Radical Simplicity

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“But first we must change within ourselves…if there was another method that was easier and more practical it would be better, but there is none.”
-Dalai Lama on solving the world’s problems

Reading the book Radical Simplicity really opened my eyes to the importance of taming our appetites and to really making an attempt at an equitable and simple lifestyle. Jim Merkel, the author of the book, was a weapons engineer before he quit his job to give simple or global living as he calls it a go. He explains: “the serious practice of global living discontinues payments to the opressors, to polluting corporations, to the military industrial complex, and to all their subsidiary brand names”.

Although it would be a long time before I would ever be able to live the way he does, I came away from the book with a new awareness of how I am part of the problem. What I like about the book is how pragmatic Merkel is in his explanations. He knows all too well how difficult it is to simplify one’s life, but he shows innumerable ways to cut down that are manageable. More than anything I think, he truly stresses changing your attitude about your impact in the world and encourages people to be more cognizant of how your consumption patterns affect other peoples and species. I also appreciate his reminder to take time to appreciate nature. He says the more in tune you are with it, the more you will want to protect it. Merkel went from living on an successful engineer’s salary to living on $4000 per year. He didn’t do it overnight, but rather devised a plan based on the following design parameters:

Design Paremeter 1: There would be no losers; human, earth or other species

Design Parameter 2: Each step could be taken by everyone, everywhere; not just by those with privilege

Design Parameter 3: The steps and solutions had to prove sustainable, indefinitely

He gives very specific guidelines on how to accomplish this, but ultimately it amounts to two things:

Single child families until human population is stabilized at 1 billion and each person living on an ecological footprint not to exceed 6 acres.

As Merkel puts it:

“To foster peace, you must live equitably”

“The more deeply we search for the causes of our world’s drastic imbalances, the more we realize the violence we have unknowingly supported.”

“Our intellect backed by the best of science, concludes that economic growth on a finite planet is suicide.”

I’m not sure how much of a difference one person can make with so many people who are not trying to make a difference in that way, but I think most importantly it allows you to speak your intention to the universe which is a powerful thing when you want to live in a way so that you are aligned to your personal values as opposed to those of our brainwashed consumer society. We in the first world must come to grips with the fact that because we consume so much, we are responsible for maintaining a great imbalance in the world and destroying our earth. Only when we model a sustainable, simple life can we have an impact and influence on those in the third world. We can’t tell the people in China or India that “oh well, it’s nice you’re standard of living is increasing so rapidly, but there simply aren’t enough resources in the world for you all to live like us in the U.S.” It has to start with those of us who have so much.

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