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, include my book notes on Richard Rohr’s latest book, and introduce Margaux de Wet in this week’s mini-interview. (Her commitment to ‘conscious consumption’ is particularly insightful and challenging!) 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.

Interesting people

Seven questions with Margaux de Wet

Margaux de Wet was born and bred in Johannesburg, South Africa. She now lives in South Africa’s leafy capital, Pretoria with her hubby, Dian. They married in 2016 and share their home with their two furkids Spencer and Grace. 

Margaux is a marketer by profession and works in the banking industry.

1. What’s a book you’ve read – recently or otherwise – that has significantly affected how you see the world?

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson - I actually need to read it again. It’s helped me to journey along what you’ll read in the next answer 😉. But that’s probably about how I see me.

Also, Thrive by Arianna Huffington has taught me that in a world that constantly tells us what we should do and how we should be, it is critical to be reminded of why you don’t have to be that way or do as prescribed.

2. What’s the biggest challenge or obstacle you’ve had to overcome in getting to where you are today?

Oooh I don’t think I’ve overcome it yet, but I’d like to believe I am getting better at not being so hard on myself and getting out of my own head. I’m an only child and I’ve always had incredibly high expectations of myself. I might have done 9/10 things incredibly well and the single event that’s average can result in a, ‘I’m not good enough’. 

I believe as humans we are highly ‘trainable’ though, so I am very much in exercise mode. Which is basically me always reminding myself of the good events and to be grateful of everything I HAVE achieved. Gratitude is always the right attitude.

So what has brought me to where I am? A whole lot of grace from God and being honest about what I need to work on – so that I can actually work in it.

3. What aspect of your job is the most interesting?

I recently moved into internal communication which is pretty much the only facet of marketing that I haven’t done before and what I find most interesting is the human element. I am constantly challenged with thinking of ways to capture the minds of everyone from call centre staff to senior management.

4. What's a goal or dream you have that you haven't pursued yet?

When I was 18 unfortunately became a part of the crime related statistics of South Africa. I however believe that the pain that I went through could become a platform to help others.

I would really like to be in a position one day where I can serve young ladies to excel despite of whatever circumstances they’re subjected to. So, a motivational or inspirational speaker would be it I reckon.

5. What cause or issue are you personally passionate about at the moment?

Conscious consumption. At the beginning of the year I committed to doing a no-buy year. My reason for this was because I saw myself caring a whole lot about the new dresses other ladies seem to wear at each and every wedding. I felt as though keeping up with the Joneses overshadowed being appreciative of everything I already have.

In addition to that, I realised how often we shop without thinking – hence the 5 pots of cinnamon in my food cupboard. For this year I am only allowed to replace necessities. I am dedicated to using everything I have – even though it might not be my favourite hand-cream – until all the doubles are finished. 

I’ve already discovered that I have stunning things in my wardrobe that I haven’t worn in ages. It’s an interesting experience thus far I can tell you!

6. What do you do when you’re in need of joy, peace, calm, or focus?

Me time plays a big part in my life. I’m an introvert so I need to ensure that I recharge by being by myself rather often. Yoga has also helped a lot with calming my mind and centering myself. And a run with the dogs and being outdoors always wraps up a long day nicely.

7. What's something that costs £20 ($25) or less that you think everyone should get?

Mmmm that’s about R400. A pair of Havaianas – life cannot be lived without flip flops.

Stay connected

If you’d like to connect with Margaux, you’ll find her on Instagram.