I live around the Amish. I invited a few to my daughter's wedding last month. I'm currently working on a set of contracts for my largest Amish client. I live within bicycling distance of Shipshewana, which, last I knew, is Indiana's largest tourist destination.
The Amish are counter-conduct in extremis. Theirs is a constant revolt against the encroaching left hemisphere that I suspect drove Jakob Ammann and the original Amish . . . and that still drives them today.
The rest of us love it. Did I mention Shipshewana is Indiana's largest tourist destination? (Should I mention that, a few years ago, a columnist remarked that her local Barnes & Noble carried 92 Amish romance novels?)
Here's what people don't understand about the Amish: They're not Luddites who think modern machinery is socially unjust. They're not ancient gnostics who think earthly things are evil.
They are simply people who want to live simply. They are, I believe, simply a people who recognized early in modernity that the left hemisphere was encroaching and eclipsing the right hemisphere.
Granted, theirs is an extreme revolt against the left hemisphere, but it's still the revolt that we all need to take in some measure or fashion.
All the elements of counter-conduct against the left hemisphere are there in the Amish: disdain for efficiency as a prime virtue, contentment with littleness, supreme value placed on their community (localism).
But they must survive, so they dispatch their left hemispheres to earn a living, and they need to do so in a modern culture built by and dominated by the left hemisphere . . . but without letting their own left hemispheres dominate their existence (i.e., without letting their left hemispheres usurp the right hemisphere's rightful hegemony).
My wealthy Amish client has a full-time driver (a retired guy who likes the extra spending money) that he summons from a front yard phone booth (my client can't have a cell phone or a phone in his house; he definitely isn't allowed to own or drive a car).
Non-Amish often scoff at the absurdity.
But it's not absurd.
The Amish are merely trying to survive in a left-hemispheric world. They have taken a strong and extreme stance against modernity and the left hemisphere, but they still live in modernity and still have left hemispheres that must be dispatched to help them earn a living. They're just moving forward, trying to keep their right hemispheres intact, while also effectively employing their left hemispheres.
It's something we all need to do. We should all be absurd like the Amish. We might disagree with their theology and reject their lifestyle, but we ought to respect the big picture of what they're trying to accomplish.
And, indeed, I think we do. The Amish are a source of fascination and not just as freak shows.
Just walk the streets of Shipshewana and watch the tourists. They aren't scoffing. They're admiring: the fine quilts, the wood carvings, the simple but delicious food.
But mostly, they're musing about the simple way of life. There's something there. The tourists might not be able to identify it, but there's something there.
"It" is the need to re-assert our right hemispheres, connect with the Tao, and tap into full existence.