Culture of Imagination

connecting spirituality to everyday life

Tag: simplicity

Community is an Art Form – 5 quotes from Richard Rohr’s book – Simplicity: The Freedom of Letting Go

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1. We have to live our way into a new kind of thinking

“We have to put our life on a new footing.  I believe we’ve always thought that we could reason our way into the Gospel.  But we’ll never solve the way to a new life in our heads; we have to live our way into a new kind of thinking.  First we have to act.  We have to dare to cross over this threshold and live differently so that, starting from this point, we can again ask challenging questions.  That’s why action and decision come first.”

2. The art of contemplation

“Contemplation is a way to hear with the Spirit and not with the head.  Contemplation is the search for a wide-open space.  This space is broad enough for the head, the heart, the feelings, the gut, the subconscious, our memories, our intuitions, our whole body.  We need a holistic place for hearing.  As Christians we have to go to this place if we’re looking for wisdom.  If we don’t produce any more wise men and women, then the reason is that we have forgotten the art of contemplation.”

3. God is always free

“…the sermons of priests and pastors convert no one.  Just consider how many sermons you’ve heard in your life.  Circumstances convert people!  You have to make your way to new circumstances, so that reality can really get through to you, because that’s where Jesus has hidden himself: in the human condition and even in the humiliation of human flesh.  Christ always comes into the world on an ass, Christ always comes into the world as a beggar.  We would so much like to have him enclosed in the Church and in our theology.  But God is always free.”  

4. The Gospel calls the whole world to a kind of community

“I really believe that the Gospel calls the whole world to a kind of community, to the possibility of a life that can be shared.  But community is an art form…  The secret lies in the way you let other people get through to you, and the way you move out of yourself.  This is, of course, at once the mystery of spirituality and the mystery of vulnerability and powerlessness.  When a person is on a serious inner journey to his or her own powerlessness and is also in immediate contact with the powerless men and women of the world, then community will result.”

5. The compulsions to be successful, to be right, to be powerful

“In my opinion there are three things that we need to let go of.  First is the compulsion to be successful.  Second is the compulsion to be right – even, and especially, to be theologically right.  That’s an ego trip, and because of this churches have split in half, with both parties prisoners of their own egos.  Finally there is the compulsion to be powerful, to have everything under control.  I’m convinced that these are the three demons Jesus faced in the wilderness.  And so long as we haven’t looked these three demons in the face, we should presume that they’re still in charge.  The demons have to be called by name, clearly, concretely, and practically, spelling out just how imperious and self-righteous we are.  This is the first lesson in the spirituality of subtraction.”  

Which quote do you like the most?

Questioning a Life of Consumerism

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I have always been drawn to simplicity.  Having what I needed and not much more is how I have lived all of my life.  I have never had large amounts of money.  I have learned how to be content in every circumstance and to trust in God as the sustainer of my life.

  •  Possessions and economic status

This has helped me to learn how to devote myself to my parish.  In my local context, I have learned to live with what I need: the basic necessities of food, shelter, clothes and relational connection.  My relationships are more important to me than my possessions, my economic status or anything else I may have.

  •  The cost to simplicity

Sometimes practicing simplicity is painful and there is a cost to it, but I am learning that even this plays a role in the shaping of our lives together.  Our imaginations become freer.  We have space to be faithfully present in our local context to love, listen, learn, and show empathy.  I am learning that simplicity needs to be the priority in our lives if we are to be in genuine relationship with one another.

  •  Questioning life

As I grew up, I really started to question life and how it works.  I began to ask myself, “Why am I doing what I am doing?”  I began to think about my motives and priorities.  Questioning the pursuit of money and affluence was on my mind a lot.

  •  How God fits into this

Thinking about how God fits into all of this was hard for me.  Sometimes I remember feeling convicted over selfish acts that disregarded God and others. I began to ask, “Why aren’t my motives in life and my priorities becoming more focused on others instead of myself?”

