South Unions Shaker History
Did you know that the Shaker religious movement was very big in this part of the country?
A lot of people are clueless about this fact. A lot of people have thought that Shakers were very influential, and played a major role somewhere else in the country, but not in their neck of the woods. If you think this way, then welcome to the club.
In fact, that’s how Americans think. They think that the Shakers, while being a distinct and important influence on American history and culture, are distinctly products of the past. Often times, they are viewed as being influential in a part of America that is, somehow, someway, far away from their area.
It turns out, that the Shakers influence is quite big in their area. They are just not aware of it. You have to understand, that the Shaker religious influence has always been small. It’s always been restricted. It’s always been limited to certain parts of the country. And even in those areas, their influence, they didn’t really get to reach out to all layers of society.
Their power and influence to shape morals and peoples outlook, as well as world view, were quite limited in many different ways.
But don’t let that fool you!
There is such a thing as an American mindset. There is such a thing as an American sensibility.
While these factors have changed quite a bit ever since the late 1800s, with the massive infusion of immigrants from the poorest parts of Europe like Eastern Europe, as well as Southern Italy, that distinct Shaker influenced American sensibility tracing back to Thomas Jefferson and earlier periods, still exists. In a way, you can look at America as some sort of DNA soup. And if you’re looking for cultural differences, and how they mutate over time, as well as how they respond to distinct historical, social, political, and economic challenges, one of the best analogies would have to involve the microbial world.
That there are really no two ways about it, because when you see how DNA is swapped among different microbes, and how organisms that seem to be fixed for a particular function, in a particular environment, somehow, someway, evolves into something looking and behaving completely differently, you have to look at how things play out on the molecular and genetic level. The same applies to culture. It seems like we are a totally different culture from 300 years ago. It seems like it’s a completely different world.
We may think about it nostalgically, but most of us definitely, would not want to live in those times. Those were racist times. Women did not have the vote. There were all sorts of restrictions. Let’s not even get started with the archaic and backwards attitude regarding same sex marriage, homosexuality, as well as transgender rights.
In other words, in the minds of many people, the past, Americas past, in particular, is something to apologize for. It’s something to wall off, contain, imprison within the walls of analysis and accommodation. It’s kind of having a crazy aunt, that for the longest time, lived in the basement. People don’t want to talk about it. People don’t want to confront that situation that makes everybody look bad.
It embarrasses people, but it is what it is. It happened. It is part of who you are. It’s part of the society that you live in. That’s the kind of attitude people have about Americas past.
And unfortunately, the more people believe this way, about Americas past, in particular, the Shaker influence on that past. The bigger of a disservice we do, to what we need to do and achieve in the future. You have to remember, that people come to this country for a reason. A lot of it is economic. A lot of it is putting food on the table. A lot of it involves living a better future, in terms of material wealth.
If people did not, for a second, believe that moving to America would somehow, someway, improve their economic standing, they would not pack their bags. They would stay where they are. That’s always been the draw of the American experience.
What made the Shaker experience so compelling, and so powerful, is the fact that it focuses on practicality. It focuses on simplicity. It is also very Christian, in the Protestants’ sense, in terms with the idea of forgiveness. When you go to America, you get a 2nd, 3rd, 5th chance. It doesn’t matter whether you were a peasant in the old country. It doesn’t matter if your family was the butt of many jokes, and was the town embarrassment.
People didn’t care about that. In fact, in the Unites States, people are expected to fail, to stumble, and that’s okay. Because, according to the Shaker and early Protestant thinking, your sins do not have to define you. There’s no stigmata that would hold you back and forever do you to ridicule, embarrassment or humiliation.
You can dust yourself off, and become the person who you want to be. As long as you do one thing. And this is the part of the Shaker and early American mentality, that a lot of people now think is quaint. What is this ingredient that they require, for you to get a second birth, for you to get a second chance, to make your dreams come true in the United States?
The secret ingredient, is hard work. Now you might be thinking, why is this revolutionary? Why is this such a problem? How does this rub people the wrong way? Aren’t people talking about this all the time? Aren’t politicians, in the American political landscape, always extolling, and talking a big deal about hard work?
Yes! That’s the problem. People talk about it because people do not want to do it. You have to understand, that there’s always a disconnect between the things that people say, and the concepts coming out of their mouths, and the things that they choose to do with their practical lives.
In the United States, after the 1960s, it’s always been about shortcut. It’s always been about getting a huge amount, for as little input as possible. Why worry about tomorrow, when you can enjoy it today? That’s always been the mantra of the American cultural experience, as well as the American social experiment.
This is why the whole idea of Shaker emphasis on hard work, sacrifice, dedication, and commitment, are in equal parts, dismissed, laughed at, looked at as a threat. The implicit idea here, regarding modern American culture is that laziness, and a sense of entitlement, are what makes Americans, Americans.
When you’re lazy, you’re always looking for the smoothest, quickest, most efficient way, from path A to path B. In fact, Bill Gates has always been quoted as saying, he prefers to hire lazy people, because they’re the ones that come up with the most efficient solutions. And this is why the whole idea of Shaker sacrifice for rebirth, and self reinvention, seems so out of place.
But, given what’s going on, we need it now, more than ever.
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