Patrice Lewis of the Rural Revolution blog sent me a copy of her new book more than a month ago. I’ve been enjoying it since then, but hesitating because I wasn’t sure how best to review it.
I’m still not sure. But since it’s in danger of becoming an old book before I wrap my brain around it, here I am with a few thoughts.
Her book is The Simplicity Primer: 365 ideas for making life more livable. You can get it for $10.85 at Amazon using that link, which gives a portion of the purchase price to me. CHANGE: Our hosts here at BHM have asked me to remove the Amazon link and remind you that you can buy the book from the BHM bookstore.
Right out I’ll tell you that if you’re a Christian libertarian or anarchist — particularly if you’re in a couple or raising a family or planning to be — you should have this book. Don’t hesitate. Just buy it. It’s lovely. And it’s something you’ll want to keep by your bedside for reference on those ragged days when you really, really need to be reminded of what matters. Or on any day, for that matter.
I don’t mean to imply that The Simplicity Primer excludes non-believers. Not at all. I didn’t feel excluded despite Patrice’s gentle barbs at those of us who reach for belief but come back to earth empty handed. Her observations are wise, and her sources are more likely to be Henry David Thoreau and a handful of B.C. Greeks than anybody from the hellfire and damnation crowd. Nor did I feel excluded by virtue of being single or childless.
Even if you’re not in Patrice’s primary audience, there’s plenty in this book to soothe your heart and remind you where your priorities lie if a simple life is your goal.
She also writes with disarming humor and with a clear understanding of life’s complexities. Two adjacent entries, for instance, are headed “Move to the country” and “Don’t move to the country.”
To give you a bit more of a taste, here are Patrice’s major category headings:
- Getting personal (about self improvement)
- Getting along (you and your spouse or partner)
- Teach your children well
- Amazing grace (living your religion)
- Home is where the heart is
- To your health
- Your daily bread
- Nine-to-five simplicity
- It’s easy being green
- Time off for good behavior (relaxation and recreation)
- Nothing new under the sun
- Radical simplicity
Patrice acknowledges a central paradox: getting to simplicity can be complex. And achieving simplicity doesn’t mean you’ll never again have a bad day or never again feel overwhelmed by trials or responsibilities. Simplicity also doesn’t mean you’ll live in the backwoods without electricity (unless you want to) or have 400-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets (which a certain magazine, which Patrice and I both laugh about, seems to feel is key to the simple life).
Patrice gets right to her one of her key definitions on page 4:
If I had to summarize what it takes to achieve a simpler life in three words or less, it would be these: make good choices
Choices. Don’t choose to marry a person who’s got bad news tattooed all over him (or her). Don’t choose to saturate your girl-children in pre-adolescent sexuality. Don’t let your friends or family dictate your choices in anything that matters. When your gut is trying to tell you something, listen. Be polite. Acknowledge that men and women tend to think differently and have different needs in relationships. Be the first to apologize after an argument. Get a handle on your cravings.
None of this is simple to do. And it’s even harder once you’ve made the Big Mistakes (haven’t we all?) and have to extricate yourself from them or live with the consequences. But Patrice is right: good choices go hand-in-hand with strength and integrity. They lead us and our loved ones on a calmer path through the world’s chaos.
Keeping Patrice Lewis’ Simplicity Primer by bedside or hearthside could definitely help most any of us — but especially couples or parents — keep to the simple path.