Beautiful People

How Stuff Works” – recently posted a fascinating article on the “Amish”. As many as 100,000 in number, the ‘Amish’ seemingly maintain an 18th century lifestyle in a 21st century world ! But what’s truly amazing is that, in spite of this “backwardness”, the Amish imbibe a … value-system … that many of us would benefit from…

“How Stuff Works” – recently posted a fascinating article on the “Amish”. As many as 100,000 in number, the ‘Amish’ seemingly maintain an 18th century lifestyle in a 21st century world ! But what’s truly amazing is that, in spite of this “backwardness”, the Amish imbibe a … value-system … that many of us would benefit from :

Amish faith and life is governed by a (largely unwritten) set of rules known as the Ordnung (order). A member of the Amish Church must live a simple life devoted to God, family and community, in accordance with God’s laws. The mode of dress, the buggy and the lantern have become the identifying marks of the Amish and are not likely to change. The mode of dress emphasizes that the Amish person is separate from the non-Amish world, but also part of a community of equals. The buggy likewise promotes equality and limits travel, keeping communities together. The lantern, a non-electric light, does not require connections outside of the community.

The Amish are not really “stuck in time.” Although home and social life has remained essentially unchanged, new technologies that have passed a rigorous examination have been accepted. The Ordnung is applied to any proposed use of new technology. A technology may be accepted for business or practical reasons, but never for indulgence, desire or entertainment. A technology is more likely to be accepted if it is a natural extension of an existing technology and will have a minimal social impact. Using a nylon rope in place of a hemp rope would be an example of a natural extension.

…the Amish dress simply. It is how they acquired the nickname “The Plain People.” The idea is that the limited wardrobe eliminates the pride and envy that come with fashion one-upmanship, as well as wasted time (What will I wear today?) and wasted money (My clothes are so out of style!).

Most of a family’s net worth is in real estate. The Amish do not borrow, and therefore pay no interest. How does an Amish family buy a farm, handle loss or cover unexpected expenses? Family and community are the bank and the insurance company. All community members are expected to contribute a share of their income to the “community pot.” Likewise, it is the duty of all to lend assistance to those in need. A young couple is not expected to be able to buy a farm. It will be purchased for them with assistance from family and community.

Baptism marks entry into the Amish church. Joining the church is a decision that cannot be made before the age of 16. By this time, a candidate will have been thoroughly drilled in the faith and the Ordnung through school and church attendance. In accord with the philosophy of choice, 16 year olds may leave the community to experience life outside if they so choose. If they choose to return and join the church, they do so with full knowledge of what they are giving up in order to be part of the community. If they do not return, family ties are still viable because they did not break an oath to the church.

Sure, all of us will not agree with all of these practices. But, it makes you wonder, doesn’t it? Are we really progressing as a civilisation, or are we losing touch with our values?

Going Faster, But Where?

Since the year 2000, The Economist and Shell join forces on an annual basis to create an international writing competition that encourages future thinking. I was going through the work of some of its past winners, when I chanced upon a short but poignant essay on the subject of sustainability of 21st century travel. In a short span of 3 pages, “A Ramble to Africa” makes some insightful observations on Travel, and on Life… and is definitely worth a read…

Since the year 2000, The Economist and Shell join forces on an annual basis to create an international writing competition that encourages future thinking. According to its website, to date, about 7,500 people from over 148 countries have taken part in the competitions, with a select few winning prizes worth more than US$ 60,000 each year!

I was going through the work of some of its past winners, when I chanced upon a short but poignant essay on the subject of sustainability of 21st century travel. This brief essay called "A Ramble to Africa" (PDF) seemed to have captured the essence of the subject very well. In a short span of 3 pages, it makes some insightful observations on Travel, and on Life… and is definitely worth a read.

A few excerpts :

…Slow travel…has mainly been about learning again and again and again that most people are poor, a very few people are exceedingly rich and doing nicely, corruption is normal, clean water is precious and good people everywhere are doing what they can.

(Fast Travel)…Instead of bringing people closer and facilitating mutual understanding and awareness of global issues, it is dividing the world more sharply in two, the rich and the poor. Naturally most tourists on their two-week holiday do not want to be confronted by poverty and disease or reminded that the soup they just ordered costs twice the waiter’s daily wage.

For many people cruising has become a permanent lifestyle…Some of us have loosened our grip on the illusion of security and given up homes and jobs to travel the oceans for a while and just see what happens. It is not a way of getting anywhere. It is a way of being wherever you are.

Travelling fast, but where are you going? Travelling slowly, always at home.

As I said before…this one’s definitely worth a read !

Tolerate Genius

Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. Isn’t it time we made it just a little bit easier for geniuses to do their job? Isn’t it time we Tolerate Genius?

I passed by a postcards-counter in a restaurant recently, and one particular card caught my eye:

“Tolerate Genius”, David Ogilvy.

Think about it. How many of us actually do?

Albert Einstein once said, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” If we examine our own experiences, we are more likely to find that a reality. And that’s what a genius faces each day. Opposition. Violent opposition. In spirit, in thought, and in acceptance. Yet, if we look back in history, we would not have moved beyond the Stone Age if it weren’t for unconventional thought. We would spend the rest of our lives in the belief that the Earth is flat and we are at the centre of the Universe. No discoveries to be made. No inventions. No nothing.

Isn’t it time we made it just a little bit easier for geniuses to do their job? Isn’t it time we Tolerate Genius?