Human, 3-D Connectedness

One of the most surprising things I learned when researching the Becoming Amish book was hearing how connected the Amish and Mennonite are, not just among the people within their individual churches, but broadly among churches and even across the nation. Somehow, my friends with the least technology were by far the most truly connected of anybody I knew. And by truly connected, I mean in person, handshakes, hugs, face-to-face conversations, dinners, staying the night in friends' homes when they travel. I learned this at a time when researchers were starting to look at at the explosion of Facebook connectivity and seeing that more time spent on Facebook correlated with greater loneliness. It was another reminder that, while technology is not going to go away, and we will no doubt use the tools it brings, we cannot forget that we are still relatively the same animal we have been for thousands and thousands of years, and that real and true human interaction is an essential part of who we are and we do well to take intentional steps to expand that in our lives.

Below is a quote from John Cacioppo, director, Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, University of Chicago. Cacioppo is viewed as the world’s leading expert on loneliness and is author of Loneliness, 2008.

 “The greater the proportion of face-to-face interactions, the less lonely you are. The greater the proportion of online interactions, the lonelier you are.”— John Cacioppo, The Atlantic, May 2012

Following a Compass Point

In both a spiritual and a lifestyle sense, Bill and Tricia Moser knew they needed to head in a certain direction, but they did not know their specific destination when they began the journey that eventually led to an Amish life. They wanted to be closer to their children. They wanted a greater sense of faith in their daily existence. They wanted to be immersed in a community that shared their spiritual beliefs, their sense of Christianity. Their sense of faith gave them the strength to set off down that path, navigating to a future of uncertainty and change—no guarantees anywhere other than the ones they found in the teachings of Jesus. In this way, they shared something with America's early seekers, who, in a most literal way, chose a compass point and headed out over an uncharted land. Martin Luther King, Jr. touched upon the importance of this act—of trusting faith when charting your future—in this quote.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.—Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our Community, Our Selves

When Bill and Tricia Moser set off down the path that led them to an Amish life, one of the most important things they sought was a tight community of faith. But community of faith meant far more than just a group of people practicing a similar religion. The Amish community they immersed in supported one another in business, in harvesting, in mentoring, in offering emotional support—community in the fullest, most robust sense of the word. Today, people across America are becoming more aware of our fragmented communities and see returning to strong community as an essential part of our future. Environmental activist and social commentator Wendell Berry found inspiration in the Amish sense of community years ago.

"Properly speaking, global thinking is not possible... Look at one of those photographs of half the earth taken from outer space, and see if you recognize your neighborhood. The right local questions and answers will be the right global ones. The Amish question, 'What will this do to our community?' tends toward the right answer for the world." — Wendell Berry

 

 

A Spiritual Approach to Business

For me, one of the most interesting episodes of learning about Bill and Tricia Moser's new life among the Amish was hearing Bill describe how business is done in the communities the family has lived in. I was again struck by how, in his experience, the Amish are both entrepreneurial fiscal conservatives and, at the same time, nearly socialistic in their support of one another—again defying the ideological boundaries, the categories, that we of general society turn to so readily and so unfortunately! The Mosers saw communities that conducted business in a way informed by spirituality, by their interpretation of Jesus's teachings, in a way that paid attention to the whole community. No families were destitute, but, as Bill said, "nobody was raking in piles, either." Great spiritual and thought leaders from around the world see the wisdom in this way of shaping commerce. Here is a quote from Ghandi that echoes this idea.

"There is a sufficiency in the world for man's need but not for man's greed." 
Mahatma Gandhi

Intentional living

Deciding to be intentional about life, figuring out what you truly want out of your days on earth and going after it, can lead us to contemplate changes that appear scary and difficult, changes that can mean stepping away from a safe and secure existence. But as Bill and Tricia's journey shows, an intentional life is one that can lead to fulfillment, to a sense of journey, to a sense of being fully alive, and ultimately to an existence that is actually safer and more secure because its foundation is built on things nobody can take from you—a greater sense of spirituality and self awareness. These words by Oscar Wilde give us something to contemplate.

“To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.” 
― Oscar Wilde

Courage

Bill and Tricia Moser displayed courage and conviction when they decided to break away from mainstream America and pursue a new life. Their decisions recall for me this quote by C.S. Lewis, author of the Narnia series.

"Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point."—C. S. Lewis