Is it really possible to stop buying new stuff?

Issue #64

Hello! This week I write about the challenge of change, share five thought-provoking articles, and include my book notes on Richard Rohr’s latest book. Enjoy 😊 –Sam

First thoughts

Change is hard, isn’t it? Being inspired to change, however, now that part is easy. We read something, or hear something, and we are all fired up with a real determination to do something about it. We decide to form new habits. Or break bad ones.

And, of course, it feels easy at first. In the early days, we’re full of motivation. Enthusiasm is bursting from our pores. But if we’re not careful, we soon find ourselves slipping back. That habit we were trying to break, starts to fight back. The new habit we’re trying to form starts to resist us.

I’ve noticed this as I try to embrace a life of greater digital minimalism. I’m a long way from being back at square one. But I can see little ways in which I’ve been less disciplined this last week or so. I’ve allowed myself a greater amount of screen time. I’ve put my iPhone away a little but later than the 6.30pm I said I’d leave it alone from.

The encouraging thing in my mind, however, is that I’m recognising this trend. Often we don’t even realise. I’m aware though that I’m at a point where I need to re-focus and up my discipline in sticking to the new lifestyle I want.

Some of this, I think, ties with what I wrote about last week and the need to commit to a better leisure life. Cutting something out without refilling that space with something else is rarely successful.

The benefit of having a few people who read what I write, is that it gives me a way to publicly commit to certain things. This is my way of, I hope, helping myself by writing all this down.

Thanks for reading! (I hope you might get some benefit from these ramblings too!)

Insightful articles

1. More than one third of couples suffer mobile phone ‘screen snubbing’ by their partner, survey finds

‘People sleep with their phone, eat with it, play with it and talk to it – it's almost a relationship itself. Mobile phones can build mistrust, doubt and suspicion, cause arguments and infidelity.’It’s not hard to see how smartphones can come between partners.
The Telegraph

2. You spend 5 percent of your day outside. Try making it more

Spending time in nature makes us more relaxed, more creative, and more socially connected. ‘We think shopping makes us happy, or streaming Netflix, eating ice cream—and those things do make us happy, but we get a tremendous boost from being outside in a natural environment.’
Amelia Urry, Wired

3. Greener childhood associated with happier adulthood

Related to the previous article, ‘Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark found that growing up near vegetation is associated with an up to 55 percent lower risk of mental health disorders in adulthood.’
Jonathan Lambert, NPR

4. The wonderful impact that reading can have on your mental health

And, on the subject of mental health: ‘[People] who were given a book to read saw improvement in depressive symptoms, compared with those in a control group who didn’t receive bibliotherapy treatment.’

5. The hottest chat app for teens is…Google Docs

If ever I needed a reminder of the challenges ahead for when my girls hit their teenage years…
Taylor Lorenz, The Atlantic

Book notes

The Universal Christ (Part One)

Richard Rohr

‘I dedicate this book to my beloved fifteen-year-old black Lab, Venus... Without any apology, lightweight theology, or fear of heresy, I can appropriately say that Venus was also Christ for me.‘

So opens Richard Rohr’s just released book, The Universal Christ. If I’d read this statement fifteen years ago, I would have absolutely viewed it as heresy. Or dangerously liberal. But over the last fifteen years, my own journey of faith and spiritually has led me to the point where I can now appreciate what he’s saying.

That’s not yet to say that I can see Christ in all things as clearly as Rohr can. But I’m on the same path now. And instead of viewing that path as dangerous or taking me away from God, I see it taking me to a deeper, fuller, more complete faith.

One of the main points Rohr makes in the book is to do with what Christian’s call the ‘incarnation’. Most Christians associate this with the coming of Jesus to live among us as humans. Rohr points out though that the coming of Jesus is the second incarnation. What is the first? Creation.

'Creation,’ says Rohr, ‘is the first Bible, and it existed for 13.7 billion years before the second Bible was written.’

All creation reveals God. Long before Jesus came and long before we had the Bible. Since the beginning of time, everything visible has been an outpouring of God. And the word for this ‘presence’ that’s before, within, and beyond all things is Christ.

If this is true, the implications are huge. Many Christians view our world as bad. Our ‘salvation’ messages revolve around fleeing this earth, and getting to heaven.

But, if we don’t view the whole world as sacred, we then find it hard to see God in our everyday world. Nor can we love or respect it. Hence many Christians don’t show any interest in issues like global warming. Why care about this planet if we’re going to heaven soon?

Rohr says that recognising the divine in every thing is key to both mental and spiritual health, as well as contentment and happiness.

How are we to understand the difference between Christ and Jesus though? This distinction is at the heart of the book. And Rohr points to various Scriptures that point to the Christ being around long before Jesus was born.

So, in Rohr’s view, Christ is God, and Jesus is the Christ’s historical manifestation in time. Together, Jesus and Christ give us a God who is both personal and universal.

'Jesus is a map for the time-bound and personal level of life,’ writes Rohr. ‘And Christ is the blueprint for all time and space and life itself.’

This, clearly, is not something that is easy to wrap our rational minds around! Rohr recognises this. He argues too that much of recent Christianity has focussed on trying to get people to mentally assent to certain beliefs. But he is calling us back to a simpler trusting in a God who is inherent in all things.

And this God, this Christ in all things, is why Rohr could see Christ in his black Labrador. And seeing is the key word.

Reading Rohr over the last few years has made me realise how little I see. He truly sees Christ in all things and it comes through everything he says and does. It’s that kind of seeing I crave. To see the sacred at the heart of every thing. Whether that be my own dog, all of nature, or the people all around me.

What if salvation was more about a new way of seeing than believing certain theological propositions? 

I’ll be writing some more notes inspired by this book over the next couple of weeks.