Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Hi All,

So, today I was presented with an interesting juxtaposition.

I was stranded in Mississippi an extra day thanks to my car being somewhat unreliable yet again, however, was fortunate enough to have it break down while still in the driveway of my very good friends and generous hosts, The Scotts. The good fortune of being able to stay down here in the black hole of my phone reception, was that I was able to visit the Amish community just outside of Pontotoc, MS, accompanying the Scotts with the intention of buying more chickens for their ever-expanding (although possibly now complete) coop. Now, as anyone knows, should you ever need good chickens, apparently the Amish are the people to see as they take pretty darn good care of them (as far as resources go) and they are very good layers. The chickens, not the Amish, that is.

So we headed down there, and the inevitable happened as we entered this hospitable, open, yet religious and very disciplined community: I was struck by the simplicity and apparent peacefulness of their everyday lives, and felt a yearning to understand it better, and I have no doubt that a part of me desired to be like them.

To fill in the uninitiated, the Amish are a religious group that originated in Holland in 1693 as a result of internal differences within a Christian sect known as the Mennonites. In the early 18th century large groups of Amish migrated to America to begin anew and settled in Pennsylvania, and have since spread to other parts of the country. There is now estimated to be over 200,000 Amish living in the U.S.A. today. the most well-known aspects of Amishness are of course, the shunning of electrical power, telephones and automobiles, which are three seemingly ubiquitous parts of our modern lifestyle. Yet these people survive very well without them, indeed they seem to prosper.

For example, one could say that the simple values inspired by this lifestyle, based on community, self-subsistence and religious purity are something to aspire to, and we can all learn something from it, even if we take out the religious bit, which some may or may not agree with. Above all, I was struck by the sense of co-dependency within the family, and to a certain extent the larger community unit. For example, everyone is expected to pull their weight, and do so happily, to carry out whatever chores need to be done to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. It's this sense of all for one that I think our own western (or as the Amish refer to it, English) society may benefit most from. We are all in this thing called life together after all, people.

At the other end of the spectrum, I had the dubious pleasure of watching the first half an hour of the CMT music awards on TV later in the evening. Those who know me well may have heard me harp on about how much I HATE awards shows, for a variety of reasons, and this one was no different. The whole smugness and fakeness of these shows really turns me off. While it's good to acknowledge individual or group achievements in any industry or field, I feel like there must be a better way to do it than just pump up everyone's already over-inflated egos and try to push and market everyone's product just that little bit more, and in a completely unsubtle way. Well, unsubtle to me, anyway. Actually, it would pretty much be unsubtle to most people who were capable of feeling the presence of a brick hammering them in the cranial region.

Anyway, the obvious contrast of these two entities, Amish and Varnish, makes for some serious thinking. For example, where does the proverbial 'I' fit in? As a writer and performer, I obviously want people to hear my music, but do I need to pander to trends and write what people WANT to hear in order to do it? There are many of you who no doubt say "well, maybe you do" but on the other hand, couldn't we all take a leaf from the other book; sticking to our principles and own sense of self, in spite of the overwhelming presence of a great majority who conduct their lives in a material society at odds with your own? The Amish have managed it for over 200 years.

Then again, maybe I'm wrong, and there is no 'marketing' going on and everyone is playing and singing their little hearts out, and all are genuine and saying what they really, really feel. That would be nice to think that. I really hope that is the case.

Mainly 'cause I quite like Taylor Swift, and don't want to be disappointed.

Think about it.