A Small Village

We are enjoying the tremendous achievements of our modern and postmodern civilization. Through various global communications such as the Internet and advanced systems of transportation and telecommunication, we see the worldwide news realtime.

The world looks so small as if everything is inside one tiny screen of our smart devices. The level of access to knowledge is unprecedented. Every information is accessible in a few clicks or taps away. Even physically, we have never experienced in history that people can travel around the world by commercial jets, ocean liners, and luxurious yachts.

We have solved numerous life-threatening issues from bacterial, viral infections to superstitious biases and prejudges. Human rights have been pervaded almost all over the world. Due to technological advancements and innovations, the planet earth can afford nearly 7.7 billion people. Without these technologies, the world could never be sustainable.

Generally speaking, we humans have achieved the best quality of life that even the powerful kings and queens had never experienced during their days. We enjoy the king-like and queen-like lifestyle. The highly complex and sophisticated systems of modern and postmodern civilization have made it possible.

We don’t, however, live in the utopia yet. Still, we are facing various environmental, social, economic, and political issues. Experiencing two world wars, cold wars, nuclear threats, religious, ideological, ethnic conflicts, terrorisms, even genocides, it seems we are still in the severe confusions.

Far from the utopia, we hate one another; we kill one another. It seems we are unsustainable by nature. Are we?

In one perspective, our current world is far better than the past. We have achieved a lot. We can celebrate all those blessings. In another, however, we also feel the unsustainability of our bloody, selfish human nature. Which one is our real face on earth?

We can and should count all our achievements and blessings. That is true. Once, however, we get scared of losing them, due to our selfishly possessive nature, we fall in the endless blaming games, saying we lose our life because of you. For protecting and preserving our environments, we point our fingers one another as if we try to destroy others.

Are we saving or killing ourselves and others? Once we forget how to count the blessings, we become selfish, fearful, and blaming others.

We must never forget how to count the blessings. All the good things are from above.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

James 1:17

Amid these civilization-driven modern and postmodern turmoils, the lifestyle of Amish feels like a gentle breeze that even making sense of awe. They are a group of traditionalist Christians with Swiss German Anabaptist origins, known for simple living, plain dress, and reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology.

Their lifestyle seems distinctively premodern, which is not only environmentally sustainable but also spiritually selfless. They strictly follow the rules in the Bible, it appears (to outsiders) that their way of living is so bold and yet profoundly peaceful even divine.

Amish uses the guideline called the Ordnung (order in German) for their lifestyle. And the critical part of their life is Gelassenheit in German, which means “letting be” or “submission to the will of God.” It is from the following Bible verse, strictly avoiding individuality, selfishness, and pride. Nobody is better than anyone.

Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.

Luke 22:42

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

Romans 3:10

Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.

Romans 12:16

By giving up individuality and any thought of selfishness, they embrace God’s will by serving others and submitting to Him. Gelassenheit contains the following attributes:

  • Personality: reserved, modest, calm, quiet
  • Values: submission, obedience, humility, simplicity
  • Symbols: dress, horse, carriage, lantern
  • Structure: small, informal, local, decentralized
  • Ritual: baptism, confession, ordination, foot-washing

Their bold attitude of forgiving and loving enemies is also well-known in the following incident.

On October 2, 2006, one gunman entered an Amish one-room schoolhouse in the Old Order Amish community of Nickel Mines, a village in Bart Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. He took hostages and shot eight out of ten girls (aged 6–13), killing five, before committing suicide.

After that, however, following Lord’s Prayer, the forgiveness and reconciliation in the Amish community’s response surprised the mainstream media.

After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Matthew 6:9-13

I don’t think all 7.7 billion people can go back to the kind of lifestyle Amish people practice. However, it always gives us a profound reminder.

We can also recall chapter 80 of Tao Te Ching. In such simple, selfless lifetyle, we can count a lot of blessings in obeying God’s will.

Let every state be simple like a small village with few people. There may be tools to speed things up ten or a hundred times yet no one will care to use them. There may be boats and carriages yet they will remain without riders. There may be armor and weaponry yet they will sit collecting dust.

The people must take death seriously and not waste their lives in distant lands. Let them return to the knotting of cord. Let them enjoy their food and care for their clothing. Let them be content in their homes and joyful in the way they live.

Neighboring villages are within sight of each other. Roosters and dogs can be heard in the distance. Should a man grow old and die without ever leaving village. Let him feel as though there was nothing he missed.

Tao Te Ching

Image by Jörg Peter; Tom Markoski; and Joe Keim

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