Things which
matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
  -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I’ve discovered
that I’m not really a team player.
 
I mean, it sounds good to say, “Yes, I’m a team player,” and I have
nothing against cooperative efforts, but if I’m honest, I have to admit that I
like doing things alone.
  Working
with others generally gets on my nerves.
 
The idea of “team teaching,” for example, always bugged me.  I want to teach the way I want to
teach, and you teach the way you want to teach, and we’ll just agree to stay
out of each other’s way.
  I’ve also
found committees, whether at church, at work or within the community, to be
frustrating and time-consuming.
 
People tend to make things messy, and while it is true that “many hands
make light work,” it’s also true that “too many cooks spoil the broth.”

It is this
knowledge that makes me realize I could never live on a commune.
  I don’t particularly want a village to
raise my child, and I don’t want to raise theirs.
  I like to hear other opinions and ideas, but ultimately, I
want to do my own thing.
  However,
there are some things about the communal life that appeal to me.
  Granted, most of what I’m about to say
is based solely on romantic fantasies I’ve cooked up in my own mind and not on
any actual personal experiences, but I think there may be a few glimmers of
reality sprinkled within my notion of the happy hippie life.

A few miles down
the road from where we live there is an actual commune that has existed for a few
generations.
  It is up a long and
winding dirt drive in a rural farming area.
  I’ve never seen it, but I have a friend who has, and his
descriptions of the people and of the place often create a wistful feeling in
me that makes me crave that kind of life.
 
Recently, he attended a memorial service for one of the founding
members, and this is what he said:

“They had a
typically unconventional funeral and today invited friends and loved ones to
come to the home and pay respects. It’s one of those things you’d rather not go
to but then are glad you did.  I’d been [there] a few times and knew where
the house was but hadn’t been to it.  It’s a big, sprawling, hand built
home of post and beam construction.  (I think Jack did much of the
framing, and I believe the community had a sawmill of sorts where they cut
their own framing and lumber.)  It’s full of bookshelves in every nook and
cranny, funky art, pictures of family, all kinds of crafts and incredible
warmth (not just from the woodstove.)  Gail greeted me and told me where
the food was and directed me to the book to write a comment (or a poem or draw
a cartoon — you get the idea.)  She mentioned the picture displays,
including more upstairs, and showed me the path to the gravesite.  She
offered to take me there, but I thanked her and said I would just enjoy poking
around myself.  The marker was a fencepost with a very
“Tolkien-like” face carved in the top (beard and all,) topped by
Kelly’s old wool hat.  The emotion was not unlike what I’ve felt when
reading one of your essays when I’m chuckling out loud but have tears in my
eyes and a lump in my throat.”

 

When I read
that, I couldn’t help but feel, “Yes, that’s the life I want,” a life that’s
been framed out by hand, knitted together with love, and is bursting from the
inside out with the imperfect beauty of a homemade existence.
  It’s an overly simplified sentiment and
probably a little naïve, but it’s just that sense of remaining true to what
matters most that seems to overwhelm me.
 
We live in a pre-packaged world, and it’s so easy to be sucked into the
plastic vortex.
  We want
convenience, and we want it cheap and now.
  It’s become so much a part of our life that we have to make
conscious decisions not to participate in that way of thinking, to deliberately
give up the modern conveniences and simplify our lives.
  Of course, when I say simplify, I don’t
necessarily mean to make our lives easier; if anything, the simple life is often
hard and inconvenient, but with it comes many rewards.
 

For example,
growing vegetables is labor intensive, and it is so much easier to drive to
Ingle’s and buy what I need at a moment’s notice, but a garden provides more
than cans of green beans and sacks of tomatoes to share with neighbors.
  It provides healthy food that is not
poisoned with pesticides.
  It cuts
down on the energy costs to haul crates of vegetables thousands of miles across
our country to our tables.
  It
teaches our kids where food actually comes from and that it does not simply
appear on our shelves by magic. And it teaches us the value of a little sweat
and the satisfaction of going to bed tired, not from over-scheduled stress but
from actual physical exertion.

And what about the energy it costs to run a dryer every day
all year long?
  For very little
effort, we can hang our laundry on the line to dry.
  Yes, it takes a few moments longer than throwing it into a
big metal drum and flipping a switch, but what can be gained?
  Possibly, it can create a lower power
bill, but it also give us the fresh scent of sun-dried clothes that just can’t
be duplicated by a dryer sheet, and it makes us emerge from our cocoons and
actually get a little sun ourselves.
 
There is, after all, a direct link between depression and a lack of
sunlight.
  Think of the growing
number of people suffering from depression.
  Of course, drying our clothes inside is not the culprit, but
it is just one more piece of the unhealthy puzzle that has become our world.

One of my fondest childhood memories is of my best friend’s
house.
  Jeanine was one of five
kids, and they lived on a horse farm in a big house made of large timber beams
and rock.
  I loved that house, and
the thing that I loved most was the feeling of home.
  It was cluttered with antiques and books, and the walls were
covered with old black and white family photos and funky folk art.
  There was a big pile of boots by the
front door, and the kitchen was always warm and fragrant with the smell of
food.
  Generally, each child was
allowed one friend for weekend sleepovers, which meant there were ten children
in the house at times.
  It was
messy and sometimes disorganized, what my mom referred to as “lived in,” and it
was never quiet, but when I dreamed of what my life might be like when I grew
up, I always wanted a home just like that one.
 

So maybe what appeals to me is not really the communal
lifestyle but what it implies, which is the joy of living.
  I just can’t see drive-thru dining and
the constant need to check email as living.
  Isn’t our time on this earth meant to be spent doing more
than watching TV and shopping at Wal-Mart?
  I want to feel that my life means something, not anything
grand or particularly noteworthy but quietly special.
  I want to go hiking and pull weeds with my kids and hang out
the laundry with them while they run through the damp sheets.
  I want to sit on the porch with Rob and
listen to the cicadas and have a glass of wine.
  I want to run along muddy tractor paths with my friends and
talk about good books and the meaning of life.
   And someday, when I’m gone, I hope someone will love
me enough that they hand-carve my gravestone with an appropriately strange
theme.
  I want a community of
friends and family and a home that is the center of it all, a place where we
work, play, laugh and pray and where we live our lives joyfully together.

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