  •  The importance of putting others first

I wondered what would happen if I embodied this more.  I saw that the gospels had many stories and teachings on the importance of putting others first.

  •  Reevaluating how I used my time

Reevaluating how I used my time became a common practice.  Why was I watching so much TV?  Why do I need so much stuff?  Why am I so obsessed with fashion and being cool?

  •  Why?

Why was everything so fast-paced?  Why was I investing so much time in a social life with people who are like me and make me feel good?  Why was I so into sports, movies and the internet?  Why am I so focused on myself to the point of disregarding others?

  •  Gave away things, changed priorities, and shifted focus

This didn’t seem right to me, and so I started to center my life more on relational simplicity.  I gave away things, changed priorities, and shifted focus. I became liberated from the imagination of the empire and started to move more toward the communal imagination.

  •  Left my job as a teacher

When I first moved to Downtown Tacoma, I left my job as a teacher and took several jobs in the neighborhood where I made less money.  This was a move that not many of my friends or family really understood.  So I just did it without a lot of support from others.

  •  Took jobs within walking distance to where I was living

At first, I took a job as a dishwasher at a local restaurant.  I also worked at a bar as a janitor and then as a parking lot attendant.  All these jobs were within walking distance to where I was living in the neighborhood.

  •  Focusing on the relational context I was in

These jobs helped me to become more faithfully present and integrated in the parish.  I developed lots of relationships when I really didn’t know the neighborhood that well.  This shaped me tremendously by helping me not to place such a high priority on the narratives of consumerism.  Now I could focus on the relational context that I was in.

Do you have a story of simplicity to share?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1430401142&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+i

Top 10 Manifestations of Simplicity

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In a society that is so addicted to consumerism is there any way to practice a simplicity in everyday life that will bring peace to our world?  These are some of the questions that I have wrestled with over time.  Simplicity could shape our lives in tremendous ways that we will not always understand.

But I am discovering that sometimes I fear simplicity.  Maybe simplicity will create too much havoc in my family.  Maybe I am afraid that I will discover a lack of identity around things that do not have to do with consumerism.  Maybe I will have a mental breakdown without all the stuff I think I need.

This fear runs so deep in me that I would rather live in my lies than face the reality of my addiction to consumerism.  Sometimes I do not want to face my false self that I have constructed over many years of hard work.  Letting go of this feels like a death to everything that I think I am.  But I am finding that simplicity creates new paradigms of clarity, truth and hope within me.

This is what I long for as I struggle with the courage to face my own fears around simplicity.  Simplicity moves me into a greater integration with my true self.  The false self is exposed as a fake, an illusion, something that is not healthy and life-giving to me.  I want to embrace the Jesus of simplicity, peace, love, compassion and humility.

Here are 10 manifestation of simplicity that I think are important in life.

1. Courage

It takes courage to simplify our lives.  It takes courage to search for and enter into a lifelong process of discovery about what really matters in everyday life.

2. Embodiment

This process of discovery is relational.  It is embodied in the place that we live. Without simplicity, we will not be able to connect very well either to God or to one another.

3. New Values

Richard J. Foster notes, “As we strive for simplicity we take energy away from the direction the world is heading and refocus it on a new, life-giving vision for living together.  Simplicity engenders new values which bring about new decisions which brings about a new society.”

4. Risk

What will people think if we live a life of simplicity?  We might stand out too much and become something other than the status quo.  But it is worth the risk.

5. Integration

When we embrace simplicity, it will shape us in ways we cannot understand. Simplicity redefines everyday life and all our relationships.  It helps us to become integrated into the communal imagination.

6. A commitment to place

Our place and our everyday relationships in that place are what really matter in life.  This is so integral to our spirituality.  Without a theology of place, we cannot live into the courage of simplicity and embrace a holistic counterculture. Simplicity is not necessarily an act of ethics or morality, but rather an act of courage.

7. Creativity

Courage is everything to our spirituality.  It takes courage to be in relationship with others.  It takes courage to forsake the status quo and be creative with our everyday lives.  It takes courage to see life through the eyes of beauty and simplicity.

