Formed: Simplicity

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Last weekend I attended the 2nd module of Formed, a 12 part novitiate curriculum of spiritual formation led by a group of friends.  This month’s module was on the topic of “Simplicity:  Antidote to Consumerism” and the conversation was led by Will Samson.Will Samson was the right thinker/speaker for this conference conversation with practitioners on the value of Simplicity in a world of consumerism.  His background in Sociology and Theology was crucial to give this topic the depth and reflection it deserved.  He first analyzed the macro-issues of consumerism before he drilled down into the practical living out of simple community in today’s American culture.Samson laid out that our culture seeks for contentment in the consumption of things.  If we can acquire more “stuff” then that will lead to happiness.  However, instead of happiness, many Americans have only found overwhelming debt.  The over-arching response has been similar thinking from the government to the individual household; to get out of debt we must spend our way out.  This results in a spiraling down emotionally, the more we spend, the more depressed we are.  We live in a culture of mindless consumption; the desire for more is something we’re taught as “economic actors”.In my opinion, Samson’s most profound point was in our culture’s narrative of “away”.  We throw things away like it goes to a magical place and we don’t consciously know how that happens physically.  We are completed disconnected from our waste, we are disconnected from how food gets to us, we are disconnected from how money is made etc.  This narrative of “away” has perpetuated conspicuous consumption, debt and the obesity factors that come with the unhealthy eating of processed foods.  He describes that what we are doing is completely unsustainable and that the problems we face cannot be saved at the same level of thinking that created them.How do we practically move forward and do something about our mindless consumption?   One way he suggests is the biblical value of serving one another, it is the alternative to consumerism.  To serve one another means that we make sure there is enough for all, that the community needs are met. Samson suggests that being radical is simply just getting back to the roots of what it means to be human.  He proposes we can engage in at least five different, simple modalities to do something about it:

  1. Make something
  2. Trade something
  3. Grow something
  4. Slow down
  5. Eat together

Simple enough, thanks Will.

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