Thursday, December 9, 2010

So Others May Simply Live - Thoughts on Simple Living

Throughout my year in JVC I am supposed to live out and be committed to the four values of JVC.  One of these values, and certainly the most enticing to me, was the concept of simple living.  I can’t really say why I was most drawn to this value, community, social justice, and spirituality are also dominant parts of my life.  
I think my mindset at the beginning of the year was that I would have the community and social justice values down pat because I would be living them out daily.  If I am not a work then I am most likely at home, and vice-versa.  And spirituality, which was a major factor in me choosing JVC over other volunteer programs, honestly was the least important to me of the values.  As you can see, I was over simplifying these values tremendously.
But I felt comfortable with simple living.  I felt that out of all the values of JVC I had the most experience with simple living.  Thinking proudly to myself of what an awesome I must be I thought about the ways I lived simply before I even entered JVC.  I had spent more than a year eating strictly vegetarian, I rode my bike to most places, I tried my hardest to avoid large chains, I recycled and composted, I tried to not buy many things like clothes, especially if they were not needed, and I tried to read instead of watching TV.
But my heart was never really in it.  I ate (and still do) a considerable amount of meat, I used my car way more than necessary, I loved places like Winco, I ate out too often, bought a lot of stupid stuff, and spent a lot of time with my ass planted in front of the TV.  Had I made progress from where I was before I tried to live simply?  Of course.  Was I doing it for the right reasons?  I’m not quite sure.
Unfortunately these character flaws have kept with me in the first four months of JVC, and it has really bothered me.  Yes I am no longer using a car, or spending nearly the same amount of money as I was, but I know I can do better.  
I had spent some time recently thinking about why JVC would make something like living simply one of its values, besides the fact that this year is supposed to be a challenging and formative year for all those involved.  And then it hit me!  Living simply is important to my time in JVC because it directly complements the other three values!  If I want to make the biggest impact on my spirituality, my community, and through the social justice issues that I am part of, I must do it by living simply.
Spirituality - Jesus called us to live simply, to sacrifice everything for the poor, and to dedicate our life serving and living with those who have less.
Community - a group of strangers making sacrifices to benefit their greater community can come together and live united.
Social Justice - living an American lifestyle while trying to end homelessness and other social justice issues is just not going to work out for you.
One of my favorite quotes is from when Gandhi said “live simply so that others may simply love.”  Wow!  And maybe that’s it!  If we can realize that living simply is not a political issue but a human issue then big things can happen.  One of the things people don’t realize when it comes to living simply is that it doesn’t have to be drastic actions and sacrifices.  If people made little steps first, it would make it much easier to take the next step once you’re ready.
And if everyone did this?  What a difference it could make!  If everyone decided to bike or take public transportation just one day a week, if they decided that they could survive with meat in only two of their meals each day instead of three, if they decided they could take a little more effort to throw things in recycle instead of the trash, if people made a little more effort to support small businesses, or check where the things they bought were made, if people bought more organic food instead of the processed crap that is killing us, if people just consumed a little less than they do now it could change the world!
These are not hard sacrifices, it is something that most everyone could do with ease.  And if people with the means to do these things did them, it would make it easier for those who had less.  Driving less, buying less plastic crap would reduce our need of oil, helping stop environmental destruction.  The 80% percent of food grown in the world that goes to animals could instead be used to feed the millions of people starving to death.  Eating healthy food, instead of fast food, could be more readily accessible to all and could help stop the major health crises facing the United States.  
Is this an idealistic dream?  Probably.  But we have reached the point of no return and if people forgot about their pride and greed for a moment we would realize that giving up just small parts of the way we currently live in this society would help the literally billions that are suffering throughout the planet.
One of the most frustrating things about my job is that it really offers no long term solutions, and that seems to be the case of many non-profit.  But this generation, seeing the problems of the world that will become our responsibility, have an amazing opportunity to change the way things are, to change the mindset of how the lives of the world citizens are viewed.  This can no longer be a political issue, we must see the value the life of every person, no matter where they live.  But to do this you must realize that you cannot continue to live your life of endless comfort.  You cannot stand up for these issues but not actually live them out.  But all it takes is some sacrifice, a sacrifice that you will quickly realize won’t kill you, in order to change the world.

1 comment:

  1. The only way I see this truly happening is if we change what we value. Right now, for example, a person cannot succeed in the political realm by doing what you say above. A person cannot thrive in business by being compassionate. Furthermore, the very thought that we can just do business as usual while incorporating what you call us to above is crazy. We cannot save the planet and destroy it simultaneously.
    Great reflections. I hope JVC continues to challenge you. I hope you are doing well, and I hope I might see you soon. We have some stuff to talk about, and I have some books you should read. Keep up the good work man. Peace!

    -ben adam