8. Synergy

It takes courage to become rooted in a place.  When we intentionally practice simplicity, we draw energy away from the individualistic, consumeristic thrust of society and create a new synergy.  Simplicity empowers us to imagine a life that is not bound to the North American status quo lifestyle.

“To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me”  (Colossians 1:29).

9. Rediscovering beauty

This energy of simplicity is about finding value in what truly matters so that society can still remain beautiful.  What hope is there for society if there is no return to simplicity?  What hope is there for us without beauty in the world?

10. Hope

What hope is there if everyday life should lose all its value?  Simplicity could save our civilization.  Maybe we could be the ones who preserve some value and beauty in life.

Does simplicity make you afraid in certain ways?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1430070682&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Being the Most Free to Hear the Voice of Love

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As I have practice simplicity in my life it has led me to become marginalized from the mainstream society.  I do not fit in as most people love their individualistic lives of hyper-consumerism.  Life is all about money for most of us.  When we give priority to more important things such as becoming an expression of love in the world, we feel the pressure to give in and conform to individualism constantly.

We forget the “we” and become a capital “I” standing alone to get as much out of our autonomous life as we can.  Simplicity is foreign to our ways of life in North America.  I don’t understand how life is found in the things we own.  To me, this is depressing and leaves me wondering if authentic community is even possible in our highly mobile, consumeristic world.

I want to follow in the authentic path of Jesus who gave up any pursuit of money, power and possessions to live a life of listening to the voice of love.  Simplicity will lead me to authenticity.  Simplicity is countercultural and threatening to the status quo.  Do we have the courage to practice it and stop turning to what cultivates our false selves?  Maybe some of us should give away our money and possessions so we can live into humility, love and truth.

  • Whatever is lovely

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

  • Practicing simplicity

There is no way we can think about such things unless we practice simplicity, because without it, we will never be attentive to everyday life.  Only in simplicity are we able to discern what is noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable and excellent in others.  Only in simplicity can we once more begin to see our place as beautiful and sacred and God’s gift to us.  Only in simplicity do we stop taking others for granted.

  • Be the most free to hear the voice of love

Mark Scandrette, who has lived in the Mission District of San Francisco for over a decade, says, “The quest for simplicity and contentment, rather than being legislated by rules, can be guided by a question: ‘How can I manage my life to be the most free to hear the voice of love?’  You will find the best rhythm of simplicity through careful experimentation.”

  • Careful experimentation

What this “careful experimentation” looks like will depend on your particular context.

  • Options for discerning simplicity

Maybe it looks like renting a home instead of taking out a mortgage to buy one. Maybe it looks like buying a cheaper home so you don’t have to work fifty or sixty hours a week to pay for a bigger one.  Maybe it has to do with trading in your car for a cheaper one.  Maybe it has to do with getting rid of your car altogether and working at a job in the neighborhood instead of commuting to a job outside the neighborhood.

Maybe it has to do with taking a pay cut in order to work at a job that you enjoy more.  Maybe it has to do with walking or biking more in the neighborhood. Maybe it has to do with getting rid of your entertainment devices so you can spend more time with people.

Maybe it has to do with simplifying your wardrobe.  Maybe it has to do with abstaining from certain social events or monitoring what you eat and drink. Maybe it has to do with buying less stuff.  Maybe it has to do with practicing media fasts.

  • Have the courage to enter into a process of discovery

There are countless examples that could be cited.  Probably no two people will make exactly the same decisions.  The important thing is that we have the courage to enter into a process of discovering how to embody simplicity so we can again listen to our lives and connect with others.  This will constantly evolve as we go through different stages of life.  God will always reveal what steps we need to take to simplify our lives.

