GiL Video: Resistance and Simplicity: Reflections On Swimming Upstream

Resistance and Simplicity from wess on Vimeo.

In this video I discuss some of the questions I have around using words like “simplicity” when it comes to living out the Gospel in a consumer culture. With a nod to early Friends history, John Woolman, and some contemporary examples of the greening of capitalism, I argue that we need to form practices of resistance to these influences rather than assume there is any neutral space we can stand outside its influence. This is a call to swim upstream, rather than get out of the water. At the end I share one practice my wife and I have been working to do this year, we have decided to not buy new things. I’d love to hear your ideas and your own practices of resistance.

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Published by

Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

39 thoughts on “GiL Video: Resistance and Simplicity: Reflections On Swimming Upstream”

  1. Do you mean you won't be buying anything at all, new or use, or just buying only used things? My weakness is books and i buy both used and new books.

    We live by a budget and don't buy anything we can't pay off. Our one car will be paid off in September and we will have no debt then. Feels good as this is the first time in my life living like this and it feels good. There is so much we don't need! Getting ready to sell our home and move we have been purging things and that is a relief too.

    1. We're buying used and recycled things. There are so many used books I don't have much trouble finding what I need. But, we do have a loop-hole or two. One is with gift cards. If we have a gift card, to say a bookstore, we can use that on a new book/cd,etc.

      Oh and we're allowing ourselves to buy a pair of shoes this year because we each are in need of a (modest) pair. This process has been really good to challenge the assumptions that we need something new all the time, it has helped us cut down on waste and save money too. But more importantly, I really feel like it's challenging my spirituality to pay attention to my own emotional commitment to stuff.

      Lliving within your means is a radical practice in our day and age, keep it up! As much as I don't like moving, I do like the purging process. We're also going through this as we prepare for our move to Washington. Where are you moving too?

  2. i really applaud what you guys are doing! Loopholes are nice sometimes! πŸ˜‰

    We are moving to Sacramento, where Katryna lived for 15 years prior to meeting me. It is really affordable and comparable to here in Richmond, VA. She has a load of job contacts there as well. It is a fun place to live with lots to do.

  3. i forget, where are you guys moving from? i know to a Portlans, Oregon suburb. i havde friends in Portland and will be visiting them, so we will have to connect.

    A good friend of mine, who lives in Corvalis, attends George Fox Seminary, and blogs at Emerging Christian, Peter Walker, is someone you gotta meet. He is so awesome! i have never met his wife, Jen, but everything i hear about her sounds wonderful. i look forward to meeting her.

    His blog is: http://www.emergingchristian.com/

    All the best to you in your move as well. Portland is an awesome city and very progressive! What are you moving there for? Job? School? New start?

  4. i forget, where are you guys moving from? i know to a Portlans, Oregon suburb. i havde friends in Portland and will be visiting them, so we will have to connect.

    A good friend of mine, who lives in Corvalis, attends George Fox Seminary, and blogs at Emerging Christian, Peter Walker, is someone you gotta meet. He is so awesome! i have never met his wife, Jen, but everything i hear about her sounds wonderful. i look forward to meeting her.

    His blog is: http://www.emergingchristian.com/

    All the best to you in your move as well. Portland is an awesome city and very progressive! What are you moving there for? Job? School? New start?

  5. i forget, where are you guys moving from? i know to a Portlans, Oregon suburb. i havde friends in Portland and will be visiting them, so we will have to connect.

    A good friend of mine, who lives in Corvalis, attends George Fox Seminary, and blogs at Emerging Christian, Peter Walker, is someone you gotta meet. He is so awesome! i have never met his wife, Jen, but everything i hear about her sounds wonderful. i look forward to meeting her.

    His blog is: http://www.emergingchristian.com/

    All the best to you in your move as well. Portland is an awesome city and very progressive! What are you moving there for? Job? School? New start?

  6. i forget, where are you guys moving from? i know to a Portlans, Oregon suburb. i havde friends in Portland and will be visiting them, so we will have to connect.

    A good friend of mine, who lives in Corvalis, attends George Fox Seminary, and blogs at Emerging Christian, Peter Walker, is someone you gotta meet. He is so awesome! i have never met his wife, Jen, but everything i hear about her sounds wonderful. i look forward to meeting her.

    His blog is: http://www.emergingchristian.com/

    All the best to you in your move as well. Portland is an awesome city and very progressive! What are you moving there for? Job? School? New start?

  7. i forget, where are you guys moving from? i know to a Portlans, Oregon suburb. i havde friends in Portland and will be visiting them, so we will have to connect.

    A good friend of mine, who lives in Corvalis, attends George Fox Seminary, and blogs at Emerging Christian, Peter Walker, is someone you gotta meet. He is so awesome! i have never met his wife, Jen, but everything i hear about her sounds wonderful. i look forward to meeting her.

