Duane Elgin and Arnold Mitchell (1918-1985)

Elgin and Arnold Mitchell (1918-1985)

American Founders of Simple Living Network and other organizations advocating sustainable futures,American Authors, Social Scientists, Consumer Futurists, Speakers, Educators, Consultants and Media Activists

Author Quotes

The simple life is not narrowly focused on living with less; instead, it is a continuously changing process of consciously balancing the inner and outer aspects of our lives.

Historically, voluntary simplicity has its roots in the legendary frugality and self-reliance of the Puritans; in Thoreau's naturalistic vision at Walden Pond; in Emerson's spiritual and practical plea for "plain living and high thinking.

It is not our purpose here to pursue further refinement of this emerging value system. The point is simply that an arts curriculum should include such study and refinement as a central concern. This provides the artist with a perspective on our own changing value systems and the desired options open to us in shaping the future. The Artist and the Designer are necessarily frontline people in addressing these concerns. The artist community will play a central role in creating viable alternate life styles as we move into the postindustrial age. Therefore, artists themselves must become more educated to the implications for the future of the choices they make now.

1. Material Simplicity

Simplification of the material aspects of life is one of the core values of voluntary simplicity. The American Friends Service Committee, long a leader in exploring a way of life of creative simplicity, defines simple living as a ?non-consumerist life-style based upon being and becoming, not having.

2. Human Scale

A preference for human-sized living and working environments is a central feature of the values constellation embraced by voluntary simplicity. Adherents to voluntary simplicity tend to equate the gigantic scale of institutions and living environments with anonymity, incomprehensibility, and artificiality

3. Self-Determination

Voluntary simplicity embraces an intention to be more self-determining and less dependent upon large, complex institutions whether in the private sector (the economy) or public sector (the political processes). Self-determination manifests itself in consumption as a desire to assume greater control over one's personal destiny and not lead a life so tied to installment payments, maintenance costs and the expectations of others. To counterbalance the trend towards increasing material dependency a person may seek to become more materially self-sufficient -- to grow his own, to make his own, to do without, and to exercise self-discipline in his pattern and level of consumption so that the degree of dependency (both physical and psychological) is reduced.

4. Ecological Awareness

A sense of ecological awareness which acknowledges the interconnectedness and interdependence of people and resources is central to voluntary simplicity. There emerges from this awareness a number of themes that are hallmarks of this way of life. For example, ecological awareness prompts recognition that our earth is indeed limited, with all that implies for conservation of physical resources, reduction of environmental pollution, and maintenance of the beauty and integrity of the natural environment.

5. Personal Growth

For many persons taking up a materially simple way of life, the primary reason is to clear away external clutter so as to be freer to explore the inner life. The themes of material simplicity, self-sufficiency, a more human scale to living and working, and an ecological awareness are, in a way, devices to sweep away impediments to inner growth. The goal, then, is to free oneself of the overwhelming externals so as to provide the space in which to grow: both psychologically and spiritually. Simone de Beauvoir succinctly stated the rationale for this desire for self-realization when she said: "Life is occupied in both perpetuating itself and in surpassing itself; if all it does is maintain itself, then living is only not dying.

The essence of voluntary simplicity is living in a way that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich. This way of lie embraces frugality of consumption, a strong sense of environmental urgency, a desire to return to living and working environment which are of a more human scale, and an intention to realize our higher human potential - both psychological and spiritual - in community with others.

Proposed four consumption criteria for simple living. (1) Does what I own or buy promote activity, self-reliance, and involvement, or does it induce passivity and dependence? (2) Are my consumption patterns basically satisfying, or do I buy much that serves no real need? (3) How tied is my present job and lifestyle to installment payments, maintenance and repair costs, and the expectations of others? (4) Do I consider the impact of my consumption patterns on other people and on the Earth?

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Elgin and Arnold Mitchell (1918-1985)
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American Founders of Simple Living Network and other organizations advocating sustainable futures,American Authors, Social Scientists, Consumer Futurists, Speakers, Educators, Consultants and Media Activists