Simplicity is a virtue. Voluntary simplicity is a greater virtue. It is a personal choice to being simple and modest, amidst abundance. If you feel that you are blessed with reasonable means for livelihood or live in a ‘comfort zone’, then it would be wise to think of practicing voluntary simplicity, occasionally, if not always.
It is called ‘voluntary’, as the act requires deliberate and conscious effort from oneself. It would not be an easy task to come out of the comforts, preferences and habituated life styles. And the action would seem illogical and apparently inconsequential. But the impact such actions of voluntary simplicity creates, is purely personal, satisfying and exemplary.
v Life will be more meaningful when we create and not when we consume.
v World is unfortunately guided by the economic principle that growth is driven by consumption and expenditure. But such spending drive would not give enduring growth, balanced development and optimum utilization of resources.
v Aggressive consumption habits will lead to fast depletion of natural resources.
v It is not those who have more material possessions who receive larger social recognition.
v There is a limit to which one can really enjoy one’s possessions.
v When we spend more of our time for tasks that are not ultimately aimed at acquiring material possessions, we will tend to enjoy many beautiful things life offers us.
v Duane Elgin has said, ‘You need to pursue a living that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich’.
v One should be able to believe that ‘less is always better’ and ‘more is always a burden’.
v Voluntary simplicity is not miserliness. It is also not an approach aimed at saving your money.
May be we should try these exercises. Buying only things that we really use, can be a good decision. And we need to use it till its life lasts. Unfortunately our market discourages such frugality (It scares us with new versions making our goods incompatible and beyond repair. This happens mostly with the electronic items). Will it be possible to limit the number of pairs of dress in our cupboards? This is possible if we can donate one of our existing pairs before we buy a new pair of clothes. Same can also be attempted for other personal goods also.
Refrigerator, washing machine, Television, Microwave oven etc are labelled as consumer ‘durables’ that can serve us for a considerable period of time. (Unless they are non-functional or not meeting your important needs). But the profit driven market economy would declare: ‘No spares available’)
J Botherton said, ‘My riches consists not in the extent of my possessions, but in the fewness of my wants’
It is customary among many communities to go on a fasting mode for a few days. There are members of the Jain community who fasts for weeks without taking even a drop of water. It is amazing! I have seen some of those multi-millionaires belonging to this community devote a considerable period in a year in fasting and prayer. Muslims fast on all days in the month of Ramzan. Many Christians avoid non-vegetarian diet during the period of lent and on other selected days. Hindus, before embarking on a pilgrimage (eg. To Sabarimala Temple in Kerala), observes abstinence for several weeks. These are some of the customary practices in voluntary simplicity.
Apart from the above practices, it would be exciting to invent our own unique methods to practice voluntary simplicity now and then. Going for a simple diet for a specific period, skipping one of the meals, abstaining from the favourite dishes, limiting your indulgence in a lavish feast, occasionally leaving your vehicle while going for shopping, sleeping without a mattress or pillow, cutting down your early morning sleep to do something creative etc. are some steps we can try occasionally.
John Burroughs wrote:
“To find the universal elements enough; to find the air and the water exhilarating; to be refreshed by a morning walk or an evening saunter … to be thrilled by the stars at night; to be elated over a bird’s nest or a wildflower in spring—these are some of the rewards of the simple life.”