The Non-Conformity of Simplicity


“More with less means choosing limitations.  Few of us, however, can live alone by new standards.  Taking the narrow way is too risky.  As the preacher in Ecclesiastes puts it: ‘Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help.  Again, if two lie together, they keep warm; but how can one keep warm alone?  And though one might prevail against another, two will withstand one.  A threefold cord is not quickly broken.’ (Eccles 4:9-12)”

Doris Janzen Longacre, Living More with Less, 83.

To live simply is an act of non-conformity to our ‘saturated in consumerism’ context.  Yet, to say simple does not mean easy.

To live simply is to work harder.

I know a guy in an inner city neighbourhood who, in the name of simplicity, decided to raise chickens in his backyard.  It would be far easier for him to drive to the supermarket and drive home rather than raise chickens (I think illegally, but I can’t remember) in his backyard.  It takes discipline to live this way.  Particularly because he, like the majority of us in the North American context have been conformed in this way.

As Doris Janzen Longacre says “Simplicity is a narrow road of self-discipline.”

Others I know grow a bunch of veggies in their backyards.  They grow enough so they very rarely have to buy anything in grocery stores.  I know others who do the 100 mile diet.  I know others without cable TV and others who cycle to work everyday.  Some of them in even –40C weather.  I remember driving past those folks in my nicely heated ‘because I started it and let it run for 10 minutes’ car thinking to myself “what the heck are they doing…”

Not only is it harder to do, not everyone is doing it.  In a world that serves for mass consumption, to be simple is to be moving against the grain of convenience.  A convenience that resides deep within the belly of a consumerist ethos.

Ecclesiastes tells us that it is important that we not be alone.  Our non-conformity, grounded in simplicity, is best done in community because it is difficult.  Be mindful, if you seek to live simply in the midst of mass consumption that you do so within the empowerment of community.

What are your actions of non-conformity?  Do you try it alone or in community? 

(For further thinking on this, do a simple google search of “new monasticism,” many of those communities work at exactly this kind of thing.)


  1. Jamie Arpin-Ricci · June 26, 2012

    The sad reality is this: being in community is an act of non-conformity itself.

    • chris lenshyn · June 26, 2012

      Community is an act of non conformity speaks to the individualistic culture here in North America. Yet, some types of community could be considered conformist. The type of community, or how we define community is significant I think. Thanks for digging deeper on this bro!

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