Here I am donning my blogging hat after a brief hiatus. And it is just in time for that most American of holidays, our national Independence Day. With that thought in mind, I am writing about our family’s continued pursuit of the decidedly unAmerican dream of living large with less. As Admiral Richard E. Byrd suggested, “Half the confusion in the world comes from not knowing how little we need.” So, even as we celebrate our freedoms may we realize that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are about more than accumulating more stuff.
I love a Latin phrase I recently learned: modus vivendi. It refers to a mode of living or way of life. And it is no secret that for me and my household that means the lifestyle of minimalism. It is in direct opposition to the cultural norm of consumerism that is so rampant in western culture, and especially so here in America. Theologian A.W. Tozer stated it brilliantly: “Secularism, materialism, and the intrusive presence of things have put out the light in our souls and turned us into a generation of zombies.”
And if there is any visual that aptly describes our current culture, it is that of sleepwalking through life. Seduced by the glow of our electronic screens, we lumber about in a state of slumber. Thus, my research continues to delve into the topics of aspiration, affluence, and other issues of acquisition in our society’s ever-growing quest for meaning amidst all the mind-numbing materialism. And in the process, I’ve discovered a couple of thought-provoking gems that I think strike at the heart of what ails us as twenty-first century Americans.
InThe Sum of Small Things: A Theory of the Aspirational Class by Elizabeth Currid-Halkett, she declares: “America has cultivated a consumption-driven lifestyle and subsequently stretched itself to achieve it. Many Americans, aligning consumerism with the American Dream (emphasis mine), continue penniless along this track. As countless news articles have documented, other than the top economic echelons of society, everyone is struggling and unable to achieve the American Dream—whatever that is these days—without massive amounts of debt.”
And philanthropist Arthur Simon writes in How Much Is Enough: Hungering for God in an Affluent Culture: “The person who is preoccupied with mammon focuses on microscopic bits of the earth: a piece of property, a position, a bank account, a house, a closet full of clothes. Even the richest of the rich, or the most powerful of the powerful, garner a pathetically small fraction of the earth. They can become so engrossed in possessing what they call ‘mine’ that they lose sight of the fact that they are stewards, not owners.” Live the (Un)American Dream.