To compete with phrases such as 'the lean economy', downsizing, voluntary simplicity and so on, a friend in the Transition Stroud group here in Stroud has come up with the slogan - 'Journey to a Low Carbon High Life'. Rather than giving up things in a painful process of self-denial, our slow shift towards a sustainable life will involve finding more creative and inspiring ways to meet our real needs.
A simple life does not mean a life empty of pleasure or meaning. In the Tao Te Ching, a work of Chinese spiritual wisdom written by the sage Lao Tzu as long ago as the 6th century BCE, the philosopher describes the world of the everyday as the world of 'the ten thousand things'. The hustle and bustle removes the possibility of peace and enjoyment of nature and our friends and family.
A small country has fewer people.
Though there are machines that can work ten to a hundred times faster than man, they are not needed.
The people take death seriously and do not travel far.
Though they have boats and carriages, no on uses them.
Though they have armor and weapons, no one displays them.
Men return to the knotting of rope in place of writing.
Their food is plain and good, their clothes fine but simple, their homes secure;
They are happy in their ways.
Though they live within sight of their neighbors,
And crowing cocks and barking dogs are heard across the way,
Yet they leave each other in peace while they grow old and die.
Reading this sort of passage brings home to me more forcefully the fact that all the stuff that we buy and all the scurrying around we do for work or 'holidays' not only destroys the planet but removes our ability to experience relaxation and joy. The more you remove yourself from these systems and choose natural local systems instead, the more they lose their attraction. It is not a choice to deprive yourself of something - more a gradual loss of interest.
But this doesn't mean the loss of beauty - in fact quite the opposite. You feel more inclined to wear exotic colours and eat delicious local food with slow enjoyment. Why don't you start with enjoying the abundance of perfumes from flowering trees at this time of year?