As a traveler, Tracy is a student of the world's many cultures. Amish heritage and way of life are among Tracy's specialties.
I stopped and stared when I saw a flyer posted at my local library for a talk to be given by Author Soloma Furlong, a former Amish woman. The possibility of meeting a former Amish woman was very intriguing to me. Her book, entitled “Why I left the Amish”, was recently published and Soloma would soon be in my local library to discuss her book. I read and re-read the flyer to make sure I had the date and time memorized so that I wouldn’t forget. I didn’t want to miss this.
A few weeks later on a warmer than usual March evening in a small town in Connecticut, I sat on the library folding chair and intently listened to Soloma explain why, although she had left the Amish in part because of a desire to further her education, she missed many aspects of being Amish; leaving was not a black and white decision. While Saloma Furlong’s talk was fascinating and revealing, it left me unsatisfied and wanting to know more about the Amish. I walked away with a burning curiosity and still more questions racing through my mind such as:
What would it be like to live off the land, eat dinner by candlelight and ride in a buggy while listening to the clip clop of the horse’s hooves?
Does this way of life live up to its wholesome image and might I find satisfaction in living this way?
These and other questions remained in my mind.
It turns out that the Amish way of life does in many ways meet with its picture postcard image; there is a great deal of substance to their way of life, even more than meets the eye. And though Saloma Furlong, as well as others, have chosen to leave, many do so with mixed feelings. The Amish who make the choice to leave and pursue a modern life are in some ways torn between what they lose and what they gain, and many times end up returning to their Amish community; often returning for good.
While every society has it pros and cons, I wanted to focus here on some great reasons I have discovered for wanting to be Amish.
10 Reasons to be Amish
Clearly defined roles for women
In interviews with Amish women it was revealed that they were very happy and content with their lives. Most of these women felt that their roles as Mother, wife, church member etc., were clearly defined and that they were respected for their contributions by their husbands, family and community. These comments were made while thoughtfully considering modern life in the “outside world.” The Amish refer to anyone who is not Amish as “English.” In contrast, modern women might have trouble giving such a clear answer and definitively state “I am happy!” This is because for an English woman there are mixed messages placed on her by society about what her role really is. For the English woman choosing to have a career, raise a family, or both is laced with confusion and brings about various levels of conflict, even guilt. Women often feel guilty at work since they should be home with their kids and vice versa. Amish women do not live with this kind of confusion.
For myself, while I don’t think I could give up the freedoms that my modern life affords, I am envious in some ways, of a woman with clearly defined roles; there are no gray areas for Amish women and this must provide a great sense of peace.
Support of the community
Members of the Amish community pitch in to help one another when times get rough, including providing a meal and companionship for a sick or elderly person or to cover large medical costs that are more than one family can afford. Each member of the Amish community is committed to one another in a sincere action based way.
Family stays close by with multiple generations often living within walking distance of one another. Some couples even build an attachment to their homes to provide care for their elderly parents. Just as the Amish value their community, they value their family, they are literally one and the same.
Living off the land
While some Amish do work outside the home, many still farm and are able to supply either a large portion, or their complete needs for food. They don’t rely on others for these things.
Nowadays many people talk about going off the grid, but the Amish were never on the grid. For the most part, Amish are self-sustaining.
Using no more than you need. For this and many other beliefs, the Amish look to the Bible and specifically to the words of Jesus Christ. The Amish do not believe in having more than they really need; to acquire more means that others may have less. Having just what you need allows you to focus on your family, your community and your church and not be distracted by the desire to acquire more possessions.
In some ways, our modern society has rules similar to the Ordnung (Amish Rules), although not explicit. For example, as women we are expected to look a certain way, be a great Mother, complete our education, have a successful career and be a great wife when you put it all together though, that is a lot of pressure. Certainly modern women can dress as they wish and pursue the career they desire. And though not explicitly stated, they are rules nonetheless. While for Amish men and women the explicit rules of the Ordnung may seem stifling there is an inarguable and sustaining simplicity to it.
The Amish truly put family first, ideally mother and father are at home to both work and raise their children. The Amish live a family based life; choices are made based on how they affect the family unit, including the rejection of television, which ultimately cuts into family time.
