Tag Archives: sacrifice

Willing to be ‘blessed by less’?

August 17, 2015

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BlessedByLessAre you ready to clear your life of clutter by living lightly?

Those willing to try the suggestions Susan V. Vogt offers in “Blessed by Less” — an easy-to-read, 122-page paperback — will find they are right in sync with the recent encyclical of Pope Francis that encourages better stewardship of the earth’s resources and valuing all creation.

Vogt hits a nerve right from the start: “Your life is an overflowing closet. You know it is.”

Living lightly, she writes, “is not just about the stuff we accumulate, and it’s not just for people in the second half of life. It’s about an attitude of living with fewer burdens and encumbrances, whether you’re 21 or 65.”

There is a spirituality to that attitude, one held by those who remember that their existence is more than accumulating possessions and gaining status, and those spiritual principles drive this Loyola Press book. As Vogt puts it, “It’s a delicate dance to balance my own genuine needs with those of others. The spiritual paradox is that the less tightly I cling to my stuff, my way, and my concerns, the happier and more blessed I feel. Once I have enough, less is more.”

How many of us are aware of what Vogt labels “creature comfort creep”?

It’s feeling perfectly comfortable with a possession like a cell phone until we see people around us who have a newer phone with even greater capabilities. We
“have to” buy it, thus creating a “new normal,” one that will itself one day be outpaced by a yet newer model. The creature comfort creep goes for seeing others with a lifestyle we might covet, too.

As good as are the suggestions for how to go about decluttering and living lightly, there is great advice here too about the intangibles in our lives, such as privacy, social media, feelings, over-scheduling and over-committing, being consumed with being right, winning arguments and getting one’s way.

The chapter on letting go of emotional baggage is as valuable as Vogt’s criteria for making purchases. She does an excellent job of condensing good things to remember into lists and bullet points, and each chapter has suggestions both basic and more complex, plus an appropriate Scripture passage to mediate on and questions to reflect upon or discuss.

And, in a approach I hadn’t seen before, “Blessed by Less” includes ideas to try “For those in the first half of life” who may be more in the accumulating mode and “For those in the second half of life,” more likely to be looking to disburse some of those accumulations, both the material and the emotional. That’s good thinking.

Deep in a chapter on recycling the author drops what may be the one take-away from the book that could be a mantra for everyone in the 21st century:

“The best way to recycle is to reduce the need for it (recycling) by buying and accumulating less in the first place.”

 

 

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Make the choice: Read ‘Little Bee’

August 20, 2014

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little bee coverAn old poster, printed graffiti style, claimed “Not to decide is to decide.”

The corollary is that all decisions have consequences. What we choose to do matters.

For the characters of Chris Cleave’s “Little Bee,” deciding as well as not deciding both have life and death implications.

“Little Bee” is a masterfully written novel told from the alternating first-person points of view of a young Nigerian girl — the Little Bee of the title — and the female British magazine executive intent of saving her.

While Cleave obviously is making a statement about England’s policies with regard to those who have come to its shores sans documentation and about the horrors of greed-based, development-driven brutality in Africa, he has so much more to say to make us think about the choices each of us makes.

Do we stay or flee? Do we opt for the present dangers or choose the possibility of dangers unknown?

Do we give in to intolerable demands or face possibly even worse consequences — for us and for others as well?

Do we offer a hand knowing that our doing so may incriminate us?

And what about the other side of the coin?

What will happen if we don’t act?

Will there be dire, even fatal consequences?

And, if we don’t risk putting ourselves in harms way, will we be able to live with ourselves?

No wonder “Little Bee” was a New York Times bestseller. It’s out now as a Simon & Schuster paperback.

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