Simple ways to a better world

By  Carolyn Savoie, Catholic Register Special
  • August 17, 2013

To live simply is not simple in our over-consuming culture. But it should be our goal if we want to be healthier, more ethical and better connected to God and the green Earth we’ve been given to watch over.

That, in essence, is what Franciscan Media’s four Live Simply booklets convey, under the titles Wholly Healthy, Earth Friendly, Ethical Eating and Sensible Shopping.

These thin, easy-to-read booklets provide practical reflection questions and tips to get readers thinking about their level of commitment within the stuff of every day life.

Simplicity can restore our spiritual, physical and emotional well-being. All the excess and clutter we’ve accumulated can’t. But the reader will need to dig into their own circumstances and priorities to determine what practical changes they are prepared to make and what research that will require.

To borrow from the editors, “no amount of divine provisions or angelic kicks in the behind will do any good if you’re not willing and able to get up and get going.”

Many of the tips seem trite or overly basic, such as “green your commute by walking or biking once in awhile,” “keep smiling,” “establish needs vs. wants,” “buy organic” and so on. These are often easier said than done. But this kind of challenge can be overcome if you rearrange some of your priorities.

Change requires commitment and passion for making a difference. The reader will be reassured that change is possible, but it must be chosen: “Don’t let yourself be a victim of previous bad choices; do what you can do today that will make a positive impact.”

Whatever your reason for change, the challenge is still the same. Therefore every little tip and reminder helps regardless of the initial motivation, especially given society’s daily pace and a tendency for fads that come and go just as quickly.

This is where Live Simply comes in handy as an easy reference point.

Start small, dream big. This is essentially the larger theme of Live Simply. It takes work to break old habits, whether you are trying to become a more sensible shopper, reduce your carbon footprint, eat healthier and ethically grown food or care for your body or mind in a great number of ways. Small, gradual changes make a cumulative difference, and this simple series is effective in driving that point home.

References to Scripture bring depth to these simple booklets, reminding the reader that simplicity has its roots in Christian teaching. In fact, each of the booklets is prefaced with a short reflection on the life of St. Francis of Assisi and his extreme quest for simplicity.

This is what differentiates the Live Simply series from many self-help and self-improvement books. Unfortunately, the booklets do not convey the importance of spiritual discipline in the quest for simplicity. One can only imagine that for St. Francis of Assissi the discipline of the spiritual life must have been central. Prayer only gets one chapter in Wholly Healthy under the section that explores how to maintain spiritual health. The author missed a great opportunity to reinforce the importance of prayer in daily decision making and in any change we hope to achieve.

(Savoie is a freelance writer in Ottawa.)

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