As its subtitle suggests, MARGIN is a holistic treatment of the modern day malady called overload. Written by Richard A. Swenson, M.D., a former practicing physician, the book is the result of more than a decade of professional research and personal experience.
Following several years as an associate professor at a state medical school, Swenson now writes and speaks full-time as an expert on the intersection of faith, health, culture and the future. And his insightful analysis here does not disappoint, as he succeeds brilliantly at bridging the gap between the sacred and the secular, the timeless and the temporal.
Defining margin as the space that exists between people and their personal limits, Swenson suggests it is has largely been squeezed out of our lives and become yet another casualty of the harried and hurried times in which we live. Yet margin must be restored if we are to experience health through contentment, simplicity, balance and rest, he says.
From the opening chapter titled "Marginless Living," Swenson describes the decimation left in the wake of living with chronic overload. From our overstressed teachers and overworked farmers to overburdened pastors and overwhelmed parents, society at large has succumbed to the pressures of progress.
And, according to Swenson, the type of overload we are experiencing is a relatively new phenomenon, exponential in growth and unprecedented in scope. Fueled by the power of technology, living today has accelerated to warp speed, with many people yearning for a rest stop, if not an exit ramp, off the frenetic freeway of life.
"Progress's biggest failure has been its inability to nurture and protect right relationships," writes Swenson. And he suggests that the remedy is a return to a safer and saner lifestyle, one where people are thought of as priorities instead of problems, time is considered an ally rather than an enemy, and material wealth is less about making money than it is about living meaningfully.
While the price of progress can exact a painful toll, through the establishment of healthy limits, such as learning how to say no to over-commitment, Swenson advocates that a renewed emphasis on voluntary simplicity not only enhances one's standard of living, it is fast becoming a necessity for survival.
Swenson's frequent use of statistics, figures and graphs --- especially as he diagnoses the symptom of pain caused by overload --- can itself be somewhat burdensome at times, but it is well worth wading through the material to get to the marrow of his message: the prescription of margin for a prognosis of health.
As proven and prescribed by Dr. Swenson, MARGIN acts as a timely antidote to what ails modern man. And with sales well into six figures since its initial release in 1992, the book has earned its well-deserved place among contemporary Christian classics. Explaining complex change in context is Swenson's calling card, and his cure for it is a cause for celebration. Consider it a house call from heaven with hope and help for the soul.
Reviewed by Sean Fowlds on November 13, 2011