Peaceful living I think, is the part that most people think of when considering the Amish or making a visit to an Amish community. Tourists are drawn to this peacefulness, nostalgia for the good old days, the slow pace, the home made meals and the living off the land.
The Amish build things to last.
Taking pride in what you do. The Amish believe in working hard and doing a job the right way, no short cuts. They adhere to the belief that “idle hands make the devil’s work” and believe that hard work is a good thing. Many people look to the Amish when seeking the best carpentry and quilting and Amish are known to be exemplary employees.
No need to buy clothes. Maybe this would frustrate you or you might be thrilled with the idea. Amish don’t want to compete to see who has newest clothing styles, they banish this from their minds by having rules, part of the Ordnung (Amish rules), about what clothes to wear. Each woman sews the clothes for her family based on the Ordnung pertaining to colors and styles. The uniform like attire brings unity to the group so that no one stands out. This is one way in which they express their equality. The Amish accept giving up or upgivva, the prospect of dressing as an individual for the benefit of the group.
While following the Ordnung may seem stifling to an outsider, there is a great deal of substantive value based living to look to and learn from as well.
Young Angelic Amish Singers
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© 2012 Tracy Lynn Conway
Tracy Lynn Conway (author) from Virginia, USA on October 11, 2012:
Frogyfish - You make a good observation about the applause. I believe that the Amish singers are members of a family that runs a restaurant for tourists, so it would have been the tourists that applauded. It must have been wonderful to have a father that could build so well. The Amish work ethic and attention to detail and quality set a high standard and one that many could learn from. Thank you for your great comment!
frogyfish from Central United States of America on October 10, 2012:
Interesting hub and videos. Proud to say my father built houses like the Amish on that video. Guess I was surprised at the applause in the ladies singing video. Enjoyed them both. Great hub!
Tracy Lynn Conway (author) from Virginia, USA on July 30, 2012:
I have watched "Pioneer House" and while I was watching, I just kept thinking about the severe learning curve that these people experienced since they had to practically figure everything out and that alone would cause an extreme case of frustration. In comparison if we look at the Amish, we see a way of live that is handed down.
In regards to the clothes it is useful to remember that the Amish are also called the Plain People. This in part denotes their way of dress. The plain clothes are meant to show that no one person is better than another; pride is looked down upon. The wearing of buttons or as you have mentioned "pockets" might give off the the impression of trying to appear better than another. That is interesting about the bike pedals, it is not something that I was aware of.
I am hoping that you are having a sunny day in Scotland.
Wayne Easton on July 26, 2012:
Yeah there was a prog. on last night on the BBC (BBC2) with regards a number of families that chose to leave the 'family' of the Amish & the resulting effects/losses et al upon their lives. It was quite interesting for all that, even if I did miss the start of the prog.
They have their own identity & validity in the way they exhibit the spiritual aspect of their lives. As you cite above, are we any better lusting after & pursuing the trappings of modernity, when upon attaining the latest gadget, bike or whatever we are none the happier.
I quite enjoy watching these reenactment type series' one gets on the tv, I need not mention them here, but the American 'Pioneer House' one which I saw part of reminded me of the problems that arise when people from the 21stC try to 'go back' to as things were in the late 18th century etc. We all drag around certain types of cultural baggage & it's so hard to put these things to one side,even if we want to.
Happiness & contentedness comes from within, not via 'things' the exception to that I would say are books, I do like a good book, more so one that adds to my knowledge etc.
One curious thing I saw on that prog. last night re the breakaway Amish, when you saw the trad. Amish going to church, some cycled, but what I found interesting was (unless I mis-saw it) their cycles did not have pedals, quite strange. I hear said that other 'oddities' they have is men's shirts can't have pockets or something, it's just curious. Personally speaking I like pockets, the more the merrier ;-)
Wayne in sometimes sunny Scotland.
