I am a big believer in study clubs. Our club, the Three Knots Study Club has existed for ten years. We meet yearly at a different location for educational and social reasons.
In the past few years we have fished the Everglades, explored the coast of Maine and hiked the hills of Asheville North Carolina. This year one of our members hosted our meeting in Lancaster Pennsylvania…the heart of Amish country.
We certainly got a good look at how the Amish live…this trip was way beyond the typical tourist experience.
I had seen the pretzel factories, eaten enough funnel cake and shoo fly pie and sat behind many buggies in traffic to satisfy my curiosities but actually meeting and spending time with the Amish was a true learning experience. It was truly a close up view into a culture that stands in direct contrast to the way we live in America today…and even without the modern amenities there’s a lot to learn from these quite progressive people.
Progressive? Let me explain. Everything is relative isn’t it?
The one thing that stood out while visiting the Amish farms and observing their family life was a great sense of moral responsibility and empathy for one another. The lack of modern amenities blended in after a while.
What was really noticeable was the how they worked and related to one another.
Everyone working on the farms were craftsmen. The animals were well taken care of, as if they were part of the family. Mostly though what stood out was the care they placed in making sure everyone was taken care of…in the family and the extended family.
Progressive? Or has the rest of society redefined progress as nothing but more and more material wealth, say as measured by the GDP (Gross Domestic Product). When does it stop?
Of course the Amish aren’t the only ones who measure success by other standards than material wealth. In Bhutan the new economic paradigm is Gross Happiness Product which uses natural and social capital values to assess the true costs and gains of economic activity.
I remember first being introduced to the Pankey Philosophy many years ago. In the center of Dr. Pankey’s Cross of Life was three words…Reward…Material and Spiritual. Through the years I continued to see our culture lose it’s balance with way too much emphasis on the material…at the total expense of the spiritual (if you have an issue with that word…think ephemeral or intangible—think purpose and gratitude).
As a matter of fact it was through Dr. Pankey’s original philosophy that I heard the term “moral obligation” in relation to dental practice. It was a driving force in my writing my first book about the examination.
Morality and character are the drivers of a sustainable career in any profession…are we losing it? Observing the Amish shows that we differ in more ways than air conditioning and electricity.
I am not suggesting anyone give up all material possessions…just to take a step back and realize that as an old movie title said…“The Best Things in Life are Free.”
This weekend we didn’t run the rapids in Montreal, see a Broadway show or ride horses in the Texas hill country…we just ate some really good home cooking and watched another way to live that could hold promise for our future.