Watched an interesting program last night on the Amish. I have seen parts of it before but this time I had time to sit and enjoy the whole show.
I found myself taking some notes, things that hidden Amish women were saying, points being made by "experts" outside the Amish community.
My mother's folks spoke Pennsylvania Dutch. They weren't Amish but they would have lived comfortably next door to them at one point in time. My mother, despite, her education still says some things in the Pennsylvania Dutch manner.
I remember after visiting my Grandmother people would comment that I made every sentence sound like a question. It was a different cadence than my normal speech pattern. I thought it sounded more "sing song".
John will kid me that every once in a while he hears something I am saying that is straight from my mother's background.
Anyway, back to the program and the one thing that struck me. Today, land is expensive, especially in the areas that the Amish had originally settled. Finding room for younger members of the community to settle has forced some communities to become to crowded.
The program discussed how one community elder was looking for land in Colorado. Not the fertile land that his forefathers had come to farm. The elders hope was that a few families could settle out there, farm, become self sufficient and that more families could join them. He concern was that water was going to be a problem. What to grow was going to be a problem. Making a living to sustain families was going to be an issue at the beginning.
He felt like the burden fell on his shoulders to make this a success so a community could grow in this new environment.
There was certainly a lot to think about watching the show but this one segment seemed to stick in my mind when I went to bed. I couldn't help but wonder if the Amish insistence that their children only needed an eighth grade education but going to backfire on them, as they moved away from what was familiar into new territory.
250 years ago when they arrived here, they arrived with other German farmers. They farmed in areas that were very close to what they had left, in the old country. They didn't need or want to change their lifestyle. All their neighbors farmed the same way, used horses, built their barns and houses in a similar fashion.
And, although over time their neighbors turned to technology and their children left the farm, the old ways worked for the Amish.
Their Ordnung, their community rules kept order.
A young man, graduating from the eighth grade, had been helping his father all his life. He could easily begin his new life of working on the farm full time. He had the knowledge of the land, what to plant, how to take care of the farm. It's true, he had learned how to read and write and do his sums.
He wasn't headed for college, so four more years of school wouldn't really add to what he needed to succeed on his farm.
But, would that hold true for Colorado? Would a culture that was seeped in rules and tradition that worked in a fertile valley continue to work in a completely different environment?
If you are doing the same thing your father and his father and his father before did do you have to have a creative mind? You follow the same path.
Now, you are faced with unknowns. Without that extra education, the subjects that are more than reading, writing and arithmetic is a person able to stretch their thinking to new ways of doing things? Oh, I'm sure some can.
Most likely they will be successful if they are willing to rub shoulders with the existing community. If they are willing to seek advise from "the English". If they are willing to grow different crops, perhaps use different kinds of horses, build their homes and barns in a different manner. You build a barn for your "business", your crop, your livestock. If you aren't a dairy farmer but a tobacco farmer your barns are different. Maybe still built in a certain style, German or Dutch, etc. but for a different purpose.
Many things have to be relearned, new information, experimentation. All these things are really "out of the box" for a group of people seeped in tradition, relocating in a new area.
They will have to EDUCATE themselves to how to manage.
Maybe sending their children to high school will help this process. Maybe even sending their children on to college will help. Maybe exposure to the ideas of the outside world will help the new community survive.
Holding on to traditions and rules in the belief that allowing people to stray from them will corrupt the values of the community is a risk.
If we look at a value we hold, ask ourselves why we hold it dear and how does it complete us as a human being,
we will answer our own question of why we should continue to find that particular value, important.
The same with a belief.
The world does hold dangers. And, if we aren't clear about what we value and our belief systems we can be influenced, nudged, sometimes even erase something that those around us don't find important.
Education helps. Learning new ideas forces us to look at the old, see what worth they still have, refine them perhaps, discard them or toss the new ones aside as not for us.
I admire the Amish for their ability to function in this day and age with their faith. I find many of their arbitrary community rules their, Ordnung, restrictive. I see a fearfulness of change. I see a fearfulness that their faith doesn't really ring true.
I want to send them a note that says, "hey, I'm from the English world and I too see this time here on earth as a speck, a grain of sand. I too believe that the group is important. I too believe that Eternity is forever."
But, I also differ, in that I see our time here on Earth as a chance to grow and learn and experience, as a HUMAN BEING. I see us learning how to appreciate the beauty around us, take care of it and one another. I see us trying to learn how to LOVE unconditionally and END THE SUFFERING of humankind, two goals that seem to tear and rip us apart as humans.
Education helps us to achieve those goals. It can help us make money, it can help us achieve great things but the bottom line is it stretches our imagination. It forces us to look at what we didn't know, we didn't understand and what we didn't think about.
It activates different centers of the brain. Education will help you understand that which is different from you, your way of life, your way of thinking, your way of communicating.
It opens doors and the windows of our collective minds.