Because we once were good and faithful stewards, we know we can be again…
These are extremely uncertain times. Many Americans have trouble feeling really at home among the transient residents of the cities in which they live. Those of us who grew up in a small town, like Spring Grove, but then moved to larger cities, fondly remember feeling secure as part of a real community with a common sense of both purpose and decency. Our ancestors’ sense of purpose flowed tirelessly from the natural springs of love they had for their children. Their sense of decency was acquired through continuous authentic interaction with others and the conditioning of long standing meritocratic institutions. Through a life of experience and reflection, they gradually came to understand the principles that were the foundation for sustainable success. Together, a sense of purpose and a recognition of the importance of principles empowered our ancestors. They had the understanding of those who have watched, as Moses did tending the flocks on Mount Horeb, the bush that grows over time, changes, but is not consumed. Our ancestors beheld the generations in each of the limbs, as Moses beheld Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the “burning” bush. Like Moses, they realized that the bush was much more than merely Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob–or in their case, much more than merely Ole, Knute, and Erik. These realizations led to wisdom. Such “wisdom is a Tree of Life for those who take firm hold of it.” (Prv 3:18) In fact, as homo sapiens sapiens, or wise hominids, we have the unique capacity to be wise. Wisdom is the most sacred inheritance that one can receive, for it inoculates one against the many abominable egotistic traps and siren songs that have brought desolation to whole peoples throughout the ages. While we have the innate capacity to attain wisdom, whether or not that capacity is actualized is largely determined by the type of conditioning we receive throughout our lives.
Many of us treasure lefse, rømmegrøt, saying “Uffda”, rosemalling, and all the little fun Norwegian things about our Norwegian-American community–but these are not our true heritage. A true heritage is the ancestral nurturing, especially though dialectical questioning, that allows understanding to blossom in younger generations. This wisdom alone inoculates each generation from poor life choices that lead to familial ruin. This wisdom enhances the ability of our people to sustain themselves during hard times. Our heritage would be impoverished if it were not much, much more than mere idiosyncratic amusements found in the particular recipes and crafts of our ancestors.
Let’s think of some of the more important, yet often overlooked heirlooms that used to be passed down from one generation to another that might not be passed down today, even if our children continue to enjoy lefse, to say “UffDa” and to take rosemaling classes. The core things that our ancestors believed were important to pass down to their children and grandchildren included things such as scriptural and historical literacy; family and community self-sufficiency; and family and community self-reliance. The dictates of wisdom vary depending on the context: in times of uncertainty wisdom might suggest that it is prudent to learn practical skills in order to maximize our chances of taking care of our family. Thus, in these times of uncertainty, we must ask ourselves if our ancestors wouldn’t want us to be learning the skills that helped them to pull through hard times–skills like farming, canning, gardening, animal husbandry, butchering, hunting, and trading, rather than about creating more decorations.
Our ancestors were more than superficially familiar with actual prophetic scripture. Because of this, they were inoculated against the blind faith that is incapable of discerning the difference between purpose-giving heritage and mere ethnically-associated dogma, habits, and amusements. They had read the words of the prophet Jeremiah, who wrote that the dogma we inherit under the guise of heritage is not always to be trusted blindly, “believe them not, though they speak fair words unto thee.” Jer 12:6. Similarly, many were familiar enough with scripture to know who said, “Be careful how you listen to my words…” and what he meant by that comment.
All the prophets warn of the coming heritage, an abominable heritage, that will separate those of understanding from those of blind faith–and will bring desolation to those who cannot overcome the hollow heritage of the empty promises, wishful thinking, flattery, and social proof.
“The one who overcomes will receive the true heritage…” (Rev 21:7)
Each person in each generation must deconstruct their own societal conditioning and their own biological impulses in order to overcome them both, and attain the free will that is their true heritage.
What is our greatest heritage?
