Thursday, August 02, 2007

The Turn to Spirituality and Downshifting

I wrote a chapter for a new book coming out on the subject of downshifting (simple living/ simplicity). The book will be published in October of this year by ICFAI University Press and is entitled: "Downshifting: a theoretical and practical approach to living a simplified life." My contribution deals with the world-wide turn to spirituality and its implications for the emerging trend of downshifting by examining examples of spiritualities that support and facilitate voluntary simplicity.

Here is a small part of my concluding statements in the chapter:

The current and broad turn to spirituality finds echoes in the rising phenomena of downshifting. A cursory overview of spiritualities that support and facilitate downshifting shows that these spiritualities all consider simplicity, voluntary poverty, solidarity with the poor, frugality and mutuality as core, “inner” and spiritual values. These “inner“ values operate as motivating and facilitating agents in these spiritualities to effect personal and communal transformation. In some established school of spiritualities, downshifting is viewed as an ascetical discipline that facilitates moral development/holiness (as in Fourth century Egyptian monasticism), in other schools downshifting is seen as a mode of mystical and kenotic union with God (as in Clare of Assisi) that allows for radical solidarity with the poor. The Southern-African social philosophy of ubuntu, as an example of a primordial spirituality, makes use of downshifting stances to express the values of mutuality and social respect. The Puritan and Quaker calls to simple living, frugality and downshifting are counter-cultural calls to authentic spiritual and human witness.

Downshifting as a spiritual phenomenon is part of the on-going quest for the “ultimate meaning of life”. It is part of ancient, spiritual wisdom that facilitates mystical union with God, moral development, the formation of authentic witness, and mutuality and solidarity with all of humanity. It is a call to balance and fullness of life.

"Two things I ask of you, O LORD;
do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
give me neither poverty nor riches,
but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
and say, 'Who is the LORD '
or I may become poor and steal,
and so dishonor the name of my God.”
(Proverbs 30:7-9, NIV)