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Jacques Lawinski

Jacques Lawinski

PhD candidate in philosophy and ecology at Université Paris VIII, visiting researcher in Lesvos, Greece. A writer, an activist, and an avid walker, I explore the planet and what it means to relate to nature, finding new, ecological ways of being.
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The Abundance of Less by Andy Couturier

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The Abundance of Less: Lessons in Simple Living from Rural Japan by Andy Couturier
North Atlantic Books, 2017.

Andy Couturier is the founder and a teacher at The Opening, a centre for writing education in the United States. He has written about ecology, nature, sustainability, and more, in Japan and the United States. 

An absolutely beautiful book by Andy Couturier about the differences in ways of life between traditional city-dwellers in the West, and Japanese people who have intentionally moved to rural locations to live slower lives, closer to nature.

The book weaves its way through the stories of several Japanese people, intermixing the reflections of the author with the ideas and principles of the people Couturier is interviewing. He is careful to represent their thoughts and opinions in accurate ways, because these people all have nuanced and balanced views on the world, that are difficult to generalise or categorise. Part of their message is precisely this: to take the time to talk, and to understand the world and the other, so that we really share precious moments of true connection.

Many of the people featured in this book have been in India, or other parts of traditionally Buddhist Asia, such as Nepal, and therefore have very spiritual principles behind their ways of life. Very often, there are artistic aspects to their lives too, like pottery, painting, sculpture, or writing. Similarly, food – both the production of food in their garden, and its preparation and cooking – is equally central to their lives. These three aspects, of spirituality or principles, art, and nature through food are key themes throughout the stories.

We can learn a lot from people who have rejected the current societal system of intense pressure and stress, and dependence on money. They each have their own personal reasons, and the journeys that led them to make this choice. In almost all cases, the families described in the book have chosen to live as much as possible without money. This has been possible, up until the point where the children decide to go to university, whereby the parents have had to get small jobs or help out their children in some way, to make this possible. What allows people to live without money is to transform the way that we desire things. We don’t need everything that we purchase, and even some of the things we think we need might be more habitual than really necessary.

The book inspires reflections on our own lives, our principles, and the dependencies we have on money, the social system, work, and nature. There is a certain freedom to be found in living close to nature and being able to choose how we are going to spend all our time. For many who live in cities, this just seems impossible. However, even making small changes to the way we do things can help us to reduce our stress, connect more with others, and find happiness in everyday life and experiences.

The Abundance of Less is available at Paper Plus NZ here, or check out your local bookshop to see if they have it in stock or can order it for you. 

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