Each of us must decide our greatest heritage for ourselves, and in our decision, make the bed in which we lie. Surely, most of us will agree that part of our heritage that we treasure is our individual freedom of thought. Unlike so many places around the world, we in small American towns, like Spring Grove, are more free to use reason and to think for ourselves. Further, though we might disagree with our neighbors, we will defend to the death their right to disagree with us. The Introduction to Ole Rolvaag’s book Concerning Our Heritage states:
“The strongest and most important characteristic of the Norwegian people…is their love of freedom, which leads them to set their highest priority on individual rights under common law. Since this last trait is the essence of the American ideal, it means that the Norwegian immigrant is already a good American before he even leaves home.”
Our heritage of respecting individual minority rights has allowed for the preservation of diverse ways of thinking in our community. Our freedom from autocratic and mobocratic tyranny has allowed us to express our views and appeal to other people’s rational faculties for understanding. Our respect for diversity has, ironically, proven to be our greatest unifier and our greatest strength. Would any of us choose to live amongst a people so long winnowed by conformitarian selection that they considered their conformity a virtue? Wouldn’t we instead prefer to use the light of our own reason and live amongst people who did likewise?
For reason brings understanding of duty, which is the great uniter of peoples.
Using reason, we can subsume our many diverse biological inclinations, direct experiences, indirect experiences, and the teachings of our community leaders and institutions into a greater whole. An understanding of this greater whole allows us to see the unity of these teachings rather than their idiosyncracies. Surely, we have had the freedom to reflect critically on how the financial interests of powerful educational and religious institutions in our own town may cloud and even alter those institutions’ stated mission. Thus, many of us are grateful that the “official” insitutionalized dogma taught to us as children has always been supplemented with a healthy dose of common sense, usually delivered through humor, at home.
Our heritage also is about making allowances for others with different experiences, and even different critical faculties. It is about being not only tolerant but respectful of their developmental process–perhaps even gently nurturing the process with positive feedback while ignoring their less sublime behaviors. Yes, sometimes our gut reaction is to criticize others, but experience, at least in this community, tells us that most people eventually “grow up” and we have faith in that, for the most part. Further, all of us can think of examples of when others have given such grace to us, grace that we didn’t earn by the merits of our behavior. That grace, rather than the deserved “criticism,” kept us motivated to go in the right direction down our own developmental paths toward understanding.
It is difficult to fathom the deep understanding that drove the hard work that our ancestors did for us. The fruits of their labor they often gave to us with grace that flowed from the unification of purpose and principles. The fruits of their work have helped to make our lives easier. When you consider the hardships they endured, and all they created with so little, you can almost hear those ancestors reminding you to have faith that there is Unity behind all the apparently idiosyncratic lessons that life has to teach you: Hear O living generation, that which deserves your highest respect is One Being, which is greater than any one generation.
Unlike our generation, a large number of our ancestors were very familiar with The Bible and often also with the philosophical classics. Some of them could see connections that virtually no one sees today, because we lack the background they had, since they were a reading culture. For example, they could understand the connection between not taking the name “I am what I am” in vain, and Socrates critique of the Sophists, who knowingly misrepresented ”that which is” or “that which ought to be” in a way that advanced their own vain interests. Both the proverbial hypocrites and the classical sophists were guilty of formulating representations of reality and the possible good for selfish reasons. Both used the name of That Which Is What It Is in vain.
Rest assured that the prophets and the philosophers had figured out how to deal with the hypocrites and the sophists a long time ago. Without going into detail, suffice it to say that they laid a trap for them. To prevent good people from falling into that trap, they designed it in such a way that it could be avoided and they gave hints as to how to avoid it. Many of our ancestral leaders understood the proverbial trap and they thus understood the value of education. As the saying goes, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance. Thus, our ancestors not only knew where the following verse came from, but they also instructed their children about how critical it was to follow, if their descendants were to correctly decipher the winnowing parables.
