An Excerpt from The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance by Dorothee Soelle

Dorothee Soelle's The Silent Cry is a watershed theological work on the link between mysticism and political action. Here is a passage on the spiritual practice of beauty — the hard task of simplifying our lives and cutting away all the clutter.

"The issue today is a different relationship to things, not the mortification of the body. In the context of globalization, asceticism means simplicity in the sense of simplification of lifestyle and needs. This means less, smaller, less often, and more consciously.

"We have known for a long time that poverty can destroy the body and render the soul deaf and insensitive. What has yet to be learned is that overabundance of things and enjoyments also devours the soul. An appropriate relation to things, one that does not overwhelm the senses, cannot grow when things are everpresent for our consumption. For example, a child who has thirty dolls to play with will give none of them a name, cannot love or hate anyone of them, will not develop a fantasy life with them, and will soon be bored playing with them. What that means is in complete accordance with and in the interest of the market as the great dictator. The child will want to have more and more new things without thereby being able to drive away boredom. A child growing up this way has learned quickly to look for life's intensity in quantity, but that search is futile. An appropriate relation to things, one that allows the erotic dimension of our being to come into its own, cannot develop as long as we consume things indiscriminately simply because they are always overabundantly available. Overabundance destroys the intensity of people and their capacity to enjoy and to be related.

"In cultures where asceticism developed and was practiced, people knew that one can suffocate when every option is a readily available one. Without self-limitation, without fixed boundaries — like those given in creation between day and night, summer and winter, being young and growing old — life loses its humanness. Asceticism means to renounce at least for periods of time the options that present themselves. In bygone cultures of poverty there were times for fasting, waking, withdrawing, and keeping silence. Perhaps people believed that life itself could be saved by giving up parts of it."