We live surrounded by garbage. I have just made a couple of trips to the municipal dump to get rid of some bags of plaster after we had a ceiling replaced. Municipal dumps are depressing. The one in Hastings is making valiant efforts to sort and recycle, but a distressingly huge pile of bags and boxes fills one end of the site. Everyone is in a hurry, in a bad temper, anxious to get shot of their crud and disappear.
The place is filled with broken consumer goods, the detritus of our throw-away society and the consequences of our incessant upgrades. Potted hell.
This is one part of what Pen Wilcock addresses in her short but luminous book. She says that simplicity, giving away (not throwing away) surplus possessions is a first step towards a life which is free to live, laugh, love and generally enjoy the earth. Simplicity should rule our use of time as well as our material resources; it should characterise our dealings with one another; it should be the starting point for our evaluation of a course of action. Simplicity is kind to the earth and kind to ourselves, but more importantly it is a spiritual path. Jesus never had a mortgage or a career progression. Simplicity renders us deaf to the seductive whispers of personal aggrandisement; it keeps us balanced and alert to what truly matters.
Lest anyone should think this is a finger-wagging document, nothing could be further from the truth. Pen Wilcock's book is full of illuminating quotations and a nice sense of fun. Built around the metaphor of making bread, it quickly persuades the reader that he or she could turn their life around, and explains how to go about doing so - saving money, time, the earth and all our futures in the process. It's a book of joy.