    His blog is: http://www.emergingchristian.com/

    All the best to you in your move as well. Portland is an awesome city and very progressive! What are you moving there for? Job? School? New start?

  8. i forget, where are you guys moving from? i know to a Portlans, Oregon suburb. i havde friends in Portland and will be visiting them, so we will have to connect.

    A good friend of mine, who lives in Corvalis, attends George Fox Seminary, and blogs at Emerging Christian, Peter Walker, is someone you gotta meet. He is so awesome! i have never met his wife, Jen, but everything i hear about her sounds wonderful. i look forward to meeting her.

    His blog is: http://www.emergingchristian.com/

    All the best to you in your move as well. Portland is an awesome city and very progressive! What are you moving there for? Job? School? New start?

  9. We're moving from Pasadena, CA. I've been going to Fuller for my PhD and while I'm not finished we're ready to move North! I am going to be pastor at Camas Friends Church in Camas, WA (just east of Vancouver and about 15 miles northeast of downtown Portland). I'd love to meet up if we can work it out. Nice to know your Friend goes to George Fox, as a Quaker I've got much respect for GFU. Is he a Quaker too? I'll start reading his blog and maybe I can meet up with him as well.

  10. No, he is not a quaker. He comes from a similar background as me – fundamentalism! i will shoot him an email with your blog info and tell him to keep an eye out for you. Peter and i met while i started the D.Min in Emerging Church with Len Sweet. We fast became friends and have remained in contact over the past 4 years. i had to withdraw due to my Lyme Disease.

    We were interviewed together by the 2 former Mormon guys who are now atheists who recently interviewed me and Pete Rollins. If you like, you can check it out and hear what we both sound like! πŸ˜‰
    http://www.existentialpunk.com/existential_punk/i

    Did you take any classes with Ryan Bolger? Are you from the Pacific Northwest?

  11. No, he is not a quaker. He comes from a similar background as me – fundamentalism! i will shoot him an email with your blog info and tell him to keep an eye out for you. Peter and i met while i started the D.Min in Emerging Church with Len Sweet. We fast became friends and have remained in contact over the past 4 years. i had to withdraw due to my Lyme Disease.

    We were interviewed together by the 2 former Mormon guys who are now atheists who recently interviewed me and Pete Rollins. If you like, you can check it out and hear what we both sound like! πŸ˜‰
    http://www.existentialpunk.com/existential_punk/i

    Did you take any classes with Ryan Bolger? Are you from the Pacific Northwest?

  12. No, he is not a quaker. He comes from a similar background as me – fundamentalism! i will shoot him an email with your blog info and tell him to keep an eye out for you. Peter and i met while i started the D.Min in Emerging Church with Len Sweet. We fast became friends and have remained in contact over the past 4 years. i had to withdraw due to my Lyme Disease.

    We were interviewed together by the 2 former Mormon guys who are now atheists who recently interviewed me and Pete Rollins. If you like, you can check it out and hear what we both sound like! πŸ˜‰
    http://www.existentialpunk.com/existential_punk/i

    Did you take any classes with Ryan Bolger? Are you from the Pacific Northwest?

  13. No, he is not a quaker. He comes from a similar background as me – fundamentalism! i will shoot him an email with your blog info and tell him to keep an eye out for you. Peter and i met while i started the D.Min in Emerging Church with Len Sweet. We fast became friends and have remained in contact over the past 4 years. i had to withdraw due to my Lyme Disease.

    We were interviewed together by the 2 former Mormon guys who are now atheists who recently interviewed me and Pete Rollins. If you like, you can check it out and hear what we both sound like! πŸ˜‰
    http://www.existentialpunk.com/existential_punk/i

    Did you take any classes with Ryan Bolger? Are you from the Pacific Northwest?

  14. No, he is not a quaker. He comes from a similar background as me – fundamentalism! i will shoot him an email with your blog info and tell him to keep an eye out for you. Peter and i met while i started the D.Min in Emerging Church with Len Sweet. We fast became friends and have remained in contact over the past 4 years. i had to withdraw due to my Lyme Disease.

    We were interviewed together by the 2 former Mormon guys who are now atheists who recently interviewed me and Pete Rollins. If you like, you can check it out and hear what we both sound like! πŸ˜‰
    http://www.existentialpunk.com/existential_punk/i

    Did you take any classes with Ryan Bolger? Are you from the Pacific Northwest?

  15. No, he is not a quaker. He comes from a similar background as me – fundamentalism! i will shoot him an email with your blog info and tell him to keep an eye out for you. Peter and i met while i started the D.Min in Emerging Church with Len Sweet. We fast became friends and have remained in contact over the past 4 years. i had to withdraw due to my Lyme Disease.

    We were interviewed together by the 2 former Mormon guys who are now atheists who recently interviewed me and Pete Rollins. If you like, you can check it out and hear what we both sound like! πŸ˜‰
    http://www.existentialpunk.com/existential_punk/i

    Did you take any classes with Ryan Bolger? Are you from the Pacific Northwest?

