Saturday, January 19, 2008
An Amish Sort of Dilemma
Ever fuddled by all of the vitriol over 'science' vs 'religion' etc., one sometimes hankers to hear voices from outside of the fray. Thus Steven Nolt's A History of the Amish (nicely published by a Pennsylvanian firm called Good Books) provided relief--and some rather surprising comparisons--this past week.
Believe it or not, there really are many, MANY decent, morally sound, educated humans walking around on this planet who are turned off by BOTH sides of the science/religion equation. And they generally find themselves in the same sort of bind that has plagued our poor Amish cohorts ever since 1693, when they broke away from the original Anabaptists of 1525 (now generally known as Mennonites), due to what they perceived as laxities. Much has happened in the interim, changes and divisions and reunions galore, but the Amish dilemma has changed little, at its core.
The dilemma is this: To adapt or not to adapt? Most of us check the 'adapt' box because we aren't steeped in a culture based on mutual support anymore...and because it's way easier and more fun to adapt to really cool new stuff. The Amish have declined--at great cost--to adapt to anything violating their core values.
Meanwhile, whole industries (including the Amish-gaping tourist industry) have grown up around our need for just a whiff of the stoic serenity one associates with the Amish...and with good reason. If we happen to be surrounded by Fundamentalists, then Lord help us if we think Buddhists or Muslims might be rather marvelous just the way they are. Conversely, if we are surrounded by Progressives, then GOD help us if we're discovered puking over the redefinition of words like 'marriage' to accommodate the demands of political opportunists. And if we are surrounded by both Fundamentalists and Progressives, then HEAVEN help us if we should dare to think that both sides sound like a pack of idiots.
The overall picture is a mess, of course. It always has been, and the Democratic Experiment is an attempt to make something good out of that jolly mess. It does succeed rather thrillingly, I think, unless the reins fall into the wrong hands. "Wrong hands", whether Fundamentalist or Progressive, would be defined as those which fuel, fan, and capitalize upon potential unrest, to satisfy selfish--usually murderous--agendas.
Today's message, then, might be this: Think a wee bit Amish, and don't fall for the bait. Humankind is BOTH emotion and intelligence... and quite a bit more. You might not care to stop schooling after 8th grade, or to wear archaic clothes while you plow, or to marry your cousin; but you CAN opt to be whole, and to build a world where lions and lambs can rest rather comfortably together.