Could You Ever Go “Amish”?

April 10, 2008

blogging

I read a fascinating story by D. Weaver, at Associated Content.com.

In the article, Dan ponders the Amish way of life and his (as well as the general population’s) fascination with it. Upstate New York is home to a smattering of large Amish communities. It is not unusual to see them in our public areas- women with Puritan-looking dresses complete with white aprons and gauzy bonnets; children with neatly trimmed black jackets, fathers in heavy blacks coats driving horses with the traditional Amish buggy (and the ubiquitous orange reflective triangle on its bumper, a New York State requirement). We Upstaters know the presence of the Amish. They are quiet in their ways but strong in their faith. Sure, they have problems (who doesn’t), but they do have fewer, less complicated problems. And this is why they are so curious to us.

The Amish do not reject all modern technology. For example, they use battery operated calculators in their workshops. They do, however, put all technology on probation. As one old woman said in “The Riddle of Amish Culture,” by Donald B. Kraybill, “The telephones are still on probation.” The television and automobile have completed, and failed, their probationary period.

This middle ground for me also means emphasizing simplicity, family, the sense of belonging to a larger community, helping one’s neighbors, and traditional morality. It means viewing hard work as something to embrace rather than to avoid. It means faith in God is something that must be evident not just on Sunday but throughout the entire week. These are the values that have made the Amish attractive and successful both in Pennsylvania and here in Montgomery County, New York.

The simplicity of Amish living is what interests me. Yes, how ironic, these words of mine flowing from the keys of a computer and broadcasting across the Internet! But the thing is– just as Dan implied– the Amish do not reject technology, for technology’s sake. They reject technology if it complicates their life and way of living. Ah, that’s the keystone. Is sitting in front of the television interfering with my ability to read to and teach my children? Is blogging hindering the enrichments of good conversation with my husband, of the delights of my blooming flowers? Is “making money” so important that I will close myself off to the world, huddled in front of my computer monitor, to study the latest SEO tactics?

When I was a teen, my family left town-life and took off to live on a small mountain in the Catskills area of New York. We didn’t “go Amish,” but we learned to hunt for edible plants in the forest, cut our own trees for wood for the winter, plant a garden from scratch (literally– that mountain was solid bedrock and the garden grew more rocks than vegetables), sew our own clothes. We liked being self-sufficient. It was tough, but it was a good experience. I look back on those days with some satisfaction. It has tempered my adult living, to be sure. We prefer living as natural as we can, and keeping our lives as simple as we can. It is life’s complications that bring the stress and turmoil. Technology should be our tool to aid us, not be the mighty god that we have made it to be. And that is the root of the problem, because when it comes down to it, despite our technology, we still hurt, we still laugh, we still age, and we still die. All is the same as it has always been.

Not everyone will want to accept these values. I can’t help but think, however, that everyone would be enriched, not just by buying Amish baked goods or handmade products, but by allowing the Amish way of life to be a mirror for reflecting on our own way of life.

There’s a lot to learn from the Amish, good and bad. They have successfully resisted most of the entanglements of gluttonous, licentious, complicated living. But they do so (most, anyway) because of their tradition. It is tradition that binds them together. This is not necessarily better than materialistic living; it just means that they have fewer distractions and fewer complications.

I think it does us good to reflect and reconsider our way of life, our material life and our spiritual life as well– because our material lives are only a reflection of our spiritual lives (what we truly believe). I’ve been a Christian for over 20 years now, and have spent most of those years studying the faith, testing the faith, questioning things. Is it true? Am I convinced? Absolutely. As Alexander Hamilton once said, there is no doubt in my mind that the Christian religion is the truth and I can prove it before a court of law. The evidence is overwhelmingly in its favor. In those moments of my life when everything gets “complicated,” there is that foundation stone on which I can rest. Material things come and go, but belief– which is the inner conviction of something one has proven to be true– remains constant. A person could never really find peace by tossing out his TV and driving a horse and buggy for the rest of his life. Simple living is not the end-all of life. Simple living does not necessarily bring peace of mind. Peace comes from God, and God has revealed Himself to us through Y’shua (Jesus). It is being convinced of the truth that brings balance. And that balance is something we all seek, isn’t it?

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16 Responses to “Could You Ever Go “Amish”?”

  1. A. Says:

    I don’t know a very great deal about the Amish people but I would have thought that their way of life might be more suited to these days of greater environmental awareness. It sounds, at least on the face of it, to be a greener way of going about things.

  2. Lynne Says:

    We had dinner with an Amish family in Indiana, in their home. It was a wonderful meal and a wonderful experience. They were so open and warm, answering all of our questions. I would love to do that again.

  3. Jude Says:

    We live near Amish country in PA and Lancaster is great country. The Amish are very nice, but they stay pretty much unto themselves. Bill and I often pass the buggy’s when we ride the bike on weekends and Bort always took the horses to the Amish to have them worked on, anyway your post caught my eye when I was dropping my card. Have a nice evening.

