Monday, July 6, 2009

What is happy? An existential post.

I thought I'd take a break from my aforementioned crazy-girl freak out to pester you all to read this tremendously kick-ass story that ran in last week's Wall Street Journal.

There's a ton of great details, but the part that blew my mind was about how some of the folks in this Amish community became, really, just as screwed as the rest of us are. (Blew my mind as in fascinating. Not blew my mind as in schadenfreude.) Some had the opportunity to make money thanks to a now-halted manufacturing boom in their northern Indiana region. And just like a CD stuck on repeat, like people in almost every community and culture, they began to look for bigger and better and more than the next person.

I'm no expert on the Amish (and this article is only about one community of Amish, so I'm not going to presume to extrapolate where I shouldn't...), but these are folks whose whole premise is connected to a faith-backed message to live simply. They don't want to accumulate what they don't need. They want to be humble and be closer to God. (Right?)

And yet:
It became common practice for families to leave their carriages home and take taxis on shopping trips and to dinners out.

Some Amish families had bought second homes on the west coast of Florida and expensive Dutch Harness Horses, with their distinctive, prancing gait. Others lined their carriages in dark velvet and illuminated them with battery-powered LED lighting.

Even the tradition of helping each other out began to unravel, Bishop Hochstetler says. Instead of asking neighbors for help, well-to-do Amish began hiring outsiders so they wouldn't have to reciprocate.

If the Amish can't fight it, and can't be content with what they have, then who can? Are we genetically wired to want more and more? Or are we cultured to be that way? And can we ever just take a moment to be happy _ and thankful _ for what we have?

As I look around at my over-stuffed condo (which, frankly, I probably paid too much for) I'm pretty sure I'm just as guilty as the next person. I think about every time I've moved and the pile of what can only be described a shit that I wind of carting to Goodwill. I hope someone else can use it, but really, did I need it in the first place? How much money did I waste? I think about how consumed I've unknowingly become by my stuff and my lifestyle _ and how consumed we've all unknowingly become by our stuff and our lifestyles _ and it makes me sad.

Is there an solution? Probably. Is there one I want to accept? Doubtful. I guess there's no moral to this philosophical ramble. Other than this: read the article. And think about yourself. And your family. And your junk drawer (fine, fine, in my house, it's a junk closet floor AND a junk cabinet). And maybe just think... how'd I get here?

Soap box over. I promise to return to crafty blogging and make-you-laugh-'til-your-sides-hurt stories later. Girl Scouts' honor.

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