Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Simple Life and Celebration of Discipline

This last couple of months on Sunday evenings, we had a small group reading Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. Foster has a chapter on “Simplicity.” It should be obvious that it is a discipline to live simply. Many things in our culture conspire against a simple life. Many things in human nature conspire against living simply. I myself frequently cannot decide if I want my beat up old Ford Ranger to drive around, or if I want a ‘34 Ford Sedan hot rod with flames and lots of chrome. Do I want to live in an uber-practical home built into the earth, or do I want to live in a fancy Victorian? Both are equally appealing to me. A librarian’s salary keeps me pretty practical for now.

One of my comments was about those who use their simple life as a source of pride. Many of the “crunchy-granola” types are just as much into consumerism as any Lexus driver, they have just chosen a different type of consumerism. My wife was looking at Mother Earth News and decided she isn’t green enough, at least green with cash, to do or buy a lot of what is considered “the simple life” by them.

Americans forget what anti-consumerism really looks like. For example, the movie American Beauty is called an anti-consumerism movie. Kevin Spacey’s character rejects suburban values, but he spends $2000 per ounce for marijuana and buys the 1972 Pontiac Firebird of his dreams. Yes, in many ways he simplifies; works minimum wage, doesn’t care about the $4000 sofa, etc, but what he does buy is solely for recreation.

At our house we do many of the things that Crunchy Cons do; recycle, compost, garden, homeschool, conservation, want solar panels, avoid buying stuff, are pro-small community, anti-big business (to a degree). However, we don’t get all worked up about any of these items and don’t get onto others for not doing them.

We had a family living across from us that had two children. We have four. Every week when the trash went out to the curb they had an overflowing trash can, ours is usually only half full. I wondered how that could be. I think we just buy less stuff in addition to the recycling. I can very easily get proud about our simple lifestyle, but I do what I do because it’s the right thing to do, or it’s what I want to do, not because of anyone else around me. Indeed, one of my shortcomings is probably that I don’t give a hang what anyone other than my wife thinks. This too can be overdone.

My wife is on a healthy eating kick. “As long as it tastes good,” I say to her. She claims she doesn’t feel well and this will help. Between all the conflicting ideas; “Canola oil is good for you” “Never use canola oil,” “Lard is bad for you,” “Lard is natural so your body can process it,” and the price of eating healthy, I’m not sure how much we can do, but every little bit helps. And as our homesteading homeschooling all-natural friends assure us, just start with a few things, then you can add more later. Don’t try to do it all at once.
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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Solomon, the First Existentialist

Solomon, the first Existentialist. Ecclesiastes is a book for the weary, the hopeless, those with a bleak outlook on life. James W. Sire in his book The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog claims that Existentialism builds from Naturalism which, with its denial of any higher purpose than ourselves, leads either to Hedonism (the worship of pleasure), or to Nihilism (the denial of purpose) which if one has the guts to go on, leads to Existentialism. Existentialism seeks meaning in “Authenticity” of the self and the choices one makes. Existentialism's focus is Doing and Subjective understanding of truth. Hence, many aspects/elements of Postmodernism are just Existentialism writ large.

Solomon was despondent. He looked for meaning in "this miserable life" and found none in the several things that he searched for, all idols, workaholism, hedonism (my personal favorite), power, wealth, and its relative, materialism. All things that we also turn to instead of God for our comfort, our meaning, and all are just as empty today. Without God, what sort of purpose would make sense? The reason I say Solomon was an Existentialist, is that even when he gave it all up to God, there is still a pervading sense of melancholy and fatalism about it.

Do you know why he was so down? 300 wives. Add to that, 700 concubines. 1000 women. I can't even imagine. Sure, his flesh was happy but his soul was empty. Something happened between Song of Solomon, his passionate, explicit letter to his first love, and the end of his life with 1000 women. I can't help but think that if he had stuck with that one, life would have been fulfilling for him. One special person to share his burdens, to know him intimately, to meet his needs, to grow with him. I cannot express how wonderful marriage can be. To share a life with one other person and to grow together.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Kids Say the Darndest Things

My seven-year-old was in the room while my lovely wife and I were talking, and the lovely wife said the word "enthusiastically." The seven-year-old perked up and said, "That's a book of the Bible!"

He was thinking of Ecclesiastes.