Let Me Think About That

I recently took my daughter, and one of her friends, to a Free Thinkers luncheon.  One of the male attendees had on a tee-shirt imprinted, “You never see a bunch of atheists stoning a gay to death.”  The president of the local association came fifteen miles down from the town which is the center of the area Mennonite community.  He brought with him a thirty-ish Mennonite female, dressed in a floor-length, shapeless, dull-patterned cotton dress and veil-fabric, hair-modesty, yarmulke-like snood.

This is strange!  The more intense a religious sect is, the less likely they allow any thinking, much less free thinking.  Mennonites are strict.  There are many sub-sects, some much stricter than others.  She explained that she had developed free thinking on her own, but kept her opinions to herself, so that she could continue to associate with her friends and family.  Like the Catholic Church’s *excommunication*, where the faithful were not allowed to speak or deal with a heretic, the Mennonite faith has *shunning*.  She had heard of the Free Thinkers, and found that the local teacher was a leader, and convinced him to bring her to the freedom of a meeting.  I don’t know how she explains not being at church with her clan.

Like every other religion, there are divisions, and sub-divisions, and sub-sub….until there are tiny little groups, all convinced that they, and only they, are correct.  There are Old Order Mennonites, who use horses and buggies.  They will not allow zippers, or even buttons on their clothing.  It is all tied closed.  They refused to put the glass-crystal, triangular, slow-vehicle signs on their dark buggies, because they eschew any adornment.  It took several late-night, coming-home-from-prayer-meeting collisions before the government convinced them that they were not *adornment*, but legally required safety devices to keep them and cars and drivers safe.

New-Order followers buy black or dark cars and trucks, but painted any chrome black, until the government again convinced them that this was another visibility/safety feature.  New New-Order buy colored cars, but still wear black hats over zippered and buttoned clothing.  I worked with a young new-new-new….whose worship group was about fifteen people, meeting in some guy’s warehouse, because they couldn’t build, or even rent a meeting-house.

It’s like a child’s game of How Much Can I Get Away With?  Many of these people are businessmen, building and selling furniture, equipment, farm produce, etc.  They shun the secular world, but are forced to interact with it for commerce.  They have preachers who tell them that they cannot be connected to the fallen.  (That’s you and I.)  Yet they must buy and sell goods, arrange shipments, check specs, etc.

When I worked at the steel warehouse there were three farmers who also ran a fabricating shop.  Two of the farms were side by side on one concession road, and the third butted against the common border over on the next road.  They built a little weather-proof box, and paid Bell Telephone to install a phone where the three farms met.  Any one of them could give the horses a rest and make a call, but the phone wasn’t in any of their houses, so it was allowed.  If you had to call back with information, you were given a specific time to call.  One would be waiting by the phone at exactly 10:00 AM.  If you missed your call, you missed an order.  I wonder how they tell time.  Are watches prohibited?

The mullahs can’t keep up with technology.  Cell-phones don’t “connect” them to the secular world, so half the Mennonites have them.  Similarly Wi-Fi computer connections from outdoor posts or the nearest urban hot-spot are not specifically banned so Mennonite boys can get porn just like the rest of us.

I recently took the wife fifteen miles out to a Mennonite butcher in a village.  As we drove into town, the wife spotted some plants near the edge of the road, with a for-sale sign.  We stopped on the way home.  The wife was interested, but wanted to ask some questions, and wondered if we should knock on the door or if someone would come out.  The answer to both was, no.  I spotted an Honor Box.

They put various items out at the side of the road with prices marked, and it’s up to the honor of the customer to leave money.  Some even leave money out in the open.  You can make your own change if necessary.  This one was a large, heavy (?) aluminum box with a slot in the top to insert cash.  It would be possible to walk away with the entire box, but probably not un-noticed in the village full of nosy neighbors.

Farmers on the highway put out corn, potatoes, apples etc. and an honor box.  Farms where you have to drive in to the house have signs saying, “No Sunday sales”, but the honor boxes can sit out seven days a week.  If you wish to stop and remove some produce and voluntarily leave some cash, that’s your business, but if they’re not sitting there accepting filthy lucre, they’re not Doing Business, so it’s moral.