  4. Angie Hurst Says:

    I once saw a TV special about happiness and it said that the Amish were some of the happiest people they found. Sometimes I think I’d love a life like that… then other times I think I might be too lazy! :)

  5. Lisa Says:

    Nice post.

    Some of the best times I have had was when hubby and I went on a vacation where there was no TV and no phone and no newspaper. Granted someone else did the cooking and cleaning, but there were no distractions from each other and from nature.

  6. Offgrid Says:

    We have a lot to learn from the Amish. We should all put our phones and TV’s on “probation” or “Time out”. I think we’d all be a lot happier. I had a recent post on my blog about the Amish “Cook stove”. You can see how they heat their homes, water and cook their food from a single source. I enjoy your blog.

  7. Dawn @ Coming to a Nursery Near You Says:

    Hi there – I’m here via Entre card – just had to comment – nope, couldn’t go amish – way too hooked on my ways.

  8. Jude Says:

    There are a lot of things to say for the simple life that the outsiders might envy, but if you were on the inside you might be a little alarmed by the very strict principles you must uphold and at a certain age you are put out to know the world on your own and then decide by choice if you want to go back and uphold all the principles or stay in our corrupt outside world and be condemned. Okay that’s enough from me on that subject. There is also just as much incest and unnatural things in their world as ours.

  9. Mrs. M Says:

    The Amish have problems– sure. That’s the point of my whole post. Their lives are simpler, so they have fewer complications. But if you’re looking for peace, simple living will only take you so far, because peace of mind comes from God.

    Thanks for your comments! I’ve never had the opportunity to personally interact with an Amish family, although when I delivered my children at the hospital, there were Amish women there delivering their 10th and 11th children.

  10. shireen Says:

    A very enlightening post indeed. Seriously, I never thought of it that way at all. Never. However, I am too spoilt for choice i.e with technology and to live the armish way, it will take a lot, A Lot of commitment and perseverance. Which ultimately means, I salute them, really for being so consistent with their belief and faith.

  11. Cindi-Moomettesgram Says:

    My brother lives in Rochester, NY, has since he left CT and graduated RIT over 30 years ago. I flew up to visit him last month, and we spent the weekend at Keuka Lake. I was quite surprised to see the Amish presence there, around the lake area, as I always thought most Amish were in PA. We went to a wonderful outdoor market-the Windmill, and had some terrific baked goods, and I saw the most beautiful crafts. The Finger Lakes area was so peaceful, that I can understand why my brother never returned to CT permanently.

  12. Mrs. Mecomber Says:

    You’re right, Shireen– it takes a lot of commitment. This commitment stems from their deep convictions. I share many of them. I think they are worth attaining.

    Cindi, hi and welcome. Oh, New York State is SOOOO beautiful! It’s the politicians and their stinkin’ high taxes and meddlesome ways that drive folks out.

  13. Acomplia Says:

    Lovely post. Please add my email address to your list and email me the updates if possible. I always like to read your blog and comment on it.

  14. akaGaGa Says:

    Good post. I missed this one somehow. We are surrounded by Amish, and I’ve gotten to know a few of them superficially.

    Their simplicity does come with a price. Those women having their 10th and 11th children were probably missing many of their teeth, with no money available for a dentist.

    One of the two Amish groups in our area has no problem with using someone else’s telephone or riding in someone else’s car – if we offer them free access. This seems a bit hypocritical to me, holding to the letter of the law by not possessing these things, but violating the spirit of the law by using them whenever they can.

    And that’s my main problem with the Amish. Their traditions come from a works-based understanding of the New Testament, much like the Jehovah Witnesses. They are routinely threatened with hell if they don’t follow this rule or that rule. None have the assurance of ultimately going to heaven. I’ve been reading about all this for a while, and here’s a ministry for the Amish by former Amish you might find interesting:

    http://mapministry.org/

    As for me? By God’s grace, we plan to build off-grid in the middle of a 40 acre woodlot. But we’re planning solar and wind power for electricity, and the computer is going with me. After all, I got saved on the internet, so it can’t be all bad. :)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. New York Renovator - April 17, 2008

    […] don’t think it’s money that makes you happy. I did a post about the Amish people recently. They have their problems, but they are, pound for pound, happier than the average […]

  2. New York Renovator - June 13, 2008

    […] I’ve blogged about the Amish before, written how I admire their simple ways. The reason they avoid most “technology” is because they realize that these things complicate our lives and threaten the family and community units. I think they have been correct about this. And yet the Amish are usually the first ones to show up after we “Gentiles” experience a natural disaster. The Amish came out in droves to help New Yorkers whose homes had been ravaged by floods in 2006. The Amish may have rejected modern ways, but they have not abandoned the timeless rule of loving one’s neighbor as oneself. […]