Raised in the tumult of Japan’s industrial powerhouse, the 11 men and women profiled in A Different Kind of Luxury have all made the transition to sustainable, fulfilling lives. Based on Andy Couturier's popular articles in The Japan Times, this lushly designed volume has a wealth of stories about real people who have created an abundance of time for contemplation, connecting with the natural world, and contributing to their communities. In their success is a lesson for us all: live a life that matters. Read an excerpt of the book here or here. Read a review of the book here, here, or here.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

People are doing it: living minimally, in beauty and awareness,

A beautiful review of A Different Kind of Luxury by yoga teacher Emily Perry was just published in Elephant Journal.  Here are a few choice excerpts:
What makes times such as these meaningful for me is the story—reflecting on change and impermanence though the telling and retelling of one’s experience. After an event such as Fukushima it so easy to overlook the stories waiting patiently in the ether, waiting for us to discover them.  Andy Couturier has done just that: he has uncovered and beautifully told the stories of men and women in Japan before the disaster, giving us a glimpse into the lives of people working to live simple lives in a modern Japan. 
Couturier’s book, A Different Kind of Luxury: Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundancehas been my guide over the last few days. Filled with stories—encounters really—with Japanese women and men, this book was born out of years and years of travel and living in Japan before the disaster. Reading this book has given me a sense of not only the  immensity of the loss, but also a sense of the alternative culture in Japan working towards living in a world in a more environmentally friendly way.
People are doing it: they are living minimally, in beauty and awareness, with time to think and create and thrive. And while this book isnt a how-to book by any means, it brings us an in-depth look at the lives of people that have found ways to bring more meaning, more being-ness instead of busy-ness, into their lives.  (Emphasis added.)

Indeed.  Just yesterday I was listening to some rich and wonderful modern folk music by Mr. "Bob" Uchida, who is a friend of Masanori and Wakako Oe (Chapters 11 and 7).  It's a powerful poem by Gary Snyder translated into Japanese and sung in his high, clear meaningful voice accompanied by hammer dulcimer.  In this song I can feel all the beauty of the Japanese countryside and his mourning at the loss of species, even as he creates something of purpose and beauty for me, for us.  As Emily wrote, this song "gives you a sense of the alternative culture in Japan working towards living in a world in a more environmentally friendly way."

I found one of Mr. Uchida's songs on YouTube.  It isn't the song I was listening to, but you can get a feel for the nature of this man and his singing here at in this video, which is about the Chernobyl disaster:

I would like to end by telling you that even if your life is very different from the people in the book, you can live a good life for yourself, no matter how much tech surrounds you.   One of my writing students Kerry Gough put it this way when he responded to my article last week in the Huffington Post:

A cup of tea in a candle-lit room conversing with my best friend, wife and lover Leila soothe my soul much more satisfactorily than the mad chase for more material things. Surely we love our power-driven iPads, iPods, iPhones, Blackberries, Macs, Nooks, Kindles and laptops, but when we are obsessed with unlimited power or the desire for the cool feel of the plastic and aluminum of our gadgets in our hands, have we given up the comfort of the warm feel of a friend's hand in ours? Andy has it absolutely right. The direction we are headed may enable us to become the masters of our environment but will we reign over a toxic realm?

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