The wife worked for an insurance company for ten years.  I find that Scotsmen and Jews have nothing on Mennonites for being cheap.  They want everything that’s in the contract, whether they qualify or not, and then they want some free candy off your desk for giving you the business.  The young lad I worked with must have asked at least six times in disbelief, if I was sure I wanted to give my excess foreign coins to his immigrant wife for her collection, at no charge.

I think it’s silly to worry about violating, not God’s rules, but some narrow-visioned man’s rules.  They think they can remain religious hermits, and still be business-men in today’s society.  I think the mental and moral gymnastics are silly and amusing.  They think up new ways to circumvent the lifestyle they claim to revere.  Look out!  Here comes the future!

Happy 100

This is my one-hundredth post.  To some of the bloggers I follow, that would be ho-hum.  The way they pump posts out, that could have been accomplished in a couple of months.  It has taken me ten months to get this far.  I started slow, then tapered off.

I knew I wasn’t ever going to set the world on fire literately.  In fact, when I started, I wondered if I would attract any readers other than the few bloggers I had been bedevilling with comments on their posts.  Like other aspects of my life, I later found that I was doing the right things by instinct, to attract readers and followers.  Seldom able to keep my mouth shut, or my fingers still, I went further and further afield and made comments on a variety of blogs.  I later read from WordPress, that this is a good way to attract followers.  I’ve never actually been told to mind my own business, although there have been a couple of curt and dismissive responses.

I try not to antagonise anyone on their home turf, even when I disagree with them.  That’s not a problem with my core group.  For as much as we are all different, it is intriguing, how much we are the same.

I sit safely in the *average* slot, as far as bloggers go.  I visit other sites which have only a couple of followers and often several consecutive posts, before anyone makes a comment.  I’m not a Byronic Man, a BrainRants or a Madame Weebles, with hundreds, or thousands of followers, and a comment thread like a papyrus scroll.  I have managed to acquire almost 60 followers, a small cloud of *likes* on each post, and intelligent, insightful and supportive comments from a nice bunch of folks.  More ho-hum, but I’m closing in on 4000 hits.

I only post every two to four days, so my normal daily readership runs from ten to forty.  My best day was 71 hits, and that was for a little throw-away acceptance speech for a blog award.  I’m not worried by it, but I am perplexed that, after ten months on the WordPress scene, I recently had two days, just over a week apart, when no-one came to visit.  I’ve had onesies and twosies, but I really got lonely a couple of times.  I had to go bug some other bloggers.

Bloggers disappear from the scene all the time.  I’m sure some of them are like me; they have a limited number of things they wish to post about and just run out of ideas.  My wife recently commented that the number of letters-to-the-editor I submit has dropped.  Of course, six to eight op/ed pieces a year don’t add much when the blog count hits a hundred.  I still write down potential post themes when one penetrates my thick skull.  I know I’ll get to my anniversary blog, but may have to space my posts out a bit more.

I’m not a rabid numerologist.  I get a kick out of catching my digital watch at 3:33:33, or 11:11:11, or 12:34:56, but I’m enough of a realist to know that blog number 100 really is no more special than number 99 or 101.  It is a small milestone that I am happy to have reached, with the support of my select little cadre of readers and followers.

I’m typing one-handed right now.  No!  Not because I’ve been viewing porn.  I think I pulled a muscle in my shoulder, patting myself on the back for getting this far.  I’ve had four blog awards thrust upon me, but that’s like contracting mono.  There are so many awards drifting around at any one time, you’d have to be a blog-virgin not to get at least one, but it is nice to know that I am noticed and appreciated.

I just visited aFrankangle’s blog, and was treated to a large dose of reality.  It was tempered with a small platter of pleasure.  I got to Frank’s site just in time to see his 1000th post.  I have got soooo far to go.  Frank also revealed that my grumpy American curmudgeon counterpart, the much respected, and until now, blogless, John Erickson, slipped and has finally fallen into the blog pool.  It’s thyme to visit the sage of Ohio at www.windycitywonderer.wordpress.com.

To all who have tolerated me, taught me, led me, and even encouraged me, I give again, a huge thank-you.  Since I have to live so much inside my head, it is pleasant to have such nice neighbors.