By Michael Ketterhagen
--paraphrase of Psalm 69:9
Life was simpler in 1984 when four of us who were raised during the 1960’s cultural transformation started the Grain of Wheat Community, a self-sustaining spiritual community in southern Fond du Lac County. We had gotten out of the Vietnam War. Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson created the first Earth Day in April 1970 as a way to force the issue of protecting the environment. At the time there was no EPA, no Clean Air Act, no Clean Water Act. We thought the biggest concern was a potential nuclear war with the Soviet Union, however, that worry ended five years later with the breakup of the Soviet Union. The Cold War was over. Yet, the industrialized world was consumed with producing as many new “things” as it could and to spend as much military money as possible to protect that way of life. It became our understanding of “national security.”
As complacency began to set in with the broader culture, my urgency to create a community that would live more concretely, more simply in tune with the rhythms of the Earth, still bubbled up in my heart. I saw many of the “first-world” humans, who were blessed with discretionary income wanting to live the “good” life. This meant that they began to focus on the joys and conveniences of material possessions. Many started to fill their lives and creative desires with technological advances that were supposed to make our lives simpler. Yet, these conveniences began to consume us.
In general, people no longer found joy in caring for the creation of God, our Earth. We were and really are quite consumed with consuming and not living simply, especially in our Western way of living. Interestingly enough, even the people of the Eastern world of India, which usually was consumed with the personal, spiritual growth that is rooted in the Yoga Tradition, turned to the West for fulfilling its desires. The Eastern medical world of herbs and the lifestyle choices taught by Ayurveda were enticed by the Western world’s practice of the quick and dramatic medical methods of drugs and surgery. The metaphysical and spiritual dimensions of traditional Hebrew, Christian, Indian and aboriginal cultures were largely abandoned.
The systems we as a country set to help people be more healthy, in fact, did not. We became the 38th country on the health and wellness list, far behind some of the more less industrialized states.
In light of all that, the two original families of the Grain of Wheat Community went countercultural and consumed our lives with doing things that would honor the environment—heating with wood, growing our own food, recycling and reusing everything that we could. We settled into an “agrarian” lifestyle of vegetarianism, regular prayer, developing simple living and spiritual development classes, teaching the peace and justice skills of Catholic Social Teaching and the Yoga Tradition of “ahimsa,” non-violence, at the nearby Camp Vista.
Two other families and two children joined us, yet gradually the diverse desires and hopes for the children pulled people in different directions and the Grain of Wheat become just the Ketterhagen family.
Nine years after the Grain of Wheat’s beginning, our “zeal for the house of God” moved into a new direction—it abandoned its residential dimension. The new board of directors still desired the simpler life, but now focused on providing a healthy and healing environment for our children and the people of the Fond du Lac area. The Grain of Wheat Community, Inc.’s board expanded its mission to serve the broader human gathering (the “ekklesia”—the church community) by establishing the Fond du Lac Center for Spirituality and Healing with its yoga and other holistic health opportunities in downtown Fond du Lac.
“Our zeal for the house of God [now] consume[d us]” through The Center and its work.
More on that next blog. I bow to the Divinity within you.