Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about a barn raising, a human barn raising. The idea occurred to me recently while watching a B Western. In the movie, the entire community came together to raise a barn for a farmer in single day. It was also a dynamic, free flowing social event where participants of all ages cooked, ate, drank, talked, laughed, gossiped, sewed, danced, flirted and worked to build a lot more than just a structure for livestock. It really is the ultimate in earthy human collaboration, at least the way it’s depicted by Hollywood. Everybody gave what they could and the reciprocation in giving was implicit: somewhere down the line, you would need a barn raising for your farm.
Or you wouldn’t need a new barn for another hundred years. You helped raise the barn without any expectation of reciprocity. You gave because giving is good and deepens our connection with people.
Undoubtedly, the best barn raising scene of all time was in Witness, starring Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis. It sizzled with smoldering desire and showed in precise detail how the Amish build barns that stand for 150 years.
As I watched the Western, I wondered: was (is) barn raising a uniquely American tradition? I didn’t bother going online to find out, but I suspect it has old European origins. But perhaps not. Maybe the way the American agricultural economy developed and farmland in the 18th and 19th centuries was plotted, sold, owned and distributed, created it. Sounds like a good dissertation topic to me.
A human barn raising though, that’s what truly interests me. Can a community (certainly not limited to geographical proximity) come together and raise a new barn out of a human being who needs help in raising up? I mean, build it solid, build it to last, built in one day in reality or metaphor. One day! And make it an enriching social event as well? I suppose certain Kickstarter and Gofund Me projects qualify as virtual barn raising. But is that the same as showing up in person and rolling up the sleeves, breaking a sweat? No, of course not. Perhaps both in combination can redefine for our modern era what a human barn raising can accomplish.
You could write a whole book about this human barn raising idea as a way to live better and build better communities. That might be my next project. I certainly want to become a consistent barn raiser in whatever community I belong to or try to establish. I want to help raise human barns everywhere around me. I feel like I am doing that with some of the men in probation. I used to do it all the time with my students.
It also crossed my mind that many people the past year helped raise me up as a human barn when there was practically nothing there. I knew a lot of these people, but some were prefect strangers. They showed up in person with food, books, beer, metaphysical medicine and dogs; they contributed to the blog; they took writing workshops; they found me gigs; they wrote me wonderful letters; they withheld judgment and offered embrace; they utterly surprised me and kept my faith in humanity going.
Thank you barn raisers. I still need your lifting up.
(If you found this post enjoyable, thought provoking or enlightening, please consider supporting a writer at work by making a financial contribution to this blog or by purchasing an NSP book. You would be assisting in the raising of a human barn.)