I must have wanted simple abundance in my life, otherwise why buy this book, Simple Abundance, by Sarah Ben Breathnach. The Oprah Book Club sticker on the cover was not a selling point. Simple Abundance is a “daybook” diary/journal that teaches readers to “simplify” their lives through consumption. The message is so ironic. On one page, Breathnach tells readers to discard all their glossy women’s magazines because they make us feel bad about ourselves and then on the next, in the very idiom of those glossies, she tells us to go shopping in order to discover our “authentic” selves. For instance, here is a representative quote from the Simple Abundance website:
Visit a hat store and try on a variety of chapeaux. You’re dashing in a black felt fedora, but perhaps the broad-brimmed straw with the cabbage rose has captured your fancy? Play around with the many different possibilities. You might just catch a glimpse of your authentic self in the mirror.
This book makes me think about my consumer habits. My hands instantly reached out for an array of Simple Abundance accessories that are marketed with the book — the special journal, the extra books, the audio tapes. The book calls forth the Barbie days, when having Barbie wasn’t sufficient; you need Ken, and Skipper, and the Barbie Dreamhouse, and a pink Barbie Bus, too.
The invented selves of Barbie and Simple Abundance are not that different. The book offers 365 different personality outfits to try, a different one for each day of the year. And they Mix and Match so you can maximize your abundantly authentic wardrobe of self. Of course, the book is published by Time Warner. That pink Sarah Ben Breathnach bus is on the horizon.
Before Simple Abundance
After Simple Abundance
Still, there are useful things in the book. It reinforces the old Alcoholics’ Anonymous sentiment about gratitude. Gratitude keeps your life clean. I make a gratitude list now when I journal. And when I review the list, I realize how blessed I am. Too bad I needed to get my Mastercard swiped to remember that lesson. The Salon review of Simple Abundance said it best:
“It postulates a spiritual path that is repetitive, narcissistic and meaningless; it creates the pornography of boredom.”
Why am I confessing my purchase? Foucault said something about the compulsion to confess as intimately tied with technologies of the self. I confess, therefore I am. It’s as narcissistic as I shop, therefore I am, but a little better.