How is simplicity an act of courage for you?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1428259079&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

The Courage of True Simplicity

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There is a deep fear in us to give up everything and practice a courageous simplicity in everyday life.  But isn’t this what it means to follow Jesus in the twenty-first century world we live in.  I have wrestled with what this is for me as I am learning what it means to seek God in my context of life.  It seems that simplicity needs to be a part of this process for me to be free of the consumeristic lifestyle that will take a lot of my focus and time.

I want to share with you a longing in my soul for a courageous simplicity:

Give me a desire to live with only what I need in this life.  Help me find liberation from the dominant narrative of consumerism that kills any imagination for simplicity.  I want to be free to seek what is of love, compassion, grace and humility.  Keep me in the ways of vulnerability and truthfulness.

May simplicity protect me to be kind and empowered by the Spirit.  I want to have the courage to live in simplicity throughout my lifetime.  Give me the strength to live this way, to practice this wisdom and to find you in each present moment.  May I never be afraid to practice simplicity for the sake of loving others more authentically.

I desire this way of life, this way of honesty, this way of peace in the place I inhabit.  Bring to my mind your beauty, goodness and kindness as I live into what I know about simplicity.  Let me find the simplicity of Jesus in this twenty-first century context.  I want nothing else.

  •  It takes courage to simplify our lives

It takes courage to simplify our lives.  It takes courage to search for and enter into a lifelong process of discovery about what really matters in everyday life. This process of discovery is relational.  It is embodied in the place that we live. Without simplicity, we will not be able to connect very well either to God or to one another.

  •  Life-giving vision for living together

Richard J. Foster notes, “As we strive for simplicity we take energy away from the direction the world is heading and refocus it on a new, life-giving vision for living together.  Simplicity engenders new values which bring about new decisions which brings about a new society.

  •  It is worth the risk

What will people think if we live a life of simplicity?  We might stand out too much and become something other than the status quo.  But it is worth the risk.

  •  Simplicity redefines everyday life

When we embrace simplicity, it will shape us in ways we cannot understand. Simplicity redefines everyday life and all our relationships.  It helps us to become integrated into the communal imagination.

  •  Courage and true simplicity

Thomas Merton writes, “Without courage we can never attain to true simplicity.”

  •  Everyday relationships are what really matter

Our place and our everyday relationships in that place are what really matter in life.  This is so integral to our spirituality.  Without a theology of place, we cannot live into the courage of simplicity and embrace a holistic counterculture. Simplicity is not necessarily an act of ethics or morality, but rather an act of courage.

  •  It takes courage

Courage is everything to our spirituality.  It takes courage to be in relationship with others.  It takes courage to forsake the status quo and be creative with our everyday lives.  It takes courage to see life through the eyes of beauty and simplicity.  It takes courage to become rooted in a place.

  •  Creating a new synergy

When we intentionally practice simplicity, we draw energy away from the individualistic, consumeristic thrust of society and create a new synergy. Simplicity empowers us to imagine a life that is not bound to the North American status quo lifestyle.

“To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me” (Colossians 1:29).

  •  What hope is there for society?

This energy of simplicity is about finding value in what truly matters so that society can still remain beautiful.  What hope is there for society if there is no return to simplicity?  What hope is there for us without beauty in the world?

  •  Simplicity could save our civilization

What hope is there if everyday life should lose all its value?  Simplicity could save our civilization.  Maybe we could be the ones who preserve some value and beauty in life.

In what ways have you practiced a courageous simplicity?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418010036&sr=8-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

Has Consumerism Taken Over Our Lives?

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There have been so many questions within me around the thoughts I have had about consumerism and simplicity.  It all started for me as I got out of high school and had to decide what I was going to do in the world.  Would I go to college?  What kind of work would I pursue?

I had a struggle in college about how much money was actually needed to live my life.  I started to questions the whole notion of success in our culture.  It seemed like a waste to work so hard at making money I didn’t want and buying things I didn’t need.  So I began to think about a life of simplicity more where I started to care for others instead of making my life all about consuming, buying and money.

  •  Is consumerism a deadly poison?

