Over the years, I’ve moved from dial-up, to DSL, to Cable Broadband, and have recently cut the cords and gone strictly wireless with my Sprint Mobile Broadband modem. I’ve also gone from Yahoo! Mail, to MS Outlook, to Mozilla Thunderbird, to Google Mail. And I’ve gone from Internet Explorer, to Mozilla Firefox, to Google Chrome. Lately, I’ve been moving all of my contacts to Google Contacts and am keeping my schedule in my Google Calendar. I cut the cord on my landline years ago and have had a Sprint cell phone and used a voicemail service ever since. This month I got a Google Voice account and now have a local voicemail number, so I nixed the voicemail service.
You could say that Google is my go-to service. And it works seamlessly with my Sprint service. My voicemail, contacts, calendar, and email are all accessible from my Samsung Reclaim. You might even say that I am gaga over Google.
I was looking forward to reading Ferenc Máté’s new book, The Wisdom of Tuscany: Simplicity, Security & the Good Life–Making the Tuscan lifestyle you own. I have had a copy of his A Reasonable Life: Toward a Simpler, Secure, More Humane Existence on my bookshelf for many years. I had hoped that Wisdom of Tuscany would be an updated commentary, reflective of the current state of the world. Máté does try to make the book current; however, it is flawed on several fronts.
First, I’m not sure if W.W. Norton does not employ editors at its Albatross imprint or if the editors simply failed to do their jobs. Perhaps, in an attempt to write and include material that reflected events current at the time of the book’s publishing, editing was simply skipped. I don’t know, but I almost didn’t get past the first two chapters. The errors are numerous. For example, this begins the first paragraph on page 19:
Siena’s municipal hall. has a delicate tower that surveys the countryside.
Yes, there is a stray period between hall and has. I don’t expect a book to be 100% error free. But this kind of problem is rampant throughout the entire text.
Second, Máté has lived in Tuscany for 20 years. I fully expect him to tell me about Tuscan life and what it has to teach us about a simpler, more fulfilling way to live. Unfortunately, he often refers to “we” when talking about those of us living in North America. This strikes me as presumptuous. If you haven’t lived here in 20 years, then you cannot make comments about the culture in the first person. You can make comments based on your observations, but not as if you are here living it alongside us. I, for example, grew up in South Carolina, but I have not lived there in 20 years. I can no longer say “we” when referring to anything that happens in South Carolina. I may comment on what I see in the news or what friends or family tell me, but I cannot relate firsthand, first person experience of the culture.
Third, although the book sets out to tell us about making the Tuscan lifestyle our own, it never quite gets there. Máté relates many stories from his life in Tuscany, these are informative and instructive. However, not until the end of the book does he begin to address how to incorporate these ideas into our American lifestyles. The one ten-page-long chapter simply fails to provide any useful details.
Fourth, Máté fails to acknowledge that few people have the resources to pick up and move to the country and start a new life. In addition, plenty of folks, myself included, have no desire to live in the country. That doesn’t mean I can’t find a way to live a good, simple life.
Fifth, it’s true that North Americans could stand to put down their electronic gadgets and spend a bit more time actually talking with family and friends. But if you listen to Máté, every family on the continent is totally fractured. This is too great a generality and certainly does not reflect my own experience of family.
Finally, while Reasonable Life often referred to research and data that helped Máté make his points, Wisdom of Tuscany is filled with too many of Máté’s opinions without the data to back them up. He has a feeling something is wrong and a Tuscan-inspired lifestyle could right that wrong. Unfortunately, his hunches alone don’t provide us with the details we need to adopt that lifestyle.
I still heartily recommend Reasonable Life to anyone seeking a more authentic way to live. I cannot recommend Wisdom of Tuscany. Instead, read Stephanie Mill’s Epicurean Simplicity for a much more inspiring, North American take on simple living.
Frugal – economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful
Voluntary Simplicity – a lifestyle that is less pressured due to a focus away from accumulation of goods and more toward non-material aspects of life
I recently unsubbed from a Yahoo! group whose purpose was to discuss frugal living specifically for people who don’t have children at home. It started out a good group. Unfortunately, one particular member hijacked the group and turned it into a whine-fest about lack of funds and how expensive everything is getting. I’m just not interested in that sort of negative discussion.
I believe in being frugal and I believe in voluntary simplicity as a lifestyle. However, I hold these values by choice, not because there’s not enough money to buy groceries or pay the mortgage. Frugality and simplicity have nothing to do with poverty. You could be on that Forbes 400 list of the richest people and choose to live a frugal, simple life. There’s a big difference in choosing frugality and being forced into frugality. The first is a freeing lifestyle choice. The second is a prison of want.
Definitions from Dictionary.com