Sunday, April 18, 2021

Plain and Simple

Plain and Simple

"Deeper bonds meant creating obligations," she said. "I longed for a group whose members needed and made demands on each other."

Do we know what it means to be plain and simple? I don’t think I do, but I think I can appreciate the idea, and I want to learn.

I picked up a book by that title recently and it has given me much to think on. Sue Bender, the author, was captured with an Amish quilt in 1967. Mrs. Bender — artist, married with children, holding graduate degrees from no less than Harvard and Berkeley — could not escape a virtual presence in the plain nine-patch patterns. They spoke, she said, with a "silence — a silence like thunder". And they had a mysterious quality that illustrated and spoke to the incredible balance of life between "tension and harmony".

The book artfully tells of Mrs. Bender’s visits to Amish homes. On two separate occasions she lived with normal Amish families for a span of weeks. She speaks of the simple life they lead, hemmed carefully with unbending rules, hard work oriented around home and land, the unspoken constant: "do not seek to be special", and, of course, community.

I cannot do justice to the book — I am not sufficiently plain and simple to allow enough time for that task. But one comment on this matter of community really spoke to me. Mrs. Bender, musing on the wonderful sense of Amish community, said,

"My friends and I had been taught to value independence, not to impose on each other. If we needed our house painted, we hired a painter; if we needed a cup of sugar, we drove to the market."

Too true in most of our lives, I suppose, and the internet world, ironically, disconnects us all the more, moving us all the further from real human interaction in so many cases.

The Amish know about community, though, says Mrs. Bender:

"Deeper bonds meant creating obligations," she said. "I longed for a group whose members needed and made demands on each other."

I am thinking this idea is quite rare in most communities, and of course the Amish are not perfect at it. But maybe we could learn from them.

To whom are you willing to be obligated for the sake of community? By whom am I willing to be served for the sake of community?

Mutual obligations are necessary if there are to be deeper bonds.

Something to think on.

Comments:
  1. tim Says:

    thanks

  2. axegrinder Says:

    “To whom are you willing to be obligated for the sake of community? “By whom am I willing to be served for the sake of community?”

    Stated another way:

    Upon whom am I willing to impose?

    That may, in the end, be the hardest part of these lifestyle alterations for us to embrace. Is it possible we all want to be the magnanimous benefactor, while none of us want to be the hat-in-hand pauper? Interdependence is fine as long as I’m the one helping, rather than the one receiving assistance.

  3. Stephen Says:

    Great questions.

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