Franciscan Challenge for the Week: Live without electricity for 24 hours. Why would we want to live without electricity for a day, you ask? There are a few things to consider, here.
- Living without electricity is a way to live in solidarity with those in poverty around the world. According to the U.N., 1.4 billion to 1.6 billion people around the world live without electricity.
- Living without electricity may give you some peace and quiet that you didn’t even realize you were missing. When we eliminate some of the noise, we’re left with ourselves and God. “We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature — trees, flowers, grass — grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence. We need silence to be able to touch souls.”-Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta. “Be still and know that I am God” Psalm 46:10
- Living without electricity may show you how dependent you are on “the system” and help you depend more on God. “What consolation! The Book of Exodus is our story as we will see! This ancient text is a metaphor for modern men; whether we are enslaved by lust, or technology, or food or drink, or to any other thing, we find ourselves helplessly enslaved all the same.” – Fr Brian Doerr
- Living without electricity can help you care for creation a bit more by not consuming energy created by fossil fuels. In fact, many aspects of simple living are aligned with care for creation.
So how would you go about living without electricity for 24 hours? You can accomplish this simply by turning off the circuit breakers in your house, all except for the one or two controlling your refrigerator and freezer; I don’t recommend turning them off since wasting food is not part of this exercise! You may also want to only do this during warm weather so you don’t risk freezing water pipes in your home. To prepare a bit for this exercise, make sure you have a way to cook food that doesn’t require electricity (wood stove or campfire), have a few gallons of clean water handy if you are on an electric well, and a few candles or oil lamps with matches to see with in the early morning or late night.
Simple Living isn’t Convenient!
As Franciscans, we are called to live a simple life. And by choosing to live a simpler life, we are caring for creation whether we realize it or not. We end up using less electricity, gas, and oil. Fewer disposable containers go into landfills. Fewer agricultural chemicals are washed into rivers and aquifers. Don’t confuse a simple life with a convenient life, though; in fact, it often is often a very inconvenient life. But it is a life that is more intentional, often less costly, slower, healthier, and better for creation, all at the same time. Simple living is getting rid of the television and the microwave. Raising our own vegetables, eggs, and meat. Building a “green” home with cash. Limiting trips to the store, and rarely if ever eating at restaurants. Freedom from attachments, owning one car for a family of eight. Eliminating debt in our lives so we feel the freedom to follow the next step of God’s calling.
There is also a sense of slowness that is involved in simple living; the long processes. The slowness of waiting six months for each coat of plaster to cure on the straw-bale walls. The slowness of waiting three months for a tomato to grow and ripen. The slowness of soaking shell beans overnight then simmering them two hours instead of getting them from a can. The slowness of cooking a meal instead of eating fast food. The slowness of walking a couple miles to work instead of driving. I don’t always find myself meditating during these long processes, but they do offer a sense of the sacred – the respect for creation that comes from being less wasteful with toxic building materials, disposable packaging, refrigeration and transportation fuels. At first, these long processes might test our patience, but if you choose to embrace it and meditate on it, you might also discover the presence of God.
What is particularly interesting to me is that choosing a simple lifestyle is also a form of solidarity with the poor; it ties the “J” and the “IC” from JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation) together. I have a friend who is on welfare due to a medical condition, and over the years he has complained less and less about how bad he’s got it because he knows that I live a simpler life than he does; that I raise a garden and livestock, that we cook most of our meals, and that we built our house ourselves. He’s comfortable around me because of my lifestyle. When I visited Haiti a few years ago, I felt right at home, and felt like I shared so much in common with our brothers and sisters there. I didn’t fear them or pity them – I just loved them and worked alongside them because my lifestyle was already so close to theirs.
What are some simple lifestyles that you admire, either from history or from modern times? What aspects of these simple lifestyles can you adopt this week and continue throughout your life?