The parents of Willa Cather (1873-1947) moved their family from Virginia to Nebraska in 1883. Cather would live in that state until she graduated from the university in Lincoln sixteen years later.
Cather published O Pioneers! in 1913. It opens in 1883 and describes the lives of European homesteaders around the fictional town of Hanover. Plot and characters center on Alexandra Bergson who immigrated with her father John and family from Sweden to the area in 1862.
Another Scandinavian who moved to the area around that time was later referred to by neighbors as Crazy Ivar. He lived apart from others in a cave; that is, in a space carved out of a small hillside. It came complete, however, with a wooden door, four-paned window, and stovepipe sticking out of its sod roof. There he would make hammocks from string and memorize long passages from the Bible.
Ivar found contentment in the solitude he had sought out for himself. He disliked the litter of human dwellings: the broken food, the bits of broken china, the old wash-boilers and tea-kettles thrown in the sunflower patch. He preferred the cleanness and tidiness of the wild sod. He always said that the badgers had cleaner houses than people, and that when he took a housekeeper her name would be Mrs. Badger. He best expressed his preference for his wild homestead by saying that his Bible seemed truer to him there. If one stood in the doorway of his cave, and looked off at the rough land, the smiling sky, the curly grass white in the hot sunlight; if one listened to the rapturous song of the lark, the drumming of the quail, the burr of the locust against that vast silence, one understood what Ivar meant (O Pioneers!, Vintage Classics, 1992, p. 20).
He best expressed his preference for his wild homestead by saying that his Bible seemed truer to him there. Yes, the Bible makes more sense with less work when we, as Christians and Church, are living closer to the land created by God. Instead, we’ve both chosen and been forced to live in the Global Technological System (GTS). This GTS wedges itself between us and any direct relationship with God’s good creation even as it systematically destroys it. By doing so, it more easily separates us from the one God of truth, freedom, love, and vitality and enslaves us to the six false gods of falsehood, power, indifference, and death.
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