Consumerism is a deadly poison that destroys simplicity among us.  We become as addicted to it as a drug addict is addicted to heroine.  We always want more and more.  The cycle never ends and we are being pulled apart in the process to the point where there is very little togetherness anymore in everyday life.

  •  Has our faith become a consumeristic product?

Consumerism plays on our very identity and imaginations.  We have trouble seeing people as nothing more than mere objects to be manipulated and used for our own purposes.  We stop caring when consumerism become our “drug of choice.”  Even our faith turns into a consumerstic product that we use for our own advantage when necessary.  In such a mindset we lose all contact with reality, while continuing to believe that this is the “real world.”

  •  How can we experiment with the practice of simplicity?

Simplicity is the practice that could help us free ourselves from all of this. There is a strength and wisdom in simplicity.  God has given us simplicity as a guiding light in the darkness.  Simplicity clarifies many things that are unknown to others.  We are more open to the Spirit of Christ when simplicity is allowed to create life in us.

  •  Do the things we buy create our identity as consumers?

Parker J. Palmer says, “For many people, consumerism is the drug of choice for assuaging inner emptiness: we purchase goods and services not because we need them but because we think they will shore up our sense of identity and worth. The proof is close at hand in the ads that saturate our public and private lives, ads that rarely focus on the product’s utility.  Instead, they target the inner needs it allegedly fulfills, informed by market research on what consumers seek.  ‘Want to be youthful, beautiful, sophisticated, or powerful? Buy this!’  Our addiction to consumption can run so deep that we keep buying these false promises for the life they give us, despite the fact that the temporary fix leaves us with emptier pocketbooks and still emptier hearts.

Do you practice simplicity as you live out your life?

http://www.amazon.com/Communal-Imagination-Finding-Share-Together/dp/1495487423/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1409672754&sr=1-1&keywords=the+communal+imagination

The Freedom of Slowing Down

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My experience of growing up in one of the fastest paced countries in the world has not been easy for me.  I have always sensed the pressures to succeed, make more money and compete with others to make myself more competent in life.  If I was slowing down my pace at any time, it was looked at negatively by those around me.  This rat race has been exhausting for me.

So at some point I just gave up.  Maybe some people have called me a loser or a failure or a misfit, but I feel much better about myself when I live at a slower pace of life.  It is amazing how liberating this has been for me as someone who has slowed down to live life in all of its creativity and wonder.  I no longer care about a fast paced life.

  • Learning to slow down

We live in such a fast-paced world that our lives cannot keep up.  We have a hard time slowing down and creating new rhythms of a more peaceful way of life together.  We take life and others for granted when we live at such high levels of speed.  We cannot root ourselves in a place without first learning to slow down.

  • Being faithfully present to one another in our relationships

We cannot be faithfully present to one another in our relationships without the simplicity of a slower pace that allows us to appreciate life more.  Speed dominates our imaginations.  It has crushed to pieces the communal imagination.  We constantly disregard one another when we have no time just to be and reflect on what is going on within us.

  • Speed damages our lives

Speed consumes every area of our lives.  It damages us relationally in the parish.  It makes us less than human.  Speed can be addictive, just like consumerism.

  • Adopting a lifestyle of simplicity

Rarely will we let go of our fast-paced life.  But Christ is calling us to slow down and embrace one another more by adopting a lifestyle of simplicity that is subversive to speed.  When will we see that our speed actually leads us nowhere fast?

  • The quest for speed and efficiency

Christine Sine writes, “The quest for speed and efficiency dominates our modern lives, and everyone convinces us that this frenetic rhythm is the only one we can adopt – for every area of our lives.

  • Speed keeps us from looking inside ourselves

What is our speed accomplishing for us but more fragmentation and mental illness?  It can never satisfy our feelings of emptiness.  It keeps us from looking deep within ourselves.  We fear emptiness and pain, so we live at a faster and faster pace in a desperate bid to avoid facing ourselves and others in the parish.

How can we live with more freedom through a slower pace of life?