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?