Thursday, August 1, 2013

Living the Quaker Way by Philip Gulley

Living the Quaker Way: Timeless Wisdom for a Better Life Today by Philip Gulley is a very readable book.  Written in an inviting and personal tone, the author almost convinces the reader to want to live a Quaker-like lifestyle.  This new emerging culture reflected by its own genre of books- where the modern, sophisticated city dweller pillages the simplicity, the cuisine and/ or home décor of a simple or primitive culture- is becoming the fashion today.  We see cookbooks with covers depicting wholesome, innocent, bonnet wearing women and children on buggies and bikes, in an attempt to sell home-cooked themed recipes.  Nostalgic greeting cards in the holiday season depict old fashioned serene scenes and simply dressed old fashioned happy people.  Countless Amish fiction novels depict wholesome innocent young girls with flowers and bonnets.  Even Ikea furniture is a billion dollar business. American society has a fascination with the simple life. 

Gulley's book gives the reader insight into the Quaker lifestyle as well as the Quaker belief system.  Most people have little idea of what a Quaker is or means, even though just about everyone has heard of the Quakers or the Society of Friends.  The author dispels commonly held myths of the Quaker and sorts fact from fiction.  This book is basically like a Quaker 101 introductory class.

It is interesting to note that early on, Philip Gulley makes a distinction between the Quaker lifestyle and Quaker religious belief.  Apparently it is a point of debate among Quakers themselves, of how a Quaker may be defined.  On page 14 he explains that not all Quakers hold the same religious beliefs or experiences in reference to God. "Though our perceptions of the Divine may differ, our mutual commitment to the Quaker way allows us to stand with one another as Friends and friends. It is this Quaker way- the way of simplicity, peace, integrity, community and equality- I wish to explore".  This bold statement presents the idea that the religious belief is of minimal importance when living a Quaker lifestyle for this author.  In contrast many Quakers do believe that their bible beliefs and Christian religious beliefs go hand in hand with the lifestyle.  The author's point of view will reach out to a broader base of readers, not just religious readers.  In fact, this author believes that part of the appeal of Quakersism is that it is free from the shackles of organized religion.  Ironically, most Memberships of Quakers are defined in part by their membership, financial ties and religious beliefs.  Nevertheless Gulley chooses not to emphasis the organized religion or theology aspects.  Rather than religion or spiritual beliefs, the scope of this book focuses on lifestyle choices such as simplicity, community, ethics and social responsibility.
To the author's credit, this book packages morals and other ethical values in a non offensive way that is sure to appeal to all readers regardless of religion.  In fact he may even draw in the agnostic or even atheist readers as well- who may be open to a humanitarian, simplified lifestyle.  Not too many readers will be able to find fault with a lifestyle that advocates less dependence on materialism, less waste, more peace and other ethical values.  The biggest appeal is that this lifestyle is within reach for many readers regardless of income and socioeconomic  status as it does not involve buying anything.  If anything it advocates downsizing.  For those who are not so well off financially- this is certainly no problem!  For those who are wealthy, perhaps it might even justify a shopping spree for new, basic themed home furnishings and new neutral clothing, and a tan Coach handbag and shoes as well as some organic foods from a farmer's market. I imagine pack rats and collectors might have the most difficulty with the message of this book as there is a hint that outward clutter and accumulation reflects an inward spiritual disarray or emotional baggage. 

One minor detail that bothered me is the cover.  The cover of the book seemed a bit off center and was not very pleasing in terms of design.  Perhaps that is part of the minimalist effect.

As a blogger I received this book published by Convergent publishers, an imprint of Water Brook Multnomah, for the purpose of writing this review.

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