Beyond our basic material needs for food, clothing, and shelter, how much is enough? In particular, how much money and how many possessions do we really need to live well and to be free? These are not questions that many people ask themselves in consumer societies today, but they are some of the most important questions of all.
Instead of confronting these questions, too many people today spend their entire lives desperately climbing the endless ladder of consumerism, seeking more and more income to spend on more and more stuff. But at the end of life these people inevitably discover that they had not really lived, that they had wasted their only chance at life inside a shopping mall. A free and meaningful life, it turns out, does not actually depend on having all the latest consumer products or having the nicest house on the street. On the contrary, working long hours just to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ leaves people with less time for the things that really matter in life, like friends, family, community, and engaging in peaceful, creative activity. This is the stuff that makes life worth living, and the interesting thing is we don’t need to be rich to enjoy it all. The best things in life really are free. Abundance is a state of mind.
Money is important, of course, but only up to a point, and the threshold point is much lower than most people think. Once our basic material needs are met, the limitless pursuit of money and stuff merely distracts us from more meaningful and inspiring things. As the ancient philosophers told us long ago, those who know they have enough are rich, and those who have enough but do not know it, are poor. Consumerism, it is clear, represents a mistaken idea of wealth, and it is based on a mistaken idea of freedom.
Not only are many people finding consumer lifestyles empty and unfulfilling, an even greater problem is that consumer lifestyles are destroying our beautiful planet Earth, jeopardising the future of life as we know it. Everything we consume ultimately comes from nature and all our consumer wastes must ultimately be returned to nature. But nature has limits! Today our fragile ecosystems are trembling under the weight of decades of overconsumption, and yet the pursuit of more economic growth and more consumption continues to define the collective imagination, even in the richest nations. Let us pause for a moment and ask ourselves: Is consumer culture really the best we can come up with? Is there no alternative?
The good news is that there is an alternative – the Simpler Way. Participants in this emerging social movement are voluntarily passing up high consumption, energy-intensive lifestyles and creating for themselves a lower consumption but higher quality of life alternative. By limiting their working hours and consumption, spending their money thoughtfully, growing their own food, riding bikes, rejecting high fashion, and generally celebrating life outside the shopping mall, these people are the ‘new pioneers’ transitioning to a simpler form of life beyond consumer culture. Furthermore, they are showing that this is the surest path to a sustainable life of freedom, happiness, and deep contentment. Please join us on this Great Transition and together we can ignite the most important social movement of the 21st century.
This is your personal invitation. Consume less, live more.
More in this to come.