I clear the snow from my drive with a large manual scoop. Works slick. Gives me good exercise. Makes me feel strong. Vern hires a guy with a blade on the front of his truck. Our drives are about the same size.
Wow was I shocked when Vern came over one morning last winter and asked to borrow the scoop. I loaned it to him in a flash. The next time it snowed I didn’t even wait for a request. I plopped it in front of his house. He used it, thanked me, asked where I got it.
Influencing neighbors and relatives is tricky. We’ll see what happens this coming winter.
In case you missed Influencing Others.
Center for a New American Dream promotes sharing and community.
As does Shareable.net.
I don’t like to exercise, so I use podcasts as an incentive. While jogging and biking, I’ve been listening to my favorites on my little player for the last several years. With podcasts, we can listen at a time that suits us.
Many of my friends don’t use podcasts, don’t know how to access them, don’t want to know.
My change came when I received a hand-me-up from my son, an old iPod. There are many MP3 players, the iPod probably the best known. Having worked in radio for almost two decades and being a professional musician for 25 years, the podcast is a natural for me.
MP3 is a digital format for sound. To understand some basic differences, for “analog” think phonograph records (LPs), for “digital” think CDs or flash drives. MP3 sound files have “mp3” at the end of their title, such as “tcg-039.mp3,” i.e., The Common Good episode #39.
MP3 players can store thousands of songs or hundreds of podcasts. It’s like having hundreds of LPs on a devise the size of my thumb! They’re quite inexpensive and small. They run on battery power and are easily recharged. I use lightweight, inexpensive headphones when I exercise. When doing other chores, like the laundry, I plug my iPod into a pair of small computer speakers.
Some podcasts are video. They require a video player, such as an IPad or “tablet.” Their titles end MP4.
Podcasts have several program formats. Some radio and TV programs are issued as podcasts, such as Living on Earth, a popular public radio environmental program. Some podcasts are issued solely as podcasts. Most listeners are familiar with radio and TV programs, whether news, public affairs, talk, advice, comedy, even infomercials. “Pure” podcasts also have diverse formats, including a mix of interviews, call-ins, conversations, rants, editorials, solo, DIY, etc.
There are thousands of podcasts series. iTunes categorizes them, such as religion, education, etc. If you know the actual name of the podcast you want to hear, key that name into the search box at the upper right of the iTune Store page. [Don’t be confused or distracted by the other media offered by iTunes, such as songs for sale.]
I have a dozen favorite podcast series, some monthly, most weekly, some 30 minutes, most an hour. I’ve subscribed to them so that they’re automatically downloaded into my computer. Then I simply plug my iPod into my computer and easily transfer them into my iPod for listening. I can also listen on my computer. Some podcast listeners “sync” their computers and iPods, so that the two have the same content. I prefer to transfer them manually and selectively. Likewise, I remove podcasts from my iPod easily via my computer after I’ve listened to them. My computer has a lot more storage space than my iPod.
I use iTunes to subscribe to podcasts, though there are several podcast services, such as Stitcher.com. Think of iTunes as a newspaper carrier, delivering a podcast from the publisher to you. iTunes can be used on PCs or Macs. It’s no more complicated than your browser for your email. SmartPhones also have apps to listen to podcasts.
I co-host and produce a monthly podcast with Jubilee-Economics.org, called TheCommonGoodPodcast.com. Recent topics include: A Senator Who Speaks Out About Climate Crisis | Green Business Is Better Business | Standing Up for the Small Family Farmer. And we have really interesting folks lined up for this fall.
I plan to start Simple Living Works! podcast in August, probably bi-weekly. I hope you will try some podcasts now so that when my new series appears, you’ll be comfortable accessing them, fitting them into your life and feeling their benefits.