“Keep these words…in your heart. Recite them to your children, and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down, and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Our ancestors were a diverse group of people. Like us, most took things in scripture literally initially, but because they actually read the whole Bible, rather than just chanting appealing snippets from it, they could understand why one gate is wide and one gate is narrow. As superficial readers, we have lost this discernment. For, to quote Alexander Pope
“A little learning is a dang’rous thing; Drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again.”
In the above quote, Pope references the first century saying of Petronius,
“This is the right armour of genius. Drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring…”
Those who drank deep were able to wear the right armour by developing the discernment to see the deeper figurative meaning behind the literalistic translations, teachings, and parables. Those more insightful ancestors understood a deeper meaning for the concept of the Living Word and the Living God than most in this generation do. Our ancestors’ developmental path was not only nurtured by their familiarity with esoteric biblical clues, but also by their traditional habits, and their farming lifestyles. Those with strong powers of reason attained ontological understanding, which means the understanding of Being with a capital B, whether they were formally educated in this field or not.
The potential to develop understanding of good stewardship of many, many generations–or if you prefer–for Being, is perhaps our greatest heritage. This heritage is one that is nearly lost, as our “silver has become dross, our choicest wines have been mixed with water” (Isa 1:22). For lack of authentic perspective, we fall amongst those who cannot distinguish the water from the wine–indicating that we ourselves are dross if we don’t gain this historical multigenerational perspective. Our ancestors’ spiritual actualization happened as a result of the universal aspects of their idiosyncratic heritage. What allowed them to see past the idiosyncratic generationalist interpretations of their particular holy book? Many of them were familiar with how different translations of their particular sacred text, The Bible, were preferred by different institutions. By comparing these texts, they understood the way in which sacred texts can undergo a translational gestalt switch, causing them to say the opposite of what they originally meant in the dialect of their original language. They also were able to see firsthand how different sections appealed to different people, and how that appeal was tied to a person’s class interests, intelligence, experiences, etc. They themselves, being social animals, felt the inclination to hastily follow the herd through the wide gates. However, because so many sections of The Bible (uncomfortable sections that we typically exclude from our readings these days) warn of the winnowing of lemmings, and of the conditioning abomination that will separate the silver from the dross, they did not act in haste (Isa 28:16).
What was it that gave our ancestors the sense to know the difference between the false dogma that Isaiah prophesied would be sent into the world to differentiate those of spiritual understanding from those who are merely conditioned to chant dogma (Isaiah 27-31)? In short: farming. Our ancestors passed down the importance of remaining connected to their people and the land. They were grateful to be farmers, not only for practical reasons, but for spiritual ones as well, because farming gave them a deeper understanding of the cycles that permeate all living systems. It connected them to thousands of generations of farmers who had chosen the best seeds to plant and the best soils to plant in. It gave them a grain of salt with which to swallow scriptural parables and red-herring texts, and to read between the lines of scrambled, and encoded gospel, or Gottsspell. Isaiah wrote.
“The farmer knows just what to do, for God has given him understanding.” Isaiah 28:26 NLT
The farming practices of our ancestors not only kept them in great physical shape, but also provided them with conceptual metaphors for understanding the sacred parables that they believed held the key to good stewardship of what was entrusted to them, temporarily. The farmer, who, by virtue of his work had gained some multigenerational understanding, would be given even more understanding by the scriptures. To those alienated from the soil, even that little understanding they had would be taken from them by their misunderstanding of the New Testament. (Matt 13:12, Mark 25:29, Luke 8:18, Luke 19:26)
Our ancestors sought the understanding with which to do their duty. They didn’t strive after intellectual ”king of the mountainism” for vain purposes, nor did they take pride in ignorance. For they new that a bit had been fashioned for both extremes since days of old (Isa 30:28). Rather, they sought an optimal balance between dutiful work and practical wisdom that maximized their contribution to future generations. More than a few wanted, above all, to someday hear the words,
“Well done, good and faithful servant.” Matthew 23:23
The Spring Grove community’s emphasis on stewardship led the pioneers in each generation to invest their talents fully for the future, and to sow good seeds into good soil. Sure, sometimes it was difficult to prepare that literal and figurative soil. We have benefited from our ancestors’ foresight and their “elbow grease.” But let us not forget now to keep tending the soil and planting our own good seeds.
