“For 350 years Quakers have been living out of a spiritual center in a way of life they call “plain living.”Plain living is not always uncomplicated. It is not just “simplicity” although that is a word more commonly used among Friends today.
Catherine Whitmire, in my favorite resource on plainness, Plain Living: A Quaker Path to Simplicity Sorin Books, 2001.
“It may surprise some of us to hear that the first generation of Friends did not have a testimony for simplicity. They came upon a faith which cut to the root of the way they saw life, radically reorienting it. They saw that all they did must flow directly from what they experienced as true, and that if it did not, both the knowing and the doing became false. In order to keep the knowledge clear and the doing true, they stripped away anything which seemed to get in the way. They called those things superfluities, and it is this radical process of stripping for clear-seeing which we now term simplicity.”Frances Irene Taber, 1985, as quoted in Whitmire, p.21.
For me personally, plain dress includes solid colors, solid construction and practical fabrics. It does not preclude any particular colors but it does not include any superfluous details, from jewelry to lapels or patterns. My personal standard of modesty probably owes more to my mother's example than any religious convictions. Plain dress requires fair labor standards and sustainable resources. It is a standard I aspire to, not a goal I have achieved.“Outwardly, simplicity is shunning superfluities of dress, speech, behavior, and possessions, which tend to obscure our vision of reality. Inwardly, simplicity is spiritual detachment from the things of this world as part of the effort to fulfill the first commandment: to love God with all of the heart and mind and strength. The testimony of outward simplicity began as a protest against the extravagance and snobbery which marked English society in the 1600's. In whatever forms this protest is maintained today, it must still be seen as a testimony against involvement with things which tend to dilute our energies and scatter our thoughts, reducing us to lives of triviality and mediocrity. Simplicity does not mean drabness or narrowness but is essentially positive, being the capacity for selectivity in one who holds attention on the goal. Thus simplicity is an appreciation of all that is helpful toward living as children of the Living God.”North Carolina Yearly Meeting (conservative), 1983,as quoted in Whitmire, p. 23-24.
Martin Kelley maintains an online list of resources for historical plain dress as does Quaker Jane. I am not called to historical accuracy.
Plain for me includes a gold wedding band – one marriage, one lifelong commitment. Not a multiplicity of romantic entanglements, although I had my share before I was married.
Plain living for me means moderate consumption of food, drink, housing, clothing, medicines, and other resources. It includes healthful and fun recreation.
I have a scruple regarding the consumption of alcoholic beverages, not as a historical relic, but because I find the social use of alcohol to be inconsistent with the kinds of honest, intimate relationships I want to have with my family, my friends, and God.
Plain living precludes wagers, raffles and other forms of gambling.
Plain speech is hard for me, as I tend to entertain myself with hyperbole. Plain speech means truth telling, without obfuscation or evasion.
Plain living means living within our economic means, without debt. Plain living means limiting my volunteer and community service work as well as my paid employment so as to focus on God’s will.
Plain living requires seeking to share access to this peaceful life with all of humanity and all creation."The simple life is one in which there is always time to remember the divine purpose behind each of our tasks, time to listen for a possible divine amendment to the day’s schedule, and time to be thankful for the divine presence at each moment of the day.”Lloyd Lee Wilson, Essays on the Quaker Vision of Gospel Order, 1993, as quoted in Whitmire, p. 21.
As with all robinopedia definitions/explanations, this is subject to change without notice.
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