This month’s review is of the book In Celebration of Simplicity by Penelope Wilcock. Subtitled The Joy of Living Lightly, this pretty much encapsulates the sense of joy I got while reading.
I should start by telling you a little about Penelope (Ember to her friends). She is, as I understand it, a Plain Quaker. That is, her life is deeply enriched by the Christian Gospels and the example of the life of Christ, and she takes her Quaker witness further in simplicity than most.
This put me off. I thought her book would be naive, and simplistic rather than simple. And probably a bit preachy.
But Amazon kept on suggesting it to me and I cracked. And I’m so very glad I did.
Now for those of you who have difficulty with Christianity, I should tell you that references to Jesus Christ and the words of gospel passages are liberally sprinkled through the pages of this book. But then so too are quotes by Quentin Crisp and Mae West among others.
And that’s the beauty of Penelope’s book: it’s profoundly devout and gorgeously light-hearted at the same time.
A deceptively slim book, you can read it in a few hours, but it will stay with you.
I really enjoyed the structure, which takes as its inspiration a loaf of bread (the daily bread from the Lord’s Prayer, of course). Starting with a chapter called Grain, it moves on through Yeast, Herbs, Salt and other ingredients, to the actions which make bread, Kneading, Time, Fire, and finishes with our enjoyment of the bread we have made.
Here are a few quotes:
Remembering to include the herbs in the bread reminds us of the necessity of beauty for human well-being. Sometimes those who have become convinced practitioners of simplicity, frugality and thrift make the mistake of seeing virtue only in what is cheap and utilitarian. But baking the bread of simplicity is a different endeavour entirely from going to the store to buy the cheapest mass-produced loaf to be found on the shelf.
Living simply means having time to waste with God and other people; time to dream, time for life to occur, informally, as it does. Living simply isn’t something you wedge in, finding a slot for a simplicity moment in the packed schedule of your very successful life. Simplicity is walking an entirely different track.
The bread of simplicity also needs to cook hot. Simplicity is a dreary business without fire.
If you want to know more about Penelope Wilcock, read her blog, the evocatively-named Kindred of the Quiet Way.