October 21, 2020

iMonk Authors Week: Damaris Zehner

Vevay Main St., Photo by David Cornwell

Vevay Main Street, Photo by David Cornwell

iMonk Authors Week

Since my books were released last week, I thought it might be a good time to highlight some of the authors who write for us here at Internet Monk. I am blessed to partner with many fine, gifted, and faithful writers who have published books. For those of you still getting familiar with the site, you can always find some of these books listed on the right sidebar of the page, under “iMonk Authors.” The books pictured there are linked to sites where you can purchase them and support these folks in their craft.

Pictures this week will be from our friend, David Cornwell. Visit his Flickr page to see more.

Today, we feature an excerpt from Damaris Zehner’s wonderful book, The Between Time: Savoring the Moments of Everyday Life. Damaris and her family have been friends for many years, and I have always loved her combination of profound intelligence and down-to-earth common sense, characteristics developed over a lifetime of adventures around the world, but which are displayed in daily faithfulness to people and place.

• • •

From the essay titled The Shared Life

I ’m not really a Luddite. I am, after all, typing this on a computer. When my husband buys me a kitchen appliance such as a toaster or a rice cooker, I do use it. I’m also not Amish and have never wanted to be, but I appreciate how the Amish weigh technology to determine if its effect on their community will be positive or negative. I like how their decision whether to use it is based on the community, not the technology. Cars, for example, can be ridden in if needed but generally aren’t used, because too much mobility draws people away from each other. People who sit and stare at television screens are not talking to their friends and families or working outdoors in nature, so the Amish don’t have TV. Instead they have a community.

People seem to agree that community is something we all need. At least it’s one of those feel-good words that get added to advertisements and political rhetoric to evoke an unthinking positive response. Although many of us spend our days in cars staring at roads and in cubicles staring at screens, we still have the idea that community—whatever the word means—is a human requirement and that we need to get it somehow. But what is it, and how can we make one or find one?

According to one dictionary, community is a group of people living in the same place, and a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of common attitudes, interests, and goals. Community involves physical proximity. It involves bodies. It involves land and shared space—not just cyberspace but rooms and parks and churches. It involves shared experiences, good and bad, that you can’t edit or delete. In community, people sit down to eat together and get up to work together; they don’t gulp fast food while faxing a memo. Genuine community grows, with all the painful and awkward stages of any human growth. Community isn’t a website, despite the term “online community.” It is also not something that can be constructed by developers, planners, or advertisers. It can’t be bought. If we want to find, or make, a community, we have to do several things:

  1. Stay put.
  2. Stay slow.
  3. Stay simple.
  4. Stay connected and vulnerable.

True community must involve bodies because God took on human flesh; God did not just become a cyber-idea in e-space. Community means submitting ourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ. Community means eating together, celebrating the source and renewal of our life, both physical and spiritual, and our gratitude for it. Community must involve land because God made this earth for us to inhabit, and when the kingdom of heaven comes in its fullness, we will occupy the new heavens and the new earth — presumably with dirt and rocks and trees and animals, not just clouds and harps. Community as I’m describing it here is the result of the two great commandments: to love God and to love our neighbor. And it seems to me that any technology, worldview, or lifestyle that gets in the way of it is just not worth it.


  1. Lisa Dye says

    I have read this lovely book and also bought copies to give to several people. Damaris not only writes beautifully, but she provokes self-examination that brings interior change. Well done!

    Bravo to David for his outstanding photography.

  2. And yet online places like this exist and form a sort of community do they not? (And blessedly free of the toxicity that taints and spoils thanks I suspect mainly to our Host.) Don’t we all live in the same space even though it be an imaginal space? And isn’t this a kind of fellowship? Don’t be too hard on us. Often it is the flesh that is willing but the spirit that is weak.

    • Internetmonk is a good thing, and yes, it is a kind of fellowship. But online, non-physical forums are too easy and accord us too much freedom to count as a real community. Online forums are to real community what online penpals are to real marriage.

      • And I don’t mean to be too hard on you/us. It’s just a question of definition, of integrity of meaning.

  3. As an aside…. I think most of the Amish where I live (and there are a lot of them) would buy cars in a second if it was allowed.

    • Robert F says

      Same here, in the Amish communities around my area. The fear of being shunned by family and friends, of losing their place in the subculture they know, and not being able to tread water in alien “English” society, results in public obedience to communal/church rules while in private and away from the eyes of other church members a lot of transgression occurs. And despite this fear, the fact that there are over a hundred different sects (and each division was the result of a nonnegotiable disagreement in a church) of Amish/Mennonite indicates that they haven’t obeyed rules/guidelines 1 and 4 very well.

  4. Christiane says

    Thanks for this, DAMARIS. I would love to live in a community of people who didn’t mind solitude on occasion, but gave people the space they needed to grieve, to find peace, to be still and recover some sense of self that often gets lost when intense care-giving occurs over a long period time. There are communities like that, somewhere, maybe off the grid.

    I hope the Amish can keep their identity as a people for as long as it is well with them.
    As for the rest of us, in the words of Wordsworth:
    “The world is too much with us; late and soon,
    Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
    Little we see in Nature that is ours . . .
    . . . For this, for everything, we are out of tune”