Saturday, September 04, 2010

FEATURE 58 - Rumspringa

This series of four episodes on Channel 4 was titled Amish- The world's squarest teenagers, which itself was a bit of a bias and cruel slant. It misrepresented the reality of the programmes content. They weren't even all teenagers, most were in their early twenties. 'Rumspringa' is a time in a young Amish's life when they are allowed to go out and experience the world, before deciding to fully commit themselves to the Amish way of life. They spent four weeks here in the UK. Each week with a different social group of society, ranging from an inner city black family to an aristocratic one. This often brought, not only the Amish, but their hosts up short. For a moment they had to rethink and check out how they behave, what they believe, and why. The hosts often expressed a certain yearning and envy of the Amish's lives, whilst simultaneously not wanting to give up what liberty they had. They wanted the result without any effort or renunciation.

I was consistently impressed by the Amish teenagers open heartedness. Even when their beliefs told them their new friends behaviour was sinful, their response was kindly,concerned and compassionate. They wanted to protect them from any bad consequence they saw in what they were doing. Though they might have seemed to us, too tightly constrained by their Amish upbringing and the Bible, I saw a lot of unaffected, natural simplicity, few needs, and a sort of contentedness born from this, and their beliefs and convictions. Some possessed an unusual degree of spiritual depth combined with a realistic earthiness. By contrast the openness and liberality or the permissive lifestyles of their hosts, didn't always seem to make them any more rounded or mature as individuals. At times they just seemed naive and shallow, chasing the illusive butterfly of individual fulfillment. Sometimes what we Westerners spend our lives doing is mad, or at the very least incoherent. Whilst I wouldn't want to take on their Christian beliefs, I could see that the Amish lifestyle embodied some of the positive consequences of cultivating stillness, simplicity and contentment.

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