Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich

Overview

First published in 1981, Voluntary Simplicity was instantly recognized as a visionary work. The New York Times called it "seminal"; the Wall Street Journal noted that it was "considered the movement's Bible." Revised in 1993 to address the trend toward downshifting, this pertinent book helps us to adjust our thoughts, habits, and goals and embrace the key elements of simplicity: frugal consumption, ecological awareness and personal growth.

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Overview

First published in 1981, Voluntary Simplicity was instantly recognized as a visionary work. The New York Times called it "seminal"; the Wall Street Journal noted that it was "considered the movement's Bible." Revised in 1993 to address the trend toward downshifting, this pertinent book helps us to adjust our thoughts, habits, and goals and embrace the key elements of simplicity: frugal consumption, ecological awareness and personal growth.

"Promise Ahead is essential reading for people flooded with information yet filled with confusion. Never before have humans had to function responsibly and gracefully as citizens of the whole earth. Thankfully, Duane Elgin has the courage and the credentials to provide us with a visionary and plausible road map into the deep future."(—Vicki Robin, coauthor with Joe Dominguez of Your Money or Your Life )

"Promise Ahead is a corrective to the negative messages about the state of our world that are prevalent today. Elgin provides a compelling blueprint for the future that is both hopeful and doable. This book deserves the attention of our entire society." (—Larry Dossey, M.D., author of Reinventing Medicine and Healing Words )

"Duane Elgin already lives the future he writes about. Elgin writes with personality, passion, and persistence. The result is a well-reasoned and plausible promise that includes some mighty big challenges. Duane Elgin is calling us on a hero's journey where we can all be heroes." (—Robert Johansen, president, Institute for the Future )

"Promise Ahead is a powerful message for our time, a seminal contribution to the newstory, and essential reading for those dedicated to creating a world that works for all." (—David C. Korten, author of The Post-corporate World and When Corporations Rule the World )

"Promise Ahead is a book for the twenty-first century with a clear message: a sustainable planet is not an unreachable goal. Elgin articulates an operating manual of possibility and hope." (—Elizabeth Dowdeswell, former director, United Nations Environment Program )

"Duane Elgin's vision of our possible future is both well researched and reasoned and offers us a rare treasure-ground for hope." (—Sam Keen, author of Fire in the Bellyand To a Dancing God )

"Promise Ahead offers us a new framework for our conscious evolution. A gem to inaugurate the twenty-first century." (—Barbara Hubbard, author of Conscious Evolution and The Evolutionary Journey )

"This is transformative literature in the true sense. In Duane Elgin's work, we can recognize a possibility for humankind that is obscured if not absent in daily life, and in so doing, Promise Ahead offers us a rational basis for hope, the quality needed most in today's world."(—Paul Hawken, co-author of Natural Capitalism; author of The Ecology of Commerce)

". . .provides great expectations as well as concrete steps for avoiding a gloomy future. . . .[Elgin's] discussion of television and the Internet is especially thoughtful and optimistic. . . .The challenges of the global village can appear overwhelming at times. As Elgin reminds us, 'We are the leaders we have been waiting for,' and our responsibility is enormous. Yet the very act of envisioning a better future can in itself initiate change. . . .Promise Ahead inspires[s] those necessary dreams."(—New Age magazine)

America's news movement for personal and social change, toward a way of life that is outwardly simple and inwardly rich.

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Editorial Reviews

Christian Science Monitor
[Promise Ahead] alert[s] us to important problems and offers suggestion[s] that are genuinely constructive.
New Age
The very act of envisioning a better future can in itself initiate change. . . .Promise Ahead inspire[s] those necessary dreams.
Napra Review
The opportunity trends are what make this book so special, so full of hope, so powerful. Promise Ahead delivers on its promise and deserves to be widely read.
Vicki Robin
Promise Ahead is essential reading for people flooded with information yet filled with confusion. Thankfully, Duane Elgin has the courage ...to provide us with a visionary and plausible road map into the deep future.
Larry Dossey
Promise Ahead is a corrective to the negative messages about the state of our world that are prevalent today. This book deserves the attention of our entire society.
Robert Johansen
Duane Elgin already lives the future he writes about. Elgin writes with personality, passion, and persistence. Duane Elgin is calling us on a hero's journey where we can all be heroes.
David C. Korten
Promise Ahead is a powerful message for our time, a seminal contribution to the new stroy, and essential reading for those dedicated to creating a world that works for all.
Elizabeth Dowdeswell
Promise Ahead is a book for the twenty-first century with a clear message: a sustainable planet is not an unreachable goal. Elgin articulates an operating manual of possibility and hope.
Sam Keen
Duane Elgin's vision of our possible future is both well researched and reasoned and offers us a rare treasure—grounds for hope.
Barbara Hubbard
Promise Ahead offers us a new framework for our conscious evolution. A gem to inaugurate the twenty-first century.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688036478
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/28/1981
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 312

