The Amish Option

The Amish Option is meant here as, simply, to reduce one’s contact with standard pop. culture, and to instead focus on cultivating projects, experiences, personal relationships, and so on, of a higher quality.

A focus on different cultural sources -> different society.

This is not a binary option, nor is it exclusive of various other options that are responses to aspects of contemporary society.

(Nor does it mean relinquishing various technologies, such as electric-powered light or automobiles. Of course, being critical of the consequences of a given technology on one’s quality of life – on whether it’s moving you towards or away from the important stuff – is an important habit. Adopting a technology simply because others have is a bad idea.)

For examples of the Amish Option, to watch significantly less television, to read more high quality books, to get started on meaningful projects, and to network with like-minded people. All these are simple, compatible with the reality of most people’s immediate circumstances, and allow for gradations or variations of implementation.

Contra some who would consider this a retreat from society, I think it more accurately is anĀ advance. It is not so much to run away from pop. culture as to move to something better.

Consider, if you leave a city behind, and instead move to the countryside – because the traffic’s better, people are more friendly, you get to experience more of nature, and there’s less crime per capita – then this is more relevantly an advance, a movement to something better.

Similarly, if you hear of an island somewhere, with a significantly higher quality of life than the country you are living in now, and you endeavour to move there, this is better characterized as an exploration and adventure of moving to another, possibly better place.

Pithily, any movement is in a sense a retreat in one direction and advance in another. The Amish Option is an advance towards a possibly better way of living.

For example, I haven’t watched television for something like 12 years. Because it freed up time, it opened up aspects of culture I wouldn’t have experienced otherwise (books, architecture, projects, and so on). It was an advance towards a better culture. However, it was a deliberate removal of an aspect of pop. culture from my life – a ‘retreat’.

Similarly, when you ratchet down the pop. culture noise in your life, and start focusing on more important things, this is an advance – an ascent. It is an – I think – erroneous mentality which treats the removal of pop. culture from one’s life as a ‘retreat’ – i.e., the person has internalized that pop. culture is what is important in the world, except it isn’t – not from most individuals’ perspectives.

This isn’t to say that bridges between pop. secular culture and better cultures aren’t important – of course they are. However, my guess is that is a specific calling – for most people, simply dramatically improving their immediate environment by implementing aspects of the Amish Option is more important and relevant.

6 thoughts on “The Amish Option

  1. admin Post author

    @fschmidt,

    My question then is, how can you really join a Mennonite community if you don’t become Mennonites? Aren’t most of their social activities centered around church and fellow Mennonites? Do you plan to just go to their churches as long-term guests?

    Reply
    1. fschmidt

      I would plan to go to their church regularly as a guest. I did this for about 2 years with a Greek Orthodox church where I live and it was fine. I am fine with not being a full member as long as I am socially accepted.

      I think an analogy would be Christians moving near a monastery. They won’t become monks but they benefit from the association.

      Reply

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