|Michelangelo - Awakening Slave|
I walk a lot. While I walk, I think about things – these days, I think a lot about Mennonite culture – and books. So yesterday, I was thinking about my own relationship to contemporary Mennonite culture and the relationship between literature, identity and religion.
The thought occurred to me that while I might live in my own sort of personal Mennonite world, I could never again survive in the more collective mentality of the home community. What is the problem? I cook traditional Mennonite foods, read Mennonite books and poetry. I travel to Mennonite destinations and I can read both Fraktur and cipher notes. Of anyone, I definitely possess a true Mennonite identity. To top it off, I actually attend Mennonite church and enjoy it – I mean, who does that anymore?
The problem is simply this, that I have the Mennonite cultural paradigm upside-down. The basic Mennonite (or Amish) cultural model is “separation from society” and “integration with the local gemeinde” or congregation. But in my world, this is upside down. In order for me survive intellectually and spiritually, I need to be part of the larger world culture while achieving some sort of privacy or social distance from the sometimes overly, er, supportive church neighbors – even all the ones to which I’m so closely related.