Thursday, December 3, 2009

To be content...

For a year now, the Amish have been moving into the area around Unity and buying farms. (Unity is a small town halfway between Bangor and Augusta.) They're coming from various places in the Midwest and Canada, and even a few from the other two towns in Maine that boast them, Smyrna and Easton in Aroostook County. Unity seems the perfect place for Amish, including its name: lovely, rolling countryside with good soil and plenty of water; friendly, tolerant people; Unity College and its heavy focus on environmental studies. For any people that completely eschew electricity in their houses are environmentalists at their very core.

I've often wondered about the relationship between religion and conservation. Humans are enjoined to be good stewards, and it should be a natural fit, but so often those who believe in the Bible forget the one in favor of the other, dominion over the earth, etc, etc. There is a movement to revive the relationship but in today's fractured and splintering world, I can't see that the religious right will ever take the earth seriously again.

Religion aside, the life of the Amish is very compelling. They make wonderful furniture. They believe in books. They grow organic food. They build windmills to run their compressed-air engines, or charge battery packs. Family care is paramount. A sign in one of their houses in Unity reads: "To be content with little is hard, to be content with much is impossible.’’

Lifestyle aside, the religion of the Amish is not very compelling, mostly I suppose because it's similar to the dark Calvinist tradition in which I was raised. But the Amish have managed to bring light into the gloom. They've done what few can accomplish, marry word and deed.

I already think of Unity fondly, since for about 10 years my parents had a camp on Lake Winnecook, known also as Unity Pond. And now that the Amish are there, it's a small but poignant connection to my diminished family, for the last time I saw my father alive was at his 60th wedding anniversary party at the Blue Heron Farm Retreat, near Amish Country in eastern Ohio, where for a weekend our family eschewed doctrine in favor of living.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was very interested in reading about this.I'm just surfing through blogs bored out of my mind while home sick with a bad case of bronchitis. I recently began sponsoring some soldiers through the AnySoldier.com website and was trying to think of something to write to them about. So I have printed this off to send to them.