Making do with Mennonites

I haven’t been blogging since Hubby and I took a vacation this week to Pennsylvania Dutch Country. Ah! the food! Chow-chow, kraut, apple dumplings . . . and more meat than I’ve eaten in the last six months.

But people are drawn there also for watching the plain people — a distasteful act, I think, because it exoticizes and somewhat de-humanizes them — and for the outlet mall shopping — also, distasteful because it feeds consumerism (as opposed to necessary consumption) and depends on the offshore labor of others, who are also somewhat de-humanized and outright forgotten.

Hubby, however, really did need some new clothes and even after shopping needs clothes to get through the winter. I’m so proud of him: he considered the country of origin of what he selected, rejecting some good buys from countries where the human and labor rights and environmental protections are especially poor. He didn’t overshop and he’ll get plenty of wear from what he brought home.

Since my wardrobe is about where I want it, that left me waiting while he combed the racks. Fortunately, we had already visited the Mennonite Information Center, where I picked up Doris Janzen Longacre’s 1980 Living More with Less. (find a copy to borrow; Herald Press, the publisher, has a broken Web site). It was her last book, posthumous really: she died at age 39 of cancer. But her legacy includes this, and her more famous More-with-Less Cookbook, (find a copy to borrow) which revolutionized simple, cost-effective cooking in solidarity with the world’s hungry people.

Living More with Less, despite its age, makes a better case for simple living with better practical suggestions than any other book I’ve seen. For instance, she makes a case of wearing out an inefficient car or appliance because of its embedded energy and environmental cost to scrap; if you want to use less energy, find a way to use it less. (I wouldn’t use ammonia like she does, though.)

Also, she makes her case from a Christian point of view, but without the seminary-ese that often plague such defenses. (I don’t recall seeing the words stewardship or metanoia at all.) True to her Anabaptist roots, she sees in the church fellowship the potential for mutual examination and support for a well-lived, materially leaner life.

In this spirit, once I’ve read and digested the book, and have loaned it locally, I will be happy to lend it to persons within the domestic reach of the United States Postal Service.

One Reply to “Making do with Mennonites”

  1. Scott, I would love to read this book when you and your local friends are through with it. Once I’m finished, I’d be happy to pass it along to another person by mailing it. Because of our traveling lifestyle, I can check out library books only rarely.

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