Saloma Miller Furlong
Author and Speaker

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The Amish: Practical or Philosophical?

Shirley wrote:

Enjoyed this conversation very much. It leads me to another question. Do you recall conversations that you would call “theological” in nature such as free will, eternal salvation, etc.? Or was most of the conversation among the Amish about practical matters–weather, crops, family, church issues? Were men or women more likely to engage in philosophical musings–or was this practice actively discouraged by community norms?

Shirley, the answer to the first question is, no, I don’t recall any conversations that were theological in nature. These subjects were reserved for the preachers in a church service, so it was not a dialog, but rather an interpretation. Even still, such things as free will were never mentioned. Eternal salvation (or its opposite) were very much stressed by the preachers. 

Yes, most conversations were about practical matters, but there was also a lot of joking and “joshing” when people got together in the community. The Amish have their own brand of humor, which is actually of a very funny, earthy variety. It can also be cruel when it is at the expense of someone.

If men were more likely to engage in philosophical discussions than women, they must have done it all on their own, and I wouldn’t have known about it. And it’s not that philosophical musings are even actively discouraged — they just don’t happen. It’s much like hugging, kissing, or showing of affection — nobody says you can’t, but nobody does it, either.

So, the Amish I know can be serious or humorous, depending on the situation. I would describe Amish as a people as being practical, but not philosophical. The young people are taught to follow the Amish ways without question, which is the antithesis of philosophy — to engage in philosophical discussions, we need to be able to both examine our lives and to contemplate the mysteries of the universe.

I will close this post with a quote that really resonated with me that I recently read, which was attributed to Nicolaus Steno:

“Beautiful is what we see. More beautiful is what we understand. Most beautiful is what we do not comprehend.” 


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