Strength through Interdependence
Our ancestors were from hardy stock. Since, as in Lake Wobegon, all the women were strong, all the men were good looking, and all the children were above average, there were always many hands to help out with the chores of the community. Through working together, our ancestors accomplished tremendous things, yet still were able to have time to enjoy life and to help neighbors do the same with parties and meals that celebrated the work and accomplishments of the season. Often, they found ways to make fun, those things that they needed to do or felt they ought to do. When it was time to come together and help out their neighbors who’d had more than their share of bad luck, many of our ancestors did not hesitate, building strong bonds that could be counted on in years to come when bad luck befell them. Their whole way of life not only helped them to learn to be good team players, but also to be good multigenerational team players. For with just a small community that rewarded hard working, good natured, and honest people, their yoke was easy and their burden was light.
The goal of our Heritage Center is to preserve the heritage of our small community, and to be a model for other communities who recognize the need to resurrect the type of multigenerational consciousness that allowed our ancestors to keep doing what they needed to, even when things looked bad.
If you are like most Americans, you probably have an already busy schedule. You run like a zombie from one thing to another. Giants is about regaining reflective consciousness, and grasping hold of one’s free will to make time for those things that, when we are about to die, we look back and think–”those are things I am glad I made time for in life.” Giants is about family, friends, and community. It is about children, good habits, and sustainability. It shouldn’t be about frantically doing more ethnically-associated activities to show we are more Norwegian than the next organization.
Giants is about genealogy and as such it is about the circle of life: in the olden days those things which dealt with existential stewardship were the topic of religions and people from all religious paths set aside some form of time for reflection, often once a week, to meditate on past experiences. This reflection time was not supposed to be filled with concrete particular tasks, but with study of stories that cultivated the intuition. Note how much of scripture deals with genealogy. In fact, history is literally His Story, that is, the story of the Living God. In all the idiosyncracies of genealogical history, a discerning mind can start to glean the conditions that are both necessary and sufficient for the actualization of a human being who is able to discern higher purpose. Reflecting on this history can create a space for internal dialogue, that is, a space between stimuluus and response, without which we are but animals or robots. It is in this space that a reflective human can begin to discern a higher purpose of Existence itself, rather than simply be a slave to the lower inclinations of his natural or conditioned self. Recognizing the importance of this space, religious man creates a tradition for his children designed to effectively nurture that space between stimulus and response based upon myths. Our ancestors gave their children such myths out of love, because they knew that it is milk that a child can digest (1 Cr 3:2). Because we were fed milk by our grandparents when we were young doesn’t mean that they never wanted us to eat solid food. Only a fool would think such a thing. And yet we are all weak, and we often do return to our baby bottles.
Most functional religions have evolved over thousands of years to convey, at least to their intelligentsia, the key aspects of stewardship. Through the years, science has evolved to tell us that the myths we learned as part of our religions are not all literally true (big surprise) or even when they are true, they are not perfectly free of politically incorrect jargon. This leaves a lot of people throwing the baby out with the bathwater, arguing that, any religion made by a perfect God, must also be perfect. Well, there are so many tangled webs in the last sentence that it is impossible to clarify it. Suffice it to say that today, religious teaching is watered down so much that stewardship actualization could almost never be completed. The institutionalized religious path is one in which an adherent is actualized from an immature posturer to a more mature, by which I mean–more politically correct posturer. The more mature posturers all agree not to bring up inconvenient truths and they have learned the art of telling people what they want to hear (Isa 30:10). In the last 40 years, scriptural awareness has declined rapidly. Virtually no one goes back to the passages Jesus says are key to understanding his words. When we read the words of Patrick Henry, who said, “Gentleman may cry, ‘Peace, peace, but there is no peace,” we do not get the allusion to Isaiah, as his scripturally literate countrymen and women would have. In this age, we have a crisis in understanding resulting from the falling away of scriptural literacy and there seems to be nothing to fill the void in vision. We have lost the Word–the Logos.
