The Amish beliefs seem on the surface, to be nit-picky and contradictory, but in actuality, they are the mental relief valve, the conduit that regulates the pace of their chosen way of life.
Most of today's Americans long to live a simpler life, to get back to the basics like the Amish. We would love to have the sense of community surrounding us; supporting us in times of trouble. It is the Amish belief that they should be separate from the outside world that keeps these treasured sense of belonging intact and alive in their community.
To choose to not be connected with the outside world gives the Amish a freedom from peer pressure,and from the advertising rope that strangles many Americans today. If you are not wishing to be a part of a certain society, or to be seen as a conforming member of the American lifestyle, then you can dare to dress differently and maintain your independent thought and actions in a world that spins out on excess and commercialism in every area that it reaches.
One method the Amish use to not be connected with the outside world, is to choose not to be caught in the electrical grid of America, and not have that current flowing into their homes and through their lives. If a group removes electricity from their daily world, their life will automatically become more simple and more plain. This plain life does not permit the TV or videos into their homes. Just this decision alone maintains the home life as the central focus for approval and direction in values and lifestyle. It keeps the children looking to their parents, family and close neighbors for role models, and not the fleeting sensational sports idol or pop star of the moment as the central focus of their life.
A visible means of declaring their separateness form the world and its fashions and values, is the Plain Dress that the Amish adhere to. The Amish way of dressing is clearly defined by each of their districts, and these guidelines and traditions in dress are methods of not only separating themselves from the world and its fleeting fashions, but it also gives the Amish a visible picture of the vanity contained in the fleeting fashions held by the American society. The Amish can look at the pattern that they use to make their dress, and know that this dress will still be acceptable to wear in 20 years if only the fabric would last that long. How western society would falter if the fashions of the clothes we wear would outlast the fabric that the clothes are made of! How much commerce would be stopped if the Paris and New York Fashion Houses were strangled into a single style for dress, and limited in the color palette of the Amish dress. And how amazing that such bold and amazing Amish quilts can come from such a simple and plain people.
The Amish Dress Code also gives the community an immediate way of distinguishing where people are from. If the Amish are gathered at an Amish Livestock Auction, they can immediately distinguish which district each person is from, just by the subtle differences in their plain clothing. Remember that the local districts are the ones who establish the guidelines that the Dress Code is drawn from, and so a hat with a broader rim distinguishes its wearer as being a member of the Lancaster Amish, while the wearing of a single homemade suspender lets others know that he is a member of the Peachy Amish from Mifflin County.
Many people wonder if, since the Amish want to be separate from the world, would they make good neighbors? Are the Amish aloof from the person that lives next door if that neighbor is not a member of their faith? The answer is that the Amish people are a caring and giving community, and they are wonderful neighbors. Do not expect to become best buddies with the Amish family living next to you. One reason you will not find a kindred spirit in your Amish neighbor, is that their lives are full of work. To live without electricity and all of the conveniences that the volts give us, makes for a lot of extra work every day, all day long. Your Amish neighbor pretty much goes to sleep soon after it gets dark outside, and then wakes when the sun is just starting to make her appearance in the eastern sky - and you cannot expect them to be over socializing until late after a dinner party. With the Amish using simple appliances comes their ability to enjoy simple pleasures, and often the joy in the ordinary is not as much appreciated by a neighbor that has electricity and gadgetry to induce entertainment. The Amish as a neighbor will step in and help if you are in need, and they will often bring over some of their garden produce or freshly baked bread when they see you. The older Amish women will labor over an Amish quilt for months to be able to present a quilt as a wedding gift for their grand-daughter.
When the Amish People choose to be separated from the world and its influences, they are in fact, setting a means whereby they can cling to the very traditions and beliefs that distinguish them from the general American society, and make them who they are today: a warm, vibrant community scattered in small pockets across America and Canada. A vivid symbol of these unique and vibrant people are the Amish quilts - strong, bright colors in orderly positions blending together in an Amish quilt of lasting beauty.