Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Maine Gazetteer: The Amish

There is one current example of an “invasion” by foreigners that is both welcome and inspiring. In 2009, the Amish started moving into the area around Unity and buying farms. They’ve come 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. Any people who 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 believe in books. They grow organic food. They make wonderful furniture. 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.

Excerpted from Saving Maine: A Personal Gazetteer
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