Scriptural training was a relatively effective, albeit idiosyncratic, means for actualizing good multigenerational stewards. Today, scriptural literacy has been generally either replaced with academic impotence and superficial dilletantism or superficial wishful thinking disguised as revelatory religion. What institution will arise to take the lead in ontological stewardship in this desert? Who will cry out in this wilderness? What institutionalized practice will arise that can subsume the sublimating function of an old time religion? What will train those capable of responsibly wielding power to become conscious stewards? What will lead those constitutively incapable of responsibly wielding power on wild goose chases where they do the least existential harm and perhaps even serve humanity in some way? Our ancestors’ religious writings addressed such mature topics for hundreds of generations–although indirectly–because they were familiar with the injunction to not write down, at least not directly and in plain speech, the revelation that allows one to overcome (Rev 10:4). Yet, reading their writings between the lines, an intuitive person can’t help but be overwhelmed with a sense of how deep they were and how superficial our public discourse has become in the last half century, as we have ceased being a nation of readers.
Cause for Optimism
But, there is cause for great hope. People are finally recognizing the need for multigenerational consciousness. The exponential growth in the popularity of Giants of the Earth Heritage is a testimony of their desire to regain control over the reigns of their family’s security, reigns they had given over trustingly to the proverbially honorable men who they now call banksters, irrevelant professors, and religious/political con artists. Of course, most of these people were actually in their own eyes and in the eyes of their fellow citizens, “good people” or “honorable men” who have wanted to feed their family using the means they know how. Rarely do they understand the damage they do by their lack of holding their behavior up to the paradigm of sustainability and authenticity. History will show that it takes more than a few clever people to swindle Americans out of trillions of their hard earned dollars and put our children into massive, perhaps unrepayable, debt. It takes millions of smug, complacent, go-along-to-get along Americans who lack the stewardship vision to think critically about the importance of multigenerational stewardship. But today, some Americans are saying, “Never again.” They are gathering together, in small towns like Spring Grove, and “keeping things real.” They are no longer hesitating to tell the king he has no clothes. They are going back to earlier generations and trying to figure out where we went wrong, where we forgot that “children are not responsible to pay for their parents, but parents for their children.”(2 Cor 12:14) Giants reaches out to all small or small-at-heart communities who wish to follow our lead. We invite them to come under our organization as a chapter–and to make their’s a fun, family friendly group that also accomplishes something that their great-grandchildren will be grateful for.
Why are people flocking to join Giants of the Earth?
- First, it is fun to work with others of all ages in our community to make connections with relatives all over the world and learn about our common history and our world-historical ancestors.
- Second, it is our duty to preserve our heritage. If we don’t preserve our history, who will? If we do not do it now, when there are still individuals in our community who remember the olden days, then when will we?
- Third, history has shown that it is adaptive for a people to reflect on their own history. In other words, groups that value understanding tend to survive, while those who do not value understanding tend to die out. Reflecting on the historical consequences of our ancestors’ actions is an essential exercise for cultivating the practical wisdom essential for good stewardship for tomorrow. This not only applies to little things, like saving for a rainy day, but also to big things, like safeguarding the narrative of our Republic. An argument could be made that America’s and American’s fiscal woes are a manifestation of the lack of multigenerational consciousness in the postmodern American narrative. If that is the case, then there is still hope for avoiding our children’s economic slavery that will result from America’s economic deficits. However, we must first address the deficit in leadership that is conscious of multiple generations. We must act quickly to resuscitate the multigenerational consciousness that still exists in select small rural communities (like Spring Grove) in order to restore balance to the narrative on which our democratic Republic rests. We are an example from which the rest of America may relearn balance. We could speculate how our current egotistic and generationalistic narrative that demonizes folkish and multigenerational narratives arose. Whether this narrative was due to ignorance, or to deliberate geopolitical subversion, we in this generation must act to restore multigenerational consciousness immediately, while promoting an atmosphere of inclusiveness and opportunity for all. One of the best ways of cultivating old fashioned multigenerational consciousness is through shared community stories. Family histories teach us what lifestyles have best fostered our residents’ physical, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual potential.
