Saturday, June 11, 2005

The Best of Both Worlds

Imagine my surprise to discover that the gentleman staying at my rental cottage next door to the Village Craftsmen is the author of a book I had read recently, "The Riddle of Amish Culture." Donald Kraybill and his wife, Fran, are spending the week at "Lawton's" and finding the house and the terrific weather much to their liking.

I had not only read Donald's book; I had thoroughly enjoyed his writing style, his breadth of knowledge, and his sympathetic portrayal of a unique American cultural group. In fact I have frequently quoted from his book and recommended it to a number of friends. Lou Ann and I invited the Kraybills to spend an evening with us and our family. It didn't even take any pleading to get my book autographed!

In his final chapter Donald writes about "the other side to freedom." "Although the Amish are not free to do some things," he points out, "they are free from many others." He goes on to catalog a number of contrasts. I list them below (with my comments from an "island perspective"):

"The Amish are not free to buy the latest car, but they are free from the frustrations of commuter traffic." [Howard Street is definitely not the DC beltway.]

"The Amish are not free to buy the latest convenience, but they are free to enjoy the convenience of walking across the driveway to their work." [Please read yesterday's journal entry.]

"The Amish are not free to travel on airplanes, but they are free to have lunch at home with their families." [I have lunch with family & friends nearly every day.]

"The Amish are not free to buy the latest fashions, but they are free from the anxiety of what to wear." [We often work barefooted at the Village Craftsmen!]

"The Amish are not free to watch television, but they are free from endless commercials." [I don't have a TV, but every one I've seen has an "off" button.]

"The Amish are not free to pursue many occupations, but they are free from the constraints of boring jobs and administrative policies." [How could an island job be boring?]

"The Amish are not free to make up their faces in the latest styles, but they are free from the pressure to present a "perfect" face." [There's not too much fancy makeup sold on Ocracoke.]

"The Amish are not free to discard the traditional ritual of Amish funerals, but they are free from worrying about who will support them in time of grief." [Ocracoke has a strong tradition of visiting grieving families, bringing food, and attending neighbors' funerals.]

So as I read Donald's assessment of Amish culture I felt blessed to live on Ocracoke....with both the freedom to be an individual & to be creative, and free from most of the anxieties and frustrations of modern life. To me, at least, it seems like the best of both worlds.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, As a newcomer to the joys of Ocracoke I read with interest your notes on the author and his knowledge of the Amish. I must admit to a little knowledge of the Amish way of life, and the respect that I have for them in their dedication to that life. I must also add my respect for the islanders who are lucky enough to live year round on Ocracoke. After spending a week there in early May and enjoying an "almost hurricaine," I have decided to someday retire to Ocracoke, or at least spend more than a week getting to know the island more intimately. I am counting the days!! Looking forward to next year! Judy McCarthy-Vermont