“Unless one’s heart embraces a simpler lifestyle, it will not be sustainable.” So writes Chuck Hoskin in “Sustainable Simplification” (p. 8) in this issue. The sentiment is timely as the Mighty Wurlitzer of the “Christmas season” thrums to life and fills our culture with the siren song of consumerism.
Within the North American society with which I am most familiar, we have precious few contemporary examples of what it means to gain true simplicity. I yearn for the fire-tried clarity of early Friends, yet I find that in so many ways, the circumstances of my life and my responsibilities leave little room for acts of sacrifice that are more than merely symbolic. What a gift, then, are the stories our editors have collected for readers this month.
In “Choice Poverty” (p. 6), frequent Friends Journal contributor Seres Kyrie (“Quakers and Unschooling,” FJ Apr., and “An Obligation of Peace within a Play of Power,” FJ Nov. 2011) speaks frankly of her family’s decision to live as minimally and deliberately as possible and describes what that has meant for her spirit. She finds a deeper peace and deeper gratitude even as the pipes freeze below her Wisconsin floors and prays “that the modest income I do accrue covers only the necessities, and does not distract me from that which is real, without price, and transcendent.”
In Hoskin’s measurement, Jesus “embraced voluntary poverty because he knew it to be the best sustenance for a healthy soul. When something is best, it’s no sacrifice to embrace it, and no ‘shoulds’ are needed to prompt us to the task.”
We have in Friends Kyrie and Hoskin examples of the spiritual possibilities that can emerge when one chooses to live on less than $25,000 a year. There is much to learn from these souls. I have also encountered Friends who have found work both spirit-filling and full of monetary reward, Friends who become philanthropists of the first order and enable greater justice and peace through their voluntary donations. In my role as a nonprofit administrator, I can say that these souls are a great blessing as well! Most of us, I imagine, find ourselves somewhere in the great in-between.
What can I subtract from my life to become closer to God, closer to living as Jesus taught? What have I been given or have I earned that would be put to greater use by another? Can my heart work and my professional work come into alignment, for the betterment of not only my life, but also those around me? The paths trod by Friends toward the Truth are many. The season the world calls Christmastime and the symbolic recycling of our calendar can give us occasion to consider these queries and give thanks for the opportunity we have to do so with the support of a community united in the belief that there is that of God in every person. For all of us who labor in producing and sharing Friends Journal with the world, I am grateful to you for being a part of that community.
Yours in peace,