“Come now, let us reason together.” Isaiah 1:18 NIV
Nurturing the Golden Rule
Fortunately, our small size has always helped our people to quickly learn that the kindness and respect they show their fellow residents will come back to them. Today, like Atlas, we Americans have the weight of the world on our shoulders because we are continuously reminded of everything we have done and everything we have left undone. It is easy to get “burned-out” under the weight of such intense altruistic conditioning and revert to thinking only for oneself. In Spring Grove, Atlas doesn’t have to shrug off everything and be a complete egotist–he can find a balance. He can shrug off just enough to make his labor sustainable and enjoyable.
Values are the fruit of principles
Why would serving others be enjoyable? Evolutionary psychologists are increasingly discovering that the human experience of joy is an evolutionary payoff for those who care for their own inclusive fitness. Despair is the punishment nature inflicts on those who neglect to nurture the matrix of meaningful relationships that make up their community. Living a life of integrity is about living one’s life according to principles that are the foundations of the things we value and want to sustain. If we value trust, we invest in a cultural system that rewards those who follow the principle of trustworthiness. If we value sustainable wealth, we will invest in a cultural system that rewards those who follow the principles of prudence, self-control, balance, and hard work. The principle of authentic stewardship leads to the value of authentic joy.
Reasonable Expectation Setting a Key to Happiness
Many opinions exist as to what stewardship means. Whatever your definition is currently, it will likely be transfigured by your own genealogical investigations. Only by reflecting on the realities of what has been sustainably done, can we develop rational expections of what we ought to expect of the young “Atlases” in our community.
Break Free from the TV
We encourage each of you to come to our community classes and interact with real people. If you come to genealogy classes we will help you find yourself in our Spring Grove family tree. If you trace your ancestors back, and learn their stories and what they have to teach, we believe that you will emerge with a spirit that transcends the idiosyncratic paradigms of your own particular generation. You will come to see the dangers in a culture that is products-focused rather than principles-focused. You will learn and share your ideas about what it means to have balance in life. You will start to make time for people rather than things. You will enter into and nurture a circle of life that is greater than you, filled with unique friends who value you and consider you to be important because you are special. Those things that are the most personal and most unique about you are also the most precious, because one of essential things that we humans have in common is our capacity to blossom in so many directions. By interacting with other unique people, rather than watching stereotypical characters on the television, you will develop a deeper understanding of what it means to learn, to live, to love, and to leave a lasting legacy.
You are important to us, and we cherish your unique contribution to our Tree of Life
Frequently, genealogical investigators find renewed vigor for the more humble approaches to service that worked for their ancestors: instead of grandiose crusades to fill possibly bottomless pits in distant lands, they choose instead to start small, to think local, and to serve joyfully with neighbors. There are many places in our website and in our classes, and we are preparing a spot just for you to share yourselfwith others and to reflect and discuss what your legacy will be.
A City on a Hill
Spring Grove’s own history can serve as the kind of real model that this world in conflict needs. Like that proverbial city on a hill, Spring Grove can remind people far away that neighbors can be neighborly, because they once were–and still are, in a little town in the Midwest. By taking this old-time approach and being faithful in “a little matter”, we might regain our ancestors’ hope of hearing the words:
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”
We can be good and faithful servants again, because we once were…