Life in Community

work • simplicity • education
caring • fulfillment • celebration

Life in Community

Every Plant Yielding Seed

July 13, 2017 by

It’s the time of year when fruits and vegetables are rolling in. Remembering my husband Jake, who could never walk past fruit that was there for the taking, I have been picking and preserving the wild cherries that grow around here. And there are strawberries, currants, beans, cucumbers, zucchini, and more coming later. Yes, it demands work – weeding, watering, and harvesting in the heat of the sun and then washing, chopping, freezing, or canning. Once when I felt overwhelmed having to pick two long rows of raspberries every day and then dealing with gallons of berries, I complained that it was too much. Jake looked at me in surprise and chided me: “How can you ever have too much fruit?”

strawberries project

“Fill the earth and subdue it,” God said to the first people he created. “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food” (Gen. 1:28, 29).

There is something satisfying about bringing in those baskets of fruits and vegetables when I have walked through the muck as we spread the pungent compost, knelt on the hard earth to pull those weeds, and felt the strain in my back as I bent to pick the strawberries and beans. At some fundamental level my bones know that this is part of the divine plan.

Eberhard Arnold believed that working the land also has a redemptive power, and that when people share the labor and work together in love (as opposed to the exploitation of capitalism), the community they form heralds in God’s final kingdom. He believed too in a wholeness of life: that those who work primarily with their hands should not neglect mental stimulation and those who work with their minds need the balance of manual labor.

We must guard against the false notion that God is a purely transcendental power, remote from matter and the stuff of this earth. The community of life that is coming, according to the testimony of all the prophets who have had a taste of the Spirit of God, will be a kingdom of work on this earth. Work will be the binding factor in these cells of human community. The only work a person can do with his or her whole soul, work filled with spirit and pulsing life, comes from love. And there is no love that does not get to work. Love is work, practical strenuous work of muscle and mind, heart and soul. This kingdom of love, therefore, this kingdom of the church and of the coming rule of God must be a kingdom of work. Work – truly unselfish work – animated by the spirit of brotherhood will be the mark of the future, the character of the humankind to be. Work as spirit, work as living reality, such as we all have lost, work as dedication in enthusiastic love of togetherness – that is the fundamental character of the future. Joy in being together will show as joy in work. It tests our strength to overcome personality conflicts and brings about joy in activity and dedication in work. Our souls can be in the work only where the Spirit has brought our work into relationship with beloved people, beloved humanity, and finally with God himself. Where all our senses are consecrated and all our tools dedicated; where everything physical becomes holy and all activity in manual work a joy; where there is zest, the bubbling vigor of enthusiasm in work, there is the kingdom of the future!

Since today we have only a faint concept of the possibility of such a common life, we will be troubled again and again by pessimism, like a shadow from the abyss. How infinitely remote today’s people are from work like this! Leo Tolstoy, in his simple stories of country life in Russia, has shown us wonderful pictures of such work in his tales.

We can have an intuition of the life of the future if we love the outdoors, if we have a relationship with the soil, if we appreciate the rising sun, the slowly growing, shady trees, the grazing cattle, flying birds, fragrant flowers, and if we love people as the finest creation in the midst of this nature. When we have learned to work for the community of life, to work with joy in the sweat of our brow, and have found community – real community of mutual trust – we can sense the coming kingdom.

What is the Bruderhof's approach to common work?

And if in honest search and struggle of spirit we read the ancient testimonies of eternal truth, if we become absorbed in the writings of the prophets and envoys of that great future kingdom, testified to again and again from far-off centuries and millennia until today, if we steep our minds in this spirit of truth from the first beginnings of human history – in this way too we shall gain an inkling, an expectant hope of this great future.

Soil and mind, mind and soil must come together so that the future can materialize! The creative spirit looks for matter. The spirit of work must move the soil. The culture of the mind must apply itself to the land. And life on the land must bring rebirth and renewed youth to the effete and dying culture of the cities. Along with strenuous physical activity – work on the land – we must take in all the movements of the spirit, carry them into the farthest distances and communicate them to everyone. And adapting all kinds of work with tool and machine, creating items of value from raw materials in forms consistent with the spirit of the coming community of humankind – all this must be combined with the work of cultivating the land and cultivating the mind.

Nothing of the mechanical and technical achievements of the last centuries and millennia should be lost. For humans have been appointed to rule this earth, to move the earth with their tools and shape matter for this work. But brutal degradation clings like a blight, a curse, to the tools, the factories, the machines, and the industry of today. People are forced to perform soulless labor for which they have no heart or quickening of spirit, in which no community results. When the new kingdom comes, that will all be overcome and done away with.

We cannot yet tell in detail how this communal love of work with its voluntary nature and joy in creativity will become practical reality. We do not know to what extent mechanized industry will be struck when the works of the devil are destroyed. The evolution of work has arrived at a deadlock: division of labor and victimization of people. Love must also become inventive in the technical area, so that soul, oversight, and unity are brought into every piece of work once more.

Just as patriotic love, limited by and bound up with hatred of the enemy and motives of gain, has stimulated the discoveries of military technology in gigantic proportions, in the same way all-inclusive love will be able to banish all enslavement and inhuman drudgery from industry. Making an effort in work, exerting one’s powers, is a good thing even if it makes one sweat. But breathing chemicals, swallowing coal-dust, getting lead poisoning, and becoming mentally stultified is infernal slave murder, which we must abolish if we are to become truly human.

Everyone, especially those who do purely mental work, should daily spend time at practical work.

Justice and love demand community in healthy work where everyone will be prepared to lay hand to the simple operations of daily practical work at a machine, or with a spade, hatchet, rake, or anything else. Everyone should be ready to spend a few hours every day doing practical work, either in the garden, digging and spreading manure on the field, plowing, or hoeing potatoes; or on the reaper, at the circular saw, at the printing press or in the mine; road making, burning bricks, cabinet making, or whatever it may be. If physically fit, everyone should be ready to devote a few hours every day to such practical work. Especially those who do purely mental work would feel its humanizing effect.

In this way it will be possible to allow the special gift to be kindled, the special little light that flickers in each person. Whether this fire exhibits its hidden glow in gifts for scholarly research or the art of music, in the power of expression in words, or in plastic art in wood or stone, or whether it shows its strength in down-to-earth farm and garden work – free-time hobbies will reveal the kind of joy in life that is in each individual. Only death knows idleness and tedium. Where there is life, the mind’s creative will remains alert and comes to expression in the service of the whole.

This is not some fantastic, unattainable future; on the contrary, it is the quiet reality of a church already emerging today. God is – everywhere and always. We cannot make the kingdom of God – that is impossible – but we can live in God’s kingdom all the time. Christ comes to us. And as certainly as this is true for individuals, personally, it will be fulfilled as a fact in world history.

Read more from Eberhard Arnold in Emmy Maendel's From the Founder series.


About the author

Emmy Maendel

Emmy Maendel

Emmy Maendel, an author with a particular interest in Bruderhof history, writes our monthly “From the Founder” blog posts...

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