‘Amish Economy’

Charles Warren Mundy, 'Raking The Fields', 2011.

The best thing about a lecture is always what gets left behind after class. Good teachers hope that what gets left behind keeps being discovered (and corrected and discarded and developed and etc.) for many decades yet, but today it just happened to be this poem, ‘Amish Economy’, from Wendell Berry’s This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems that got left behind:

We live by mercy if we live.
To that we have no fit reply
But working well and giving thanks,
Loving God, loving one another,
To keep Creation’s neighborhood.

And my friend David Kline told me,
“It falls strangely on Amish ears,
This talk of how you find yourself.
We Amish, after all, don’t try
To find ourselves. We try to lose
Ourselves” – and thus are lost within
The found world of sunlight and rain
Where fields are green and then are ripe,
And the people eat together by
The charity of God, who is kind
Even to those who give no thanks.

In morning light, men in dark clothes
Go out among the beasts and fields.
Lest the community be lost,
Each day they must work out the bond
Between goods and their price: the garden
Weeded by sweat is flowerbright;
The wheat shocked in shorn fields, clover
Is growing where wheat grew; the crib
ls golden with the gathered corn,

While in the world of the found selves,
Lost to the sunlit, rainy world,
The motor-driven cannot stop.
This is the world where value is
Abstract, and preys on things, and things
Are changed to thoughts that have a price.

Cost + greed – fear = price:
Maury Telleen thus laid it out.
The need to balance greed and fear
Affords no stopping place, no rest,
And need increases as we fail.

But now, in summer dusk, a man
Whose hair and beard curl like spring ferns
Sits under the yard trees, at rest,
His smallest daughter on his lap.
This is because he rose at dawn,
Cared for his own, helped his neighbors,
Worked much, spent little, kept his peace.

[Image: Charles Warren Mundy, ‘Raking The Fields’, 2011. Source]

2 thoughts on “‘Amish Economy’

  1. Thanks for this delightful poem, Jason.
    It’s been left behind, in far too many ways.
    But you’ve left it with me. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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