  16. Very cool – I was planning on listening to the one with you and Rollins, so I'll check this one out as well. I didn't know you were going to GF as well, that's great!

    Yes, I am good friends with Ryan, he is my PhD advisor and I've been his TA for the past 4 years or so. I think I remember him saying awhile back that he knew you, or your blog or something…

    I'm from Canton Ohio and was raised Catholic and then moved to funamdentalism for a good chunk of time as well. Ahh…how God takes us all over the place!

  17. i am from Cincinnati. Went to Xavier University and had a good friend from Canton.

    i know Ryan from his blog and think he is a great person. He lagged on blogging so i quit reading him after a long while! Tell him to PLEASE return as i love and enjoy his musings!

    My paternal Jewish grandparents put me in Catholic school in 5th grade. i became a born-again fundie my siphomore year at Xavier.

  18. Well it sounds like we have similar paths then! I always love to meet another Ohioan. I will pass the message to Ryan, the Lord knows I've tried to keep him consistent on his blogging!

  19. Thanks, and me too! When i go to LA to visit friends i will have to go to Fuller and meet Ryan. i really enjoyed the emerging church book he did with Eddie Gibbs. The year it came out i bought a bunch of copies and gave it as Christmas presents!

  20. I like a lot about Intense Debate, but it seems to be acting up a bit. Of course, it could be me too!

    I'm sitting here with Ryan's book right now working on some field research of an \”emerging Quaker community\” I think you'd love.

  21. I like a lot about Intense Debate, but it seems to be acting up a bit. Of course, it could be me too!

    I'm sitting here with Ryan's book right now working on some field research of an \”emerging Quaker community\” I think you'd love.

  22. I like a lot about Intense Debate, but it seems to be acting up a bit. Of course, it could be me too!

    I'm sitting here with Ryan's book right now working on some field research of an \”emerging Quaker community\” I think you'd love.

  23. I like a lot about Intense Debate, but it seems to be acting up a bit. Of course, it could be me too!

    I'm sitting here with Ryan's book right now working on some field research of an \”emerging Quaker community\” I think you'd love.

  24. I like a lot about Intense Debate, but it seems to be acting up a bit. Of course, it could be me too!

    I'm sitting here with Ryan's book right now working on some field research of an \”emerging Quaker community\” I think you'd love.

  25. I like a lot about Intense Debate, but it seems to be acting up a bit. Of course, it could be me too!

    I'm sitting here with Ryan's book right now working on some field research of an \”emerging Quaker community\” I think you'd love.

  26. Really, really enjoyed this. Something I've been thinking about a lot. Not sure I'm totally on board with not buying anything new, but I see the heart behind why you are doing that and it makes a lot of sense.

  27. Great stuff. Glad we could hear you this time since the Oregon Coast winds weren't blowing in the mic.

    I was especially drawn to you discussion at the beginning on plainness vs. simplicity. As a Friend, I've obviously taken both of those terms for granted over the years. I've never been forced to rethink the idea of simplicity though. Our tradition has focused on simplicity much more than plainness, they haven't been synonymous in the way that you offer in the video. They have been disctinctly different, and plainness was something "they" did. Growing up, simplicity seemed to be approached in a way that allowed you to acknowledge that you are part of a co-opted consumer culture, but that you can work within that, in small ways, to subvert it.

    So, by reframing it with some different language, you will cause me to have something to chew on for a while.

  28. As I've contemplated not buying anything new, I've also begun to explore loopholes. As my emusic subscription was just recharged a day or two ago, and as I was thinking about what albums to download, my thoughts turned to your struggle with what to do about buying new music. It made me think of a friend of mine from undergrad. He's an agnostic, but is very dedicated to living simply. As far as I know, he hasn't bought anything new for the past 10 years. However, he has one loophole/exception: art–he is willing to buy something new if he considers it art. He finds art to be categorically different from other consumables. Debates about what is and is not art aside, I think this is an appropriate loophole, giving him breadth to buy literature and music.

    1. Thanks for the tip on the art comment. I am going to think through this. I agree that art is different, but I also know the satisfaction I get from identifying with music, etc. How to curb this and still have new music is my internal debate.

  29. I do the same thing with not buying new stuff. Craigslist is definitely your friend. The hardest things to find used are items of small monetary value that people wouldn't waste the time to sell or even give away — I've had to buy things like screwdrivers several times. Complicating the issue is that I also try really hard not to buy anything made in China! Also, things like cell phones that you get "free" with your contract can be hard to get used, since you end up paying a lot more for the "privilege."

  30. Things like screwdrivers are good to borrow.

    For me, one of the serious tradeoffs is how much time it takes to procure things used – you never know when you'll find something in the right size, etc. I have basically decided that my best option is to purchase what I need from the most ethical suppliers I can find, and to buy as many things as possible from a very short list of suppliers – less time shopping is worth the potential trade off in price.

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