(Note from 1999: This was meant to be a preface to a book long treatment of voluntary economic simplicity, which I wanted (want) to call OF JUSTICE AND JOY. Don't know if I'll ever get it written.)
What I've written here has come with many starts and stops. Should I write or not? That's been the recurrent question, and frequent momentary decisions not to write have delayed the process. The central issue in all this temporizing has been hypocrisy -- my own. (Who am I to write about the simple life? I don't live a particularly simple life. I live with virtually no material risks. I have a secure job, a secured pension, a privileged material situation. I consume altogether too much and am much a part of the problem I write about.
On the other hand, the discussions of LIFEFORM I turn to for help, encouragement or information does not seem to go far enough or be serious enough. There appears to be a need for people to speak out strongly, offer models and demonstrate the case for simple LIFEFORM.
So, despite my own serious worries of hypocrisy, I put forward my thoughts and analyses for you. Please judge them by the evidence I give and not by my own lifestyle. I do try and am trying to simplify. I even believe that my own failures help me to understand some of the obstacles to more simple living. I write about these obstacles as well.
For years I've been searching for THE model of a simple LIFEFORM with all the arguments of why this one was THE PATH. But, I no longer believe that such a model is possible. First of all, there is an incredible knowledge gap. Our lives as consumers are complexly related to the whole fabric of international economics and planetary ecology. We can't always figure out precisely just how this factor is related to that. Human scholarship can arrive at some solid theses of connections, and very likely stories, but genuine disagreements exist. The one true story is not knowable.
Secondly, even if we did know exactly what the perfect LIFEFORM were, it would be far, far removed from life in our advanced technological society. Thus it would require extreme changes for each of us. It is unlikely that more than just an exceptional few would "go all the way" and live the perfect life. Most of us will follow the case so far, make some changes and not others. Each of us must choose just where to go and how far we're willing to go.
I do not want to underplay our obligations. But, there is no perfect way. My aim is two-fold. I hope to clarify the issues so that you can make a better, more informed judgement. I also hope that I can be useful in offering you some models, some target behaviors, and be instrumental in persuading you to push farther toward simplicity than you might have without this work.
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