1993, 02/01-2. Stewart Traill, A Man Without A Human Life
The title for today’s entry comes from how I wrote that Stewart seemed to have no past and no human life. He didn’t talk to us about his past, or anything that he liked to do in his life. He presented the front to us that he was all about was Jesus, one hundred percent, every second. And he only talked to us about Christ (usually about Christ as an angry judge) and our need to put to death our lives in this world.
Also in this section, I volunteered and was elected to be a “communicator” in the groups. Just minutes after being elected for this position, I was demoted and ordered not to speak for the rest of the meeting because I gave an opinion about the way we were talking to a brother, an opinion that differed only slightly from what the others thought. I then described the shakedown and verbal beating I received from the brothers for having broken the “unity” of the brothers’ fellowship by offering this opinion, even though what I said was not drastic, controversial or unorthodox. I describe the strange method of reasoning and argumentation used to cast out my alternate idea, and to forbid to me to participate any more in the meeting.
Monday, February 1
The frigid first day of February. Driving in to finish the wood floor job at Koos. Everyone was asleep when I left. The tape player in the van wouldn’t work, so I switched on the radio instead and began listening to CBS. I didn’t turn it off right away. [I was listening to “worldly music,” which was a sin in COBU.] The music was nice. It takes my mind off my trouble and makes driving easier. I wonder if this might be something good. They played the Eagles song, Take It Easy. This brings back many memories. Can there be some value to this? (Besides immediate relaxation?) Is it good to remember?
[In COBU, relaxing was a sin. It meant a brother was taking his mind off the fight of the faith. Aside from being “worldly music,” listening to old songs was “looking back to this life,” because the songs reminded me of my pre-cult life and what I was doing when I first heard those songs. According to Stewart, this meant I was looking back to my past and desiring another life besides life in Christ and heaven. Really, I was desiring another life than COBU and my past life was the only other life I had known. I often got into long daydreams about my pre-COBU life. I feared this “looking back,” because of what Jesus said in Luke 9:62: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” I know now that this is a misapplication of that verse. Looking back to the only other life I had known besides than COBU was not a sin and it was not turning back from the “plow,” that is, turning back from doing God’s work. It was a cry from the heart for freedom and for life.]
I was thinking last night that Stewart is a man without a past and without a human life, in the sense that we never hear about it. This presents a certain view and places a certain requirement on us. Yatha raja, tatha praja.
[A Sanskrit proverb meaning, “As with the ruler, so with the ruled.” Because Stewart Traill did not speak of his past life or his human interests, this imposed a certain requirement upon us, that we also should have no past or human life, because like the proverb, as with the ruler, so also with those who are ruled.]
Now I am listening to Colombia al Dia on the radio. To me, foreign languages are like music. I like listening to them. I will ask God if there is a way to possibly remember my past. But anyway, I like to write in this book. There is a certain pleasure in jotting notes in a diary, at stoplights, while driving in.
I worked with [new brothers] Kevin L., Curtis W. and Leo today. I gave Leo a Gospel of John tape in Russian. He seems to like it. I am now in the office. I have the idea that it was best to give Leo the tape and walk away. (Because of how I am, that is.)
[I felt too unworthy and too wrong of an example to speak to Leo, the new convert. Stewart was always haranguing the older brothers about their unworthiness, sinfulness and rebellion, while at the same time, requiring huge amounts of sacrifice and work from us so-called unfaithful people.]
At Red Hook now. We were called together at 11:30 p.m. for a meeting to form groups. (There are only a few of us are here.) I have heard that there is a committee among the groups that will check up on our “so-called” groups. We must also form a committee with which we can communicate with them. It is obvious to me that sooner or later, one way or another, I will be in a group. It’s only a matter of when. I will probably be pressured into being in a group, or assigned to one. I think of someone like Leo. How will he survive if, for the lack of better terminology, there is not something positive going on? He will slip through the cracks.
[I worried that this new brother would get lost in the shuffle if there were not hopeful groups going on, and some kind of safety net to catch him. Actually, groups were never hopeful, because Stewart evalualed all working groups negatively and came down on the brothers who were in these groups, no matter how hard they were working.]
I don’t do very much, just buzzing around. I work a lot and I haven’t been reading or studying much of anything. My schedule doesn’t permit much exercise, reading, artwork – you name it. And the opportunities I do have, I don’t seize very well. Tonight in the laundromat, I could have browsed a Russian grammar, but I got lost in the TV and a Newsday article about a white supremacist who got cornered by the FBI. Not the best use of an extreme lack of time. Even so, my concentration seems poor these days. Light reading is what I do, reading to unwind. I called an 800 number for information on language courses, the kind you can learn while driving. But they cost $249. A little too much. I will scour thrift shops and used book stores for material.
I have now volunteered for the committee, stuck my neck out. Sure, I feel I can help. It should make an interesting experience, perhaps to be entered on these pages. I do feel myself being drawn into these groups. A definite pull.
We are now involved in talking to Abraham and have been going on with him for a while. The classic “one minute to hear from Abraham,” which has gone on for 15 or 20 minutes. Dull, dreary, sleepy brothers teaching Abe. Abe occasionally giving a “yes.”
I mentioned to the brothers that Abe already knows all this. The brothers went on. So, I said to Abe, “Abe, don’t you already know all this that the brothers are saying to you?” This was it. The brothers saw red. (Though no one raised their voice.) They began to talk to me to about pushing my own thing. Others talked about me in my presence as I sat there. I was talked to as if I were a bad child who has a problem. They decided that I should no longer be permitted to speak(!) Then, somebody remembered that I had just been elected to be a communicator. So that had to be taken care of too. “I don’t think Jim should be communicating if he is pushing his own thing.” One by one the others said in serious tones of voice, “I agree…I agree.” I was being demoted. I was then asked to execute myself. Rocky said I should settle it.
