“Simple Prosperity” – Book Review & a Chance to Get on my Soapbox

I have been putting off writing a review of Simple Prosperity by David Wann until I have time to sit down and really give it the thought it deserves in order to do it justice.  With the current economic landscape, however, I have to TAKE the time. 

I originally borrowed the book from my local library.  I had read only the first few pages of the introduction when I decided to immediately return it.  I knew I had to buy it so that I could underscore,  highlight, write in the margins and star the passages that encouraged and supported the lifestyle I long to live; the lifestyle that I believe all Americans are going to have to adopt to get through the next few years.  Yes, years.  The mess we’re in is not going to be fixed by Bush’s bailout plan or Obama or McCain’s plans to tax us to death.  The economic “downturn” (read depression) we are in for can only be survived if every American family takes the responsibility for living within its income level, not taking on more and more debt and learning that material possessions don’t bring true happiness. 

In Simple Prosperity, Mr. Wann says that American culture has become obsessed with the quantity of life, rather than the quality of life.  More of everything! And who cares if we can’t pay for it?  Instead of the pursuit of happiness, Americans are in “pursuit of happiness-by-consumption.”  We have become an over-consuming society caught in what he calls a “Catch-22 lifestyle: we aren’t sure we can make fundamental changes in our personal lives because the mainstream American lifestyle eats up our time, focus and human energy.  Yet, we can’t create more time until we make adjustments in our lifestyle.  And we won’t do that until we collectively grasp the benefits of changing; until we see that we have far more to gain than lose by adopting a more moderate way of life.”

It’s never been more evident than today that the American dream has become the American nightmare.  “It’s time for a new way of valuing the world and our place in it. [It’s] not about giving up the good life but getting it back.”  Amen!

We live in a money mad world.  I recently heard one television commentator call the last few decades in America a money party.  Well, folks, the party’s over and its time to clean the house!  “If we make a heroic effort to break our widespread addiction to over-consumption, what will take its place?…when we change a few key priorities, many of our material wants will cease to be obsessions.  …Real wealth is the calmness and contentedness that comes with feeling good, physically; the sense of well being that makes anything seem like an event.  Real wealth is finding the rhythm of natural cycles and jumping in.  …How many people do you know who convey the message I am enough, I have enough, I am content.”   Really gives you something to think about, doesn’t it?  Of course, I view the concepts offered in Simple Prosperity from my Christian worldview and see principles that are timeless; principles of community, family and stewardship.  I personally add principles of faith. 

Its time for America to take stock of where it is.  There are conflicting theories of how we got here.  I think its important to hold accountable the greedy individuals that started the dominoes tumbling, but if more Americans had resisted the mortgages they couldn’t afford, the cars they can’t pay for, the get rich quick stock market schemes, etc., would this have turned out the same way?  How can we blame corporations for our own individual greed?  Its time to take personal responsibilty for our lives and not depend on the government to bail us out. 

But, back to the book review.  I agree with the author that “the American dream is used up.  Discomfort has always been a catalyst for change.”  Well, we’re uncomfortable!  Now, what are we going to do with our discomfort?  I agree when Mr. Wann states that “its time for us to reinvent a more moderate economy based on how nature actually works and what humans actually need.” 

My brief, over-simplified summary of Simple Prosperity hardly does it justice.  My friend, don’t walk, RUN to your local bookstore – preferably one locally owned rather than a big chain – and buy a copy.  Read it, absorb it and make the changes in your life that will enable your family to live reasonably based on realistic expectations and less material consumption.  We are each responsible for our lives, the way we spend our money and the priorities we set.  Let’s re-examine our way of life and get back to the things that really matter.

Keep it simple,



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