indexBen Rumbaugh is a Senior International Studies major at Xavier University, where he recently participated in one of NWEI’s Voluntary Simplicity discussion courses, hosted by Greg Carpinello, the Director of the Dorothy Day Center for Faith and Justice. Below is an excerpt from Ben’s recent blog entry from the Dorothy Day Center Blog:

Affluenza: 1. A painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. 2. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 3. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by the pursuit of the American Dream. 4. An unstable addiction to economic growth. (from www.affluenza.org)

As the Advent season approaches, more people are suffering from affluenza than influenza from the cold weather. The act of giving during Christmas is often undermined by this illness. Many would suggest that this condition is caused by American consumerism and the expectation of numerous material gifts on Christmas day. How can we avoid this? What is the prescribed vaccine for affluenza? It’s simple.

Originally, I found this definition in a curriculum about Voluntary Simplicity that I experienced with a small group this summer. It was no surprise to me that a correlation was made between living simply and consumption. However, after my group finished the curriculum, I found that limiting my amount of consumption did not easily equate to a simple life. Instead, committing to living simply has created a lifestyle that requires concentration and effort – far from simple. Voluntary simplicity isn’t merely spending less; rather it is a concerted effort in exploring why we consume in the first place.

Approaching voluntary simplicity in this way has been a beautiful and challenging examination of my values. Especially during a time when I’m unsure of my values, reflecting upon the purchases I make throughout the day has started to unwrap the values that society holds and how I fit within that structure. However, having a conscience (or lack of one on some days) while at the store does not encompass the entirety of consumption. By starting with small purchases at a convenience store, I have slowly begun to view all of my actions as if they were transactions in a store. I ask myself, “What is this action costing others? What is it costing me? How does this action reflect the culture surrounding me?” Although attempting to quantify everything is not always a healthy practice, viewing my everyday tasks in this light has led me to further solidify my values…

For the full post, click here.

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