Different strokes

A drive through Sugar Valley afforded a welcome opportunity to see Amish men, women, and children working their fields, gardens, and grounds. I admire the Amish, have discussed them previously, and only wish I could speak more authoritatively about them. The gentleman in the top image (below) is raking grass hay with a reel rake and four mules while the gentleman in the bottom image (me) is raking grass hay with a side-delivery rake and a 44-horsepower Ford. The reasons for the many differences between the two can be summed up in the Amish prohibition against the use of technology.  I’ve known about this prohibition and wondered where it came from. My assumption was that farming without modern convenience was somehow farming in a way which brought the Amish closer to God and was more strongly adherent to Scriptural practice. I was wrong. [Forgive my reliance on Wikipedia, the following is taken, in its entirety, from there.] Two key concepts for understanding Amish practices are their rejection of pride and arrogance and the high value they place on humility and composure which may also be understood as a reluctance to assert oneself. The willingness of the Amish to submit to the Will of Jesus, expressed through group norms, is at odds with the sense of individualism which is so central to American culture. This anti-individualist position is the motive for rejecting labor-saving technologies that might make one less dependent on community. So there you have it a reasonable, even laudable, motivation for doing many things the hard way. But is it? I believe it is entirely a matter of what you’ve known, what makes you comfortable, and what you’re use to. I know English (non-Amish) that have farmed with draft, and keep in mind that they had the choice to farm with tractors, who do not characterize farming with (literal) horse power as being hard or difficult. It is, in their opinion, simply different. Also you should know that the Amish are not, perhaps, living as completely free of technology as it would seem. Amish life is dictated by a number of religious precepts the interpretation of which, in terms of practical living, may differ from community to community.  For example many among our local Amish use phones (cell phones included), weed trimmers, chain saws, and (stationary) tractors. They also employ the English to drive them about town, and frequent places like Walmart as well as all the local grocery stores. Perhaps the claim that we do not understand the Amish only reflects our recognition of the differences between the lives of the Amish and our own. Let us respect and celebrate those differences. Like I’ve always said … if everyone were the same, the world would be a very, very, boring place indeed.

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