On occasion I feel a yen to adopt the Amish way of life.
These occasions usually coincide with a BBC documentary about Amish people being broadcast on TV but it is precisely this battle against my more superficial tendencies that gives the desire such weight in the first place. I get sucked in. I get immersed. For the space of an hour I believe that I too can lead a simpler, plainer, more Godly existence. That I too could raise a barn.
The thought of doing away with gadgets and electronics and the world wide web, I confess, has an appeal.
No more mobile phones. No more slavish umbilical-like connection to the internet. No more Facebook. No more Twitter. No more Viagra emails. No more links to nude photos of Keeley Hawes that at best don’t work and at worst install Trojans onto my hard-drive.
Life could be so much easier. So much cleaner.
Not that it would be totally without its complications. The documentary I watched last week stuck in my mind because of Mr Amish’s (I forget his name) admission that he had to fight constant internal battles to keep control of his own lust. For that reason he had imposed the desire upon his wife that she did not wear low cut or revealing tops. And by low cut or revealing tops we are talking about a single button being undone at the top as opposed to a V-slit that plunged all the way down to her barn-raisin’ vajazzle.
This was the man’s own wife, for Heaven’s sake. Surely you’re allowed to feel a little lust for your own wife? Surely it is a prerequisite to the marriage contract in the first place?
It was at this point in the documentary that my fantasy broke down. It was at this point that I realized I just didn’t possess the necessary spiritual and physical dichotomy to love someone but to consider any kind of physical expression of that love as being at odds with my spiritual development.
I guess I’m just too steeped in sin and the ways of the sinful world. Curse me and my irredeemable libido!
Giving up the internet and games consoles is easy. Any fool can do that. The real test is plainly cultivating a desire not to shag the person you’ve fallen in love with even though having kids is, spiritually, a good thing.
I know, I know. I’m over simplifying. And I truly don’t want to be glibly denigrating the Amish way of life because part of it definitely does attract me.
Back in 1996, during a whistle-stop tour of America and Canada’s East Coast, I actually visited a real life Amish town. Intercourse, it was called. And without a drop of irony too.
I kid you not.
I can remember we were allowed inside one of the houses though told not to speak to the occupants and to behave with a quiet sobriety at all times. I felt extremely self conscious. We’d been informed that the Amish frowned upon any kind of adornment or needless decoration on their clothes and there was I, dressed in a leather biker’s jacket with tassels down the arms and a painted design on the back, and my lapels literally festooned in badges. Hey, I was in my twenties, OK, and more tasteless than I am now.
I remember feeling ashamed as the Amish woman went about her chores – putting a pile of freshly washed clothes through a mangle much the way my Nan did when I was a kid. I daresay she didn’t give me a second look – Lord knows how many tour parties had marched over her porch that week alone – but I felt petty, stupid and of no consequence. I felt foolish, vain and, paradoxically, deeply shallow.
It left a lasting impression on me and I stopped wearing the jacket and badges soon after.
And now whenever I read about or watch programmes about the Amish way of life I feel a small internal tug, a slight beckoning towards the ideal. And Lord knows there’s enough about modern life that repels me so I have a force driving me from behind too.
But I can’t quite reconcile myself to the complete Amish lifestyle. Not really.
I have a tendency to rather enjoy low cut and revealing tops. Alas, that internal battle is lost before it is even begun.
My mother always used to say I was born in a barn (because I’d never close a door behind me as a kid).
Sadly, I very much doubt I shall die in one.
P.S. Just as an aside: this is my 900th post...!