Showing posts from April, 2012

Space, Stuff, Meaning

Spring cleaning seems to be on everyone’s mind these days. Yard sales and garage sales have blossomed forth here and there in residential neighborhoods alongside the abundance of azaleas, peonies, and irises that nature has given us this year. Where once neat little garbage cans stood at solitary attention in front of the houses on trash pickup day, amorphous piles of household detritus now accumulate where driveways meet the street – patiently awaiting the trash fairy’s arrival. Yes, spring cleaning has become a yearly ritual of modern suburban living. All hail special trash pickup day!

I’ve been an especially dutiful observer of the ritual this year – given the cosmic coincidence in my life of a deep urge to simplify, a church whose work I respect preparing for its annual second-hand sale, and a pastor friend with a van big enough to haul my stuff from here to there. And so it is that I’ve been thinking a lot these days about stuff: why we accumulate it, what it means to us, what i…

Aspirational Contentment, Part 2

In my previous post I sang the praises of the voluntary simplicity movement. I did so (and do so) for various reasons, the primary one being that I just don’t think we will ever be able to halt or even slow our degradation of the environment or our warming of the earth until those of us in highly developed areas begin consciously moving towards simpler and less consumptive lifestyles. Similarly, by embracing the tenets of voluntary simplicity, developing areas of the world might find it possible to eschew increased complexity and consumption for the sake of sustainability even as higher levels of material affluence become available to them. Perhaps one day, given the widespread adoption of simplicity, people all over the world might come to enjoy a way of life that is both nurturing and sustainable – albeit at a decidedly lower level of material affluence than the average U.S. household at present.

Such an achievement couldn’t help but work wonders with respect to fostering trust, co…

Aspirational Contentment

For some time now I’ve wanted to introduce a bit of a twist to what is commonly referred to as voluntary simplicity – voluntarily living a simpler and more intentional life so as to enjoy greater personal fulfillment even as we more positively impact those around us, our community, and our environment. The voluntary simplicity movement was bolstered immensely by the publication in 1981 of Duane Elgin’s groundbreaking book: Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich. Unfortunately, we’re now thirty years down the road and whereas some of us have indeed volunteered to live more simply, most of us have not. In fact, over the course of these thirty or so years, human civilization has become so increasingly complex that it sometimes seems like a house of cards that is just one economic shock, one natural disaster, one viral pandemic, one war, one nuclear disaster, or one degree of average world temperature increase away from absolute and total colla…


For most of this week I’ve been working on a poem intended for submission to the Austin Zen Center's ongoing Just This blog journal – the most recent topic being ‘crossing the stream’. Of course, crossing the stream is an oft-used Buddhist metaphor, one encompassing some kind of difficult movement from a place of unaware existence to one of awakening. Within this metaphor the Buddha’s teachings are frequently thought of as a raft that may be used for safe passage from one side to the other. At first I thought this poem wouldn’t nest very well with my previous post. Upon reflection, however, I see that they make a perfect pair. I’ll talk about why further on, but for now let me just introduce my submission:

Crossing the Stream

I set out to cross the stream once long ago.
Or maybe it was yesterday.
Funny, time can be like that.
I remember gazing at the other side –
The grassy lowlands beckoning,
The cool green forest foothills
Rising gently into snowcapped glory…
I remember wondering of the…