Your life seems somewhat normal—why do you say it’s so different?
Blogger Lisa Jansen (lifedonedifferently.com) asked me that question as she prepared to interview me for her podcast.
Her "somewhat normal" observation surprised me, but I enjoyed explaining my Different to her and, since then, have enjoyed even more analyzing exactly what constitutes Different these days.
Lisa, to be sure, leads an overtly different lifestyle. A 30-something single woman, she lives in her van and works remotely for clients while roaming New Zealand (she's cool—see more in my post “Discover the Different That’s Best for You”).
What . . . Me, Normal?
Sixty-something me, on the other hand, has been married 40 years (to the same woman!), raised a family, attended church regularly, and lived in one location for the past two decades. It’s the details, though, that make the difference.
My family size: 8 children
Residence: farm in rural America
Work: self-employed 20 years
Church: Eastern Orthodox*
A couple of centuries ago, people commonly stayed with the same spouse for life, raised a large family, lived on a farm, and were self-employed. Now, though, not so much.
In 21st century Western society, changing partners is common, having just two children per couple is standard, living in the city is by far the norm, having a job working for someone else is expected, and in America, Protestantism dominates the Christian subculture.
What that means is this:
Adopting a neo-traditional lifestyle can be
one of the most radically different ways you can choose to live.
If you’re interested in trying it, I’ve outlined below a handful of key factors that offer a refreshingly different life by reaching back to patterns of yesteryear. It’s an assembly of satisfying and actionable patterns you can make part of your Different.
1) Avoid Individualism, Embrace Family-ism
The character of this age is represented by the drive for people to focus on self in order to be fulfilled. Individuals have become the basic unit in society, and we’re all encouraged to pursue things that make us “happy and fulfilled” on our own.
This propensity leads people to think that becoming too attached to other people gets in the way of personal fulfillment. Other people are an obstacle rather than a means to growth.
John Chrysostom, a respected preacher and thinker in the late Fourth Century, taught that there are two paths to growth and fulfillment—both of which intimately involve other people.
One is monasticism (which is not a pursuit for individualists—monastic communities are tightly integrated).
The other is family life.
Both provide the means to wean ourselves of self-serving tendencies that actually hinder fulfillment rather than encourage it.
The “rugged individualist,” such as Robert Redford in the 1972 movie Jeremiah Johnson, is the ultimate image of a person doing life on his own terms. An early cinematic expression of what has become an icon for individuality, Johnson sets out to “find himself” in the western American wilderness in the late 1800s.
But there’s another version of adventure in which someone takes his or her family along for the ride (think: wagon trains). There’s nothing wrong with raising a passel of children to be co-adventurers in life. A family is a community you take with you wherever you go.
And in the process, you might even help save our culture from extinction.
A society built on individuals will eventually die out. Political correctness notwithstanding, an intimate relationship between man and woman is required for any society to grow and ultimately flourish.
2) Accept Spiritual Mysteries
Western thinking has done a great job of breaking down our understanding of the world into components that allow the development of remarkable feats of technology. But the same specialist mentality has needlessly fractured our grasp of other, unseen, aspects of reality.
Theologians of the last few hundred years, for instance, debate whether mankind has free will or if all that happens is purely pre-destined by God. Few allow the possibility that both can be true in some way that earlier spiritual thinkers accepted.
God is “bigger” enough than we are that it's logical to think some of His truths remain beyond our grasp. Historically, these have been known as “mysteries” of the faith.
In his outstanding video presentation about the Star of Bethlehem, Rick Larson offers an example of relative perspective when he notes that “there are a trillion cells in my body. Does that make me huge?”
Of course not. He’s just a normal size human being. But it points to the possibility that God is way bigger than we thought. The universe—which seems virtually infinite to us—may not be all that big to God.
Modern physics suggests that we live in a universe of way more than the three dimensions. So, we shouldn’t assume we’ll ever figure it all out.
Even if we do figure out how everything works, "knowing everything" does not logically suggest that we have "disproved God." (See my post “Engineering a Right Appreciation of God” for more on this.)
3) Reject the Idea that 'Simpler' Spirituality Is Better
Some people want to “purify” their religion, but they confuse purity with simplicity. The two are not the same.
Simplicity implies getting rid of things. Purity simple means having the right things in place.
So what if the problem with modern Christianity is that so much has been stripped away that we’re left only with a skeleton of what it once was? What if the way to purify the Faith is to add back in all that’s been taken out?
That was a motivator for me to become Different spiritually by leaving evangelical Protestantism for the way-traditional Eastern Orthodox Church.
To draw a quick analogy: All a car really needs to get people around is an engine, wheels, a frame, and some seats. But a fully tricked out Mercedes makes the getting there much more enjoyable.
4) Let the World Change You in the Direction You Want
The present world shake-up just might provide the motivation you need to grab onto some neo-traditional ways of living.
For years, a core component of the dream my wife and I imagined was to move from the city to the country, but that remained nothing but a future hope for nearly 20 years of our married life. Then we heard about Y2k.
The threat that turn-of-the-century computers wouldn’t handle the date change from 1999 to 2000 and would overnight revert the world back to life as it was in the mid-nineteenth century worried a lot of people. We used the concern that the doom-sayers might be right to finalize our plans to move out of the city.
Maybe you should let our re-setting world (can you say: “New normal”?) jolt you into action toward Different.
External motivators can be extremely valuable. You don’t have to generate all the energy for a change from within and can take advantage of what outside forces can do for you.
The bottom line . . .
On your way to Different, check out all the options.
Look for possibilities in places that current trends won’t push you.
Family patterns, relationship stability, entrepreneurial thinking,
ancient spiritual traditions, and “old” ways of life, can
provide the most freeing and fulfilling path to Different of all!
*Often referred to as The Orthodox Christian Church but it's the same 2,000-year-old source for Christian spirituality.
**Photo credit: Peter H from Pixabay.
The idea of being Different by being "traditional" evidently resonates with many people. My previous post “Sometimes ‘Traditional’ Is the Best Different Thing You Can Do” is the single most-read post I've ever published. Click here to read it.
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©2020 Greg Webster. All rights reserved.