Janie B. Cheaney - The simple life | WORLD
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Janie B. Cheaney - The simple life


WORLD Radio - Janie B. Cheaney - The simple life

The trappings of the latest lifestyle trend won’t end our search for contentment

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MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, March 2nd! Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Trends and fads often come in cycles and go out in the same way. Nothing new under the sun.

Here’s WORLD commentator Janie B. Cheaney.

JANIE B. CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: “Cottagecore,” a lifestyle trend among millennials, sounds like a blast from the mid-1970s. That was a time of anxiety and political upheaval and double-digit inflation, when baby-boomers adopted a hippie ethos of “Going Up the Country.” I baked bread and sewed my own long dresses. My girlfriends donned overalls and raised chickens. Some of us moved to collective farms or tried and failed at organic homesteading. It was a deliberate rejection of our parents’ consumerism, and it sounds very similar to the cottagecore aesthetic of simple living in harmony with nature.

With this difference: today’s simple life is mostly played out on social media. According to Ellen Tyn, a popular Instagrammer, Cottagecore is, quote, “less about living a rural lifestyle and more about longing for it or pretending you live it.” To anxious young moderns, simplicity has broad appeal.

But scarcity—not so much. One is a chosen lifestyle, the other a miserable constraint. “Scarcity” has become a buzzword as inflation steps up and supply-chain issues refuse to step down. As heating costs rise, this winter would be a good time to invest in wool socks while studying the secret of contentment.

That’s what Paul called it: “I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” He doesn’t say how, exactly, but the whole letter to the Philippians is about how: practice humility, center your mind on commendable things, rejoice in the Lord. Not that it’s easy. Even Paul felt despondent, cold, and bored while shivering in Mamertine prison shortly before his execution. “Do your best to come before winter” he begged Timothy—the cry of a lonely man facing empty shelves.

Christmas presents backordered until April and heat that costs twice what it did last year don’t compare to destitution in prison, but let’s face it: contemporary Americans don’t do deprivation well. That may be because we don’t do abundance well. We’re both addicted to it and embarrassed by it, like hippies of yesterday and Cottagecore enthusiasts of today. But “I know how to abound,” says Paul, pointing back to the one who taught him.

I’ve read it several times, but this time Luke 16:10 struck me: “If you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?” All I have is God’s, but that what’s coming to me is mine. Jesus calls it a place prepared, while Peter speaks of a sure inheritance: an embarrassment of riches we don’t deserve.

Abundance is not a bad thing—it’s a founding principle of our teeming world and a key factor of the next. We will not be guests in that new world; we’ll be home. Knowing that, we can hold our temporary goods lightly, whether much or little. It won’t always be easy, but it’s simple.

I’m Janie B. Cheaney.

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