Tracy Lynn Conway (author) from Virginia, USA on July 25, 2012:
Wayne - Yes, it would be an extreme culture shock for any modern person to adopt this kind of lifestyle and although rare, it has been done. The Amish do not intend for others to adopt their way of life and view the outside world as separate; they do not look to convert others. They see their lives as setting an example and it is an example that we can look to and learn from, if we choose to do so. The culture does accept some change, but the change is carefully considered first. If we compare this to our modern society we are quite the opposite, for example with customers waiting in long lines for the latest Apple iphone or violent ridden movie without any idea of the possible effect it might have on their lives.
Wayne Easton on July 21, 2012:
An interesting lifestyle if one conformed to their norms et al. I think it would be a bit of a culture shock for many of us living in the 21st century to go back to such basic living conditions that they have. That said perhaps they have found a pathway in life that obviously suits them in a pragmatic sense in what aspects of modernity they choose to adopt or inter-react with. There's much to be said for not buying into many aspects of modern living.
Tracy Lynn Conway (author) from Virginia, USA on July 19, 2012:
Luckily reading this hub will not require you to give up any modern conveniences, but the thought may be equally as painful. It is interesting to think that, as modern as we are; we still have a strong set of unsaid rules. I wonder how much happier today's woman would be if the juggling of motherhood, career with beauty pageant ideals were tweaked even a smidge.
Your childhood does sound ideal. Even though I grew up in the city, some of my greatest childhood memories were of my days spent in the country at sleep away camp with minimal electricity. I am so glad you liked the hub. Thank you for the votes and for sharing it!
Walking away from computer access would be hard, it has becomes such a way of life for so many of us. I agree with you that it would be hard to give up making our own decisions but at the same time it is fun to stop and think about the great aspects of this way of life and consider it for ourselves.
I strongly agree with your comment. We do need to give the Amish more respect and progress isn’t systematically good. Taking the time to stop and consider the benefits of any technology can benefit us all. So much of the way in which we live is a kind of experiment if you think of it anyway.
I will take note of your clothing vote. I am not sure I could part with my clothes either, but morning when I go to get dressed I wish I could throw on a uniform and not think about it. Maybe I could apply for the part-time Amish position. I agree with you that the Amish ideas for simple living offer a lot to aspire to.
It seems I haven’t persuaded you to convert; I will have to come up with ten more reasons and check back with you. All joking aside, you make a good point, as much as it is hard for the Amish to ever leave their community it is just as hard for a modern person to join the Amish. These cultures are so far apart it is nearly like night and day between the two and hard to believe that they coexist side by side with one another.
Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on July 19, 2012:
The Amish are hard working and dedicated people. I commend them for continuing to thrive in their communities while the world around them changed. Your ten reasons are great, but I'll continue to pass on being amish. I'm sure it'll just take a matter of minutes for me to break a rule or two.
freecampingaussie from Southern Spain on July 19, 2012:
This is interesting to read as we saw a movie once with Amish in it .I like some of their ideas about simple living but hate the clothing idea .
Novascotiamiss from Nova Scotia, Canada on July 18, 2012:
Tracy: I really enjoyed reading your interesting article about the Amish. In our modern-day society we always think that the only way to happiness is progress. As the Amish community shows, a simple life can be just as fullfilling. We should treat these gentle people with more respect.
Sherry Hewins from Sierra Foothills, CA on July 18, 2012:
Somewhat like you, I find a lot attractive about the lifestyle. I actually have lived "off the grid," and it's really no problems once you get used to it. But that was before personal computers, and I just don't think I could give that up. Also, I'm not really attracted to having my role defined so much. I suppose it takes away any responsibility for making decisions about your role, but I like having the decision be mine.
Mary Hyatt from Florida on July 18, 2012:
From everything I have read about the Amish, it seems like an ideal way of life. It reminds me of my childhood growing up in the country. We were simple people; not wanting of needing much; living off the land.
This Hub is very informative and interesting, and I voted it UP, etc.etc. and I will share.
Jools Hogg from North-East UK on July 18, 2012:
Tracy, fascinating hub - I have often wondered about whether Amish women envied the way we 'English' (though I really am English of course) live our lives but as you point out, we also live under a certain expectation of how our lives as women should be lived. I think Amish living all looks so idyllic but I don't think I would swap any of my mod cons for their more humble way of life.