Meet the Author

Duane Elgin is an internationally recognized speaker and author. His books include The Living Universe, Promise Ahead, and Awakening Earth. In 2006, he received the international Goi Peace Award in recognition of his contribution to a global "vision, consciousness, and lifestyle" that fosters a "more sustainable and spiritual culture." He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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First Chapter

Chapter One

VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY THE NEW GLOBAL CHALLENGE AT THE HEART OF THE SIMPLE LIFE IS AN EMPHASIS ON harmonious and purposeful living. Richard Gregg was a student of Gandhi's teaching and, in 1936, he wrote the following about a life of "voluntary simplicity":

Voluntary simplicity involves both inner and outer condition. It means singleness of purpose, sincerity and honesty within, as well as avoidance of exterior clutter, of many possessions irrelevant to the chief purpose of life. It means an ordering and guiding of our energy and our desires, a partial restraint in some directions in order to secure greater abundance of life in other directions. It involves a deliberate organization of life for a purpose. Of course, as different people have different purposes in life, what is relevant to the purpose of one person might not be relevant to the purpose of another. . . . The degree of simplification is a matter for each individual to settle for himself.

There is no special virtue to the phrase voluntary simplicity -- it is merely a label, and a somewhat awkward label at that. Still, it does acknowledge explicitly that simpler living integrates both inner and outer aspects of life into an organic and purposeful whole.

To live more voluntarily is to live more deliberately, intentionally, and purposefully -- in short, it is to live more consciously. We cannot be deliberate when we are distracted from life. We cannot be intentional when we are not paying attention. We cannot be purposeful when we are not being present. Therefore, to act in a voluntary manner is to be aware of ourselves as we move through life. This requires that we not only pay attention to the actions we take in the outer world, but also that we pay attention to ourselves acting -- our inner world. To the extent that we do not notice both inner and outer aspects of our passage through life, then our capacity for voluntary, deliberate, and purposeful action is commensurately diminished.

To live more simply is to live more purposefully and with a minimum of needless distraction. The particular expression of simplicity is a personal matter. We each know where our lives are unnecessarily complicated. We are all painfully aware of the clutter and pretense that weigh upon us and make our passage through the world more cumbersome and awkward. To live more simply is to unburden ourselves -- to live more lightly, cleanly, aerodynamically. It is to establish a more direct, unpretentious, and unencumbered relationship with all aspects of our lives: the things that we consume, the work that we do, our relationships with others, our connections with nature and the cosmos, and more. Simplicity of living means meeting life face-to-face. It means confronting life clearly, without unnecessary distractions. It means being direct and honest in relationships of all kinds, It means taking life as it is -- straight and unadulterated.

When we combine these two ideas for integrating the inner and outer aspects of our lives, we can describe voluntary simplicity as a manner of living that is outwardly more simple and inwardly more rich, a way of being in which our most authentic and alive self is brought into direct and conscious contact with living. This way of life is not a static condition to be achieved, but an ever-changing balance that must be continuously and consciously made real. Simplicity in this sense is not simple. To maintain a skillful balance between the inner and outer aspects of our lives is an enormously challenging and continuously changing process. The objective is not dogmatically to live with less, but is a more demanding intention of living with balance in order to find a life of greater purpose, fulfillment, and satisfaction.

Copyright (c) 1998 by Duane Elgin

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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2006

    Not at all what I expected

    This book came highly recommended as a seminal work in simple living. My interests in this way of life were grounded in self-sufficiency, rejection of consumerism, and a general 'take nothing, leave nothing' kind of attitude toward life. What I found in this book was a manual by and for the political left. The author tells us over and over again that voluntary simplicity can mean many things to many people, and that it is entirely up to the individual to discover what it means for them. This is always followed up by the reader being told that people who live in this way 'tend to' reject all violence, take a keen interest in human rights and feminism, boycott companies whose practices they find to be unethical, and use the time saved by living simply to volunteer at the local homeless shelter. The gap between rich and poor is bemoaned constantly. 'Spaceship Earth' and the brotherhood and goodness of all human beings are mentioned more than once. The author states if we all (meaning the West, presumably) would just engage in voluntary simplicity, everyone on the planet could enjoy the material comforts of the middle class. Followed to its logical conclusion, it's Elgin's opinion that if we just consumed less, all the tyrannies in the world would fall away, corrupt dictatorships would cease being corrupt, and people would stop strapping bombs to themselves. Evil would die. This man's naivete is staggering. Wrap all this up with a thread of vague, pseudo-Zen Buddhist nonsense, and you have Voluntary Simplicity. Essentially, non-liberals need not apply. I was lead to believe that this was a how-to guide for a more efficient personal way of life, but all it is is more feel-good theories and outright indoctrination.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2000

    Tops

    There are a number of books about frugality and simplicity and these rates right at the top of them. The ideas and practical and the concepts really help give strength to your personal decisions about the life you want to live.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted September 4, 2011

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    Posted September 20, 2011

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    Posted September 24, 2011

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