I’m not one for conspiracy theories. I hate blaming everything from the breakdown of the American home to global warming on the liberal media and television. But I must say I really do believe the television and other factors are contributing to the vanishing of what I like to call the quaint and mostly rural arts.
Skipping, whittling, whistling, yodeling, playing the harmonica, story-telling, baking home-made bread, quilting, juggling, and singing harmony are what I consider vanishing arts. These are the kinds of things you do together at home out on the porch on a summer’s eve. They are the kind of things you do around the fire in the winter. These are the kinds of things you do together in the most sacred of all the rooms of the house, the kitchen. (With the exception of skipping which my wife and my mother agree had better be done outdoors).
The vanishing arts usually require conversation or interaction or the kind of quiet that binds your soul together with others. The vanishing arts have to be treasured and protected and passed down through the generations like a grandfather clock from the Old Country. I believe when one of the vanishing arts is bequeathed from one generation to the next something good happens. Along with the skill or knowledge other things of value are transferred. Appreciation, affirmation, and affection we all crave are communicated in a sacred, often wordless way. Our hands touch, our eyes meet, our souls are nurtured in the exchange.
Prayer is a vanishing art in many homes. Consider this; what do you think is better for the soul of a young boy a half-hour watching an a funny television program where the lead character is a practicing homosexual or a season of prayer on his knees with his mom and dad and brothers and sisters?
There are forces and factors at work that are contributing to the loss of these beautiful and soul-enriching arts. The pace of modern life works against them. It is so much faster to snatch a box of frozen treats shaped like action heroes from the store than it is to get out a home-made ice cream maker. It is so much more convenient to stop at the gas station and grab a loaf of brown-colored bread two for a dollar than it is to grind wheat and make bread dough and wait for it to rise and bake it at home.
Even with all the conveniences of modern life we find it necessary to do so much away from home and away from each other. So much of what our children learn we depend on someone else to teach them away from home. This necessarily separates our families. We all have our own agenda for the day and often our agendas don’t include each other. If we don’t have time to spend more than a few minutes a day in intimate conversation with our children it is unlikely that we are going to be able to find time for grandma to teach us her favorite quilt pattern. If we have something scheduled every night of the week we will fancy ourselves to busy to listen to grandpa to sing the seventh verse of The Old Rock Candy Mountain.
I read an interesting book about a fella’ who protested the pace of modern life by hiking all the way to the State Capitol to turn in his driver’s license. It was his symbolic, quiet protest to a pressure I fully understand. I found it humorously ironic though that he wrote about his walk and the book was printed and distributed using the most modern of means. I’m sure his royalty check was generated with the help of a computer and the printing press itself was an advance in technology so profound that it fueled the reformation and changed the world forever. So don’t think of me as a Ludite or Neo-Amish.
I am writing this little nostalgic piece on a state of the art computer and I just enjoyed taking care of my morning necessaries a few steps from where I slept in perfect warmth and comfort. I enjoyed the luxury of a hot shower and in a few minutes I will go down to the kitchen and have a hot bowl of oatmeal, and steaming hot fresh gourmet coffee, so I do have an appreciation for modern things.
I’m glad I didn’t have to use an outdoor privy, write on a legal pad, and bathe in a wash tub, heating my water on a wood stove. But still I like to look across the room in the evening and see my boys concentrating on a new chess opening instead of playing a video game.
I don’t like the idea of my daughters spending the evening filling their minds with the latest politically-correct propaganda masquerading as a situation comedy. I don’t consider breaking down a young person’s God-given inhibitions about things sacred to marriage entertaining or particularly funny. I would much rather look across the room on a winter evening and see them stitching on a beautiful quilt that will still be in the family after I am just a memory to them. I would rather hear them singing in the kitchen together while they are making “snickerdoodles” or oatmeal cookies.
I don’t mind the kids using the computer, but I’m glad they wouldn’t think of using it to chat on-line with someone who’s hidden agenda is to defraud and defile. It pleases me to see my daughter using the PC to compose a newsletter about home, faith and family and share a new granola recipe or instructions about a craft project that she did with her sisters.
Understand, I’m not ready to throw my computer in the dumpster. I don’t want to stumble around the house in the dark at night or have to do my early morning writing by the light of a kerosene lamp. I don’t want to Lois to have to scrub my clothes clean on a washboard. I’m sort of attached to my permanent press shirts and I would miss our videocassette of Anne of Green Gables. I would be lost without e-mail. I don’t want to go back in time, but I do plan to use the modern technology I enjoy to help my children grow to appreciate the quaint and mostly rural arts.
I want them to grow up with warm memories of home, skipping, whistling, quilting, reading, and who knows, maybe even yodeling. I want them to have memories of quiet evenings together cultivating graceful arts and useful skills. I want them to know the simple pleasure of a game of chess with Dad on a winter night.