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Epicurean Simplicity by Stephanie Mills (thoughts)

July 24, 2013

Epicurean Simplicity

I’m quite curious about movements such as voluntary simplicity and minimalism, although I think of myself a more of an ‘enough-ist.’ I’ve no interest in only owning one hundred things, or even counting all of my things, or living ‘off the grid,’ but I do have a lot of interest in opting out of hyperconsumerism, making sustainable choices, and finding contentment with what I have instead of constantly desiring new or better things.

Usually, when I’m interested in something, I read about it. Often times, I read lots of about it. But strangely enough, I haven’t been able to turn up that many relevant books that look like thoughtful, philosophical explorations rather than self help. Perhaps I’m not searching the correct terms in my library catalogue? I found Epicurean Simplicity by Stephanie Mills with the subject ‘simplicity,’ and placed it on hold without really looking into more detail.

It turns out it’s an essay collection, shaped around a year in Mills’ life; I do love it when books are tied in to the seasons. Mills lives in a small, self-sufficient house on a plot of land in the Midwest, close enough to a town but with enough trees and space to feel a bit removed. She’s chosen to live a simpler life, and this book is about that life and her choices. As such, it’s quite idiosyncratic, and while there was much I liked about the book, there were also enough thoughts that annoyed me that I can’t say I loved, or even really, really liked it. Honestly, I don’t even have very clear memories of it, although I read it perhaps three weeks ago, which is quite telling, isn’t it?

I’m not sure exactly why I didn’t connect with this more. I don’t think it was the personal aspect; while I’m not a memoir fan, I do love essays, and this fell more into that camp. And I’m sure it’s not because Mills is an opinionated older women; many of my very favourite authors are such women. I suppose that’s just the way of reading, isn’t it? Some books reach out and grab us while others, although well written and about appealing topics, don’t. I believe she references Thoreau, as do many authors writing about voluntary simplicity, and as I am not a fan of Thoreau that might have something to do with it. But ultimately, there simply wasn’t a spark. I can’t see myself pursuing more of Mills’ work, but I wouldn’t discourage others from reading her.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 25, 2013 10:58 am

    I’m glad to know that I’m not the only reader who will, on occasion, choose a book based on a single detail (a single word in the title, in this case). It’s too bad that it didn’t turn out to be a particular favourite, but they can’t all be contenders for the Atheneum I suppose.

  2. RhetoricFemme permalink
    July 26, 2013 11:46 pm

    I’ll have to check this book out! Minimalism is something that I’ve been lightly reading up on and looking into for the past year or so, but yeah. What a concept to navigate through! I once read somewhere about the notion that minimalism is giving up all your paper, whereas simplicity is utilizing the back of a junk mail envelope for your grocery list. Seemed like an appropriate analogy.

    Thanks for sharing this book with us!

  3. August 2, 2013 4:55 pm

    This has happened to me with both books, and people! I think I’m going to like a book or person because we have so much in common but it doesn’t always work out that way. On the outside a book or person may seem ‘just like me,’ but when I go a little deeper I find there aren’t any connecting points. Such a great post. Thanks.

  4. August 3, 2013 12:35 am

    I seem to be a dissenting voice. I found this a magnificent work which married ancient philosophy with the abiding dilemmas of our age: destructive consumerism, the consequences of global warming and population growth. It is a sobering work, for we may have passed the tipping point in our relationship with Nature – in a way perhaps unimaginable to Epicurus – and thus the work partakes of elegy. It would be so easy for a book such as this not to work – to be tub-thumping or sanctimonious. But it does work, as it combines a fierce and personal honesty with a wide ranging erudition. I thoroughly recommend it.

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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