Sunday, 1 January 2012

Amish Inspired Ponderings

I have really been enjoying watching channel four's series on the Amish recently.

The Amish have such a deep sense of family and community.
They are also wonderfully, non self conscious and straightforward in the way they talk and act.

Their lives are lived in balance with nature in a way that is creative and abundant rather than destructive and scarce. And their deep faith infuses the work of their hands with meaning and purpose. A purpose that touches something of the eternal rather than a momentary thrill or transient reward.

Of course they are not perfect, all communities have their issues, but somehow the simplicity of their lives endow them with a general air of unaffected contentment.

I've been re-reading this gem of a book by John Gatto recently
In it the author argues that community has in many ways fragmented into a series of convoluted and superficial networks. Instead of the organic scaffolding of friendship and extended family that builds a framework for children to grow and adults to find purpose.

There are after school groups and breakfast groups and a hundred other kind of groups but the strong bond of deep love, friendship and endurance that we seek in our depths is so often the missing ingredient.
We are held together by abstractions and ideologies that often encourage competition or shallowness instead of the connective tissue of real, solid love.

I remember when I have been really quite lonely as a SAHM. Good intentioned health visitors would often recommend a mother or baby group so that I could meet other mums.
Although they often provided temporary connection and distraction from the routine, it always seemed a very unnatural environment in which to forge a real friendship. Needless to say, many people I knew then and thought I had become quite close to have drifted away and toward more presently relevant merry go rounds of school, work and extra curricula centered activity.

In many of these groups I often found that there was no way to just open up and be myself. After all I didn't know anyone and they didn't know me, we lived apart, had grown up apart and worked apart from one another on a physical level at least.
There was little talk about anything other than nappies and feeds as we were in affect a group of strangers thrown together under the one common denominator of being new mothers.

I have recently found a deeper level of community through homeschooling and our church but it feels somehow that there should be more of this stuff to nourish and nurture us on our journey through all the big transitions and initiations of life such as teen-hood, marriage, parenthood, sickness and aging.

I admit to desperately seeking the kind of community and friendship the Amish women have as they undertake their daily tasks, not alone but as a community with deeply entwined roots.

Funny, but sometimes the most honest, real and supportive community that I have found has been through blogging.
I have met some true friends online, friends who I think of and pray for often! Thank you friends!!! :)

Faith is another aspect of the Amish way which I wish to have a little more of if I'm honest.
They incorporate their faith into every aspect their life.

It seems a popular assertion these days to turn away from traditional faith paths in favour of non belief and, honestly I know a few atheists that have live more closely in accordance with Jesus's teachings than many Christians I have known and I often find myself thinking that maybe this is what Jesus meant when he said this...
"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven."

But when atheism asserts that a life of faith is one of monotonous self denial of our true passions and desires I have to disagree.

When truly "lived" faith transfigures, transforms and raises our desires and passions away from narcissistic self gain toward purer, nobler, gentler things that benefit others rather than just ourselves.

When we have no meaning, no purpose, no faith, family or community to any great measure, then we feel far more tempted to replace true freedom with counterfeit projections of freedom such as consumerism, addiction and vanity. All of which leave us feeling discontent, empty and somehow, strangely bereft.

A true faith bestows dignity, it extinguishes our cravings, despondency and anxiety and replaces them with the cool, healing balm of contentment, resolve, and peace.

It makes us desire what is beautiful instead of what is debased. It anoints our eyes with clarity.

When I think of a simple life, I think of a life that can't be bought.
A life that is not cluttered with the extraneous but deeply centered on the needful.
A life that is un-distracted
A life that is not wracked with anxiety or burdened by fear, the fear that we are not accumulating, gaining ground, "succeeding" possessing, securing our future...
A life that is close to nature, beauty and love.
A life that is soft and gentle like those beautifully mulchy Autumn leaves nourishing the earth like a chrysalis or womb.
A life that feeds, and is life giving as a breath of fresh air.

I would like to cultivate this kind of life more and more in the year to come.

My word for last year was "real". I feel like I have come out of my shell and accepted my self and shown myself more clearly and truly that ever before.
I have removed many of the shackles of fearing people and the world that I had become so used to.
I feel content to simply be loved by God as I am.
Full of hiccups, chipped bits and dusty spots but with a pure intention to follow where love leads regardless.

I know that many people want a simpler life and it seems harder and harder to aquire the freedom to do so. This is a big question I hope to look more deeply into in the year to come.

I'm not sure what my new word for the year will be.... Mmmm, I'll have a ponder over the next couple of days I think :)

Much love to all this new year


  1. gosh, your writing is lovely. reading it has both affirmed some of the things that have been going around my head as we enter the new year and has introduced some new and very helpful thoughts.
    i have recently been reading prayers from a book by Tess Ward called 'the Celtic Wheel of the Year' i get a similar feeling from your post as i do from this book. you write with a beautiful soft light.

    warmest blessings for 2012 xxx


  2. I once attended a lecture by a wise man (whose name I cannot recall offhand) speaking about the importance of community. And how modern culture has suffered deeply from lack of the "town square". It is the same as what you speak so eloquently to here.

    Wishing you a new year of lifelong blessings...

  3. My very best to you!!!! Wishing you a New Year full of simple blessing and the grace to share them!!! Cathy

  4. I love your ideas of community. I find that even my homeschool community leaves me feeling unfulfilled. If I did not share homeschooling with these people would they be part of my support group, would I hang out with them, and share my life? One of my homeschool groups imploded right around Halloween, and has left us searching again for that sense of community. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, they made my day!
    Homeschooling one child, online for five years, with a little help from the online writing tutor!

  5. I sensed that *realness* in you this last year too, suzy...letting down your hair with no apologies. I like it. It's something I feel calling to me this year just BE and drop off the shackles of everyone else's expectations of what is good or right...I just want to be at peace with myself and who I really am.

    Thank you for your good are dear.

  6. I sure do love this post. The Amish are wonderful people, there are a lot of them here in Indiana. I wish for a sense of community and roots also. And, you are right, the blog world has also been one of the most rewarding places for me, to find true friends. :) Happy New Year Suzy! xo


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