Raise a barn and reclaim your life

Dec
9
2011
by
Lynne McTaggart
/
0
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Today, while watching a barn raising during an episode of Living with the Amish, the British Channel 4 series I’ve blogged about earlier which arranged for six British teenagers to live among the Amish and Mennonites for a summer, (watch it here on: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/living-with-the-amish, I was moved by the simplicity of the message and struck by how many our current problems could be sorted out by some modern form of barn raising. And apparently, according to the reaction of thousands of British viewers, I am not alone.

In this episode, the three British boys join 40 male members of the community to do all the carpentry, while the three girls joined dozens of women in cooking a vast lunch for the 80 neighbors. Within five hours the main body of the barn had been raised, and by sundown, the last nail was put in place. But even more astonishing to the teens was the simple reminder, as the Amish narrator Jonathan puts it, of ‘what can be achieved if we all stand together.’

Today, while watching a barn raising during an episode of Living with the Amish, the British Channel 4 series I’ve blogged about earlier which arranged for six British teenagers to live among the Amish and Mennonites for a summer, (watch it here on: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/living-with-the-amish, I was moved by the simplicity of the message and struck by how many our current problems could be sorted out by some modern form of barn raising. And apparently, according to the reaction of thousands of British viewers, I am not alone.

In this episode, the three British boys join 40 male members of the community to do all the carpentry, while the three girls joined dozens of women in cooking a vast lunch for the 80 neighbors. Within five hours the main body of the barn had been raised, and by sundown, the last nail was put in place. But even more astonishing to the teens was the simple reminder, as the Amish narrator Jonathan puts it, of ‘what can be achieved if we all stand together.’

The power of selflessness

The most moving aspect of this fish-out-of-water series is the epiphany experienced by all the young Brits about the power of working selflessly for someone else. Party-going Charlotte clearly prefers life in the Amish because ‘they accent community and place it above individuals, which is so caring, and which is how things should be in life – looking out for others.’ 

As Jordan said, ‘They have the satisfaction that they’ve helped someone out and that’s all they need.’ 

Bright outspoken Cambridge University student Siana is amazed to learn that if someone in any Amish community is seriously ill, and requires medical care outside the community, everyone in the community will give up a few days’ wages to pay the bills. 

They are also stunned to see how the Amish respond to differences of opinion. Unlike we ‘English,’ as the Amish call anyone outside their community, we consider a difference of opinion a personal threat. We’re taught in debating or critical thinking classes to focus on the flaws in our opponents’ arguments.

I win, you lose

If someone disagrees with us, we conclude that they must be either stupid or ill informed, and certainly not ‘one of us.’ On this basis, we consider it acceptable to debate them, demonize them or declare them ignorant, and shout about this not only to the person in question but also to the entire world. In our minds, conflict can only be resolved with I win-you lose.

During a moving sequence in part 3, Eddy, one male Amish host, openly voices his disapproval of the fact that James, one of the British boys, was placed foster care for years, after his mother was jailed for arson and his father took off, and now, at 17, lives in a youth hostel. When James takes offense to the suggestion that his family is ‘broken,’ Eddy makes a point of chatting with him later, revealing the highly painful news that his own son spent time in jail, in order to equalize their relationship and re-establish the Bond between them. 

When challenged about the limiting roles for women, the Amish women share deeply about their histories and their views in order to aid understanding and reach across to the girls to try to find deeper connections. Even the opinionated Siana learns that ‘no matter “different” you think you are from anybody, you can always find common ground.’ 

Guiding principle

While I am not advocating that we go back to driving horses and buggies that women have, as their only option, domestic duties, or that children get removed from school at 14, there is something to be said about creating a moral framework with principle of selfless giving as the guiding principle of life.

As the teens recognize, it affords the Amish with a clear purpose, a clear sense of community and a daily experience of love and support. Even though they have nothing in the way of modern convenience, the Amish are clearly happier than we are because they do not live with a sense of lack or fear.

What this boils down to is that the Amish have never bought into the greatest cancer of modern times and the core belief that underpins every aspect of our modern society: ‘I win, you lose.’ 

As Hannah, one of the six teens, put it, ‘We’re forced to live these complex lives, and we don’t necessarily enjoy it.’

Recovering connection

Apparently, the bulk of the audience agrees with her. During a live Q & A session yesterday, early three-quarters of viewers (73 per cent) applied in the affirmative when asked if they could possibly live like the Amish, and nearly two-thirds (63 per cent) said they could live without modern technology. When asked, ‘if we could embrace some of the Amish values, would we start to see an end to broken Britain?’ 92 per cent of the public replied yes. 

Obviously, what people are responding to are not fairly rigid religious code or the clothes but the social code – the barn building.

So how do we get this back? Very simple. In your neighborhood or workplace, gather a group together and find a modern ‘barn’ to build. Bring food or other types of support to local people who have lost their job or homes. Form a ‘landscape brigade’: garden or landscape together as a neighborhood. Help a neighbor fix a fence. Create a neighborhood campaign to improve aspects of your community and tithe your time to clean up litter, lowering crime, improve the parks or school.

Give up your time and get back your life.

Lynne McTaggart

Lynne McTaggart is an award-winning journalist and the author of seven books, including the worldwide international bestsellers The Power of Eight, The Field, The Intention Experiment and The Bond, all considered seminal books of the New Science and now translated into some 30 languages.

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