[I had to ask all the brothers to vote on me about whether I should still be a communicator, even though I already knew the outcome of the vote, because they already said what they were going to do to me.]
(This is all done with a straight face. And remember, if you disagree or look bothered, or even get mad, they will say you are fighting with all the brothers! Further proving, in their minds, that they were right about you all along!) Of course, I wasn’t backed in the vote. I knew that, and said to Rocky before asking for the vote, “What’s the point? It’s already done.” I had just heard every older brother in the room slowly, deliberately, give their “me too.” But I had to go though with it. At some point, my attitude began to change from irritation to having to restrain myself from laughing.
After the meeting, I was writing about what had just happened. A brother came to talk to me about my behavior at the meeting:
At this point I was interrupted by by Greg S., who wanted to talk to me. By using a little humor and theatrics, I was able to get him to agree to hold off until tomorrow. “It’s late,” I said, “I have to get up early.” Then, dropping my voice to a bare whisper, waving my hand toward Paul, “Paul’s sleeping. He has to get up early. We can discuss this tomorrow.” Greg agreed. Imagine the all-night filibuster, starting with Abe, then going on after the meeting with the one who dissented.
In fact, I had thought of asking during the whole process if they ever heard of dissenting opinions from the bench on the part of judges, but refrained. I had begun to “break” from my initial shock and affront at being backed in a corner and began to deal with it more loosely, saying in an almost “gee fellas” tone that there ought to be a way to disagree without being considered as “fighting.” I was trying to defuse a situation which was serious beyond reason, which seemed to be the issue and which I was trying to split down the middle. Which I know was right to do, because this was the essence of the falsehood or the game that was being run on me and I was trying to divide that out.
One of the reasons the brothers gave for their actions was that our unity must be preserved. (This unity, by the way, is at the cost of other opinions. This unity – a calm deliberating, like a shuffleboard game. It must function smoothly. This sense of unity must be first. Not that unity is wrong, but this feeling must be upheld like a holy grail.)
I kept thinking this is like childish games, strange children. I thought, “They are really deceived.” It was also subrational. Nobody speaking on a mind level, let alone about speaking about God. The only person who spoke rationally was Orlando, who explained that Abe was a lot different (that is, better) today than yesterday, saying that I hadn’t been at the meeting yesterday and wouldn’t know and couldn’t compare both days with Abe. This was about the only thing that helped. It cleared up a few things. Oddly enough, Orlando refrained from saying that when the brothers were talking to Abe. No one spoke or did anything even that clearly with and about Abe.
Meanwhile, I had begun to “appeal to Rome,” saying maybe I can talk with others after the meeting, since that is one of the things we are allowed to say. I also began to do my calm listening act. I realized I needed to defend myself from this and began to posture. But still, I was pretty shaken after it all. I began to shiver or shake while talking to Orlando (both he and Rocky came to talk to me after the meeting), as a person does who has had an emotional release or a close call with death or danger. It was a pretty bad shakedown I received. (The essence of which is what? Its deviousness or the way I felt despised. The brothers were saying they all know I have this “problem” with acting this way.)
The other point is, I was repeatedly asked what I thought. (I said I didn’t agree with any of it, though I also agreed I do need to be quick to hear and slow to speak, as someone said.) What happens here is that I am expected to back down and confess and admit wrong. That is the purpose of their question. Any disagreeing or continuing to express my mind at that point is considered fighting, which then “proves” the thing they are saying I am. You are fighting, obviously we are right in talking to you about this now and in this way. I was consistently talked to on a backhanded level, instead of rationally. Like cheapen yourself, you can be bought out with a few inane reasonings. Or, “We can get nasty if we have to.” No one spoke in a real way. The whole thing was ridiculous.
Tuesday February 2
I probably could be more brief in my descriptions of events. Last night’s could read: Got on committee. Expressed opinion on Abe. Ordered to no longer speak. Demoted from committee as well. (This may be too brief.)
Last night, while drifting off to sleep, I heard a voice say, “What about seeking God’s glory?” As if to say, forget about this stuff. Also, I saw an image of Leonid with a Bible. He was pointing to something on the page, then pointing to me, as if he were asking, “What does this mean?” That is, he wanted me to explain something the Bible to him.
(Also, last night, right after I spoke, they all stopped with Abe and decided they had made their point. So, in essence, they were in agreement with what I said! Because they didn’t sidetrack me and then continue speaking with Abe as if they had more things to say to him. They knew what I said was true, but their pride was hurt. The whole focus shifted over to me and “settling” me and giving me my demotion for having spoken as I did. It went on with me for a while then. I had no sense it was going to stop any time soon, until I said, “I’d be glad to talk to some brothers after the meeting. This is starting to go on.”(!) So, both times, it was me who put an end to the long dialogs!)
But now – reshifting the focus – seeking God’s glory. (Hey look, figuring something out may be good as a help with what to do next time. But being told to forget about it, to “come up hither” is better. Especially considering the “One” who seems to be saying to do this.) Also, Leo should be here today. I will try to concentrate on God’s glory and the Bible. It seems like that’s what God is saying to do – it’s an order!
Off work now. At the office. There are a lot of new brothers here. Robert S. asked me for a tape recorder and Bible tapes, telling me (when I said I would) that I am a brother he can count on – though I think it was more than the tape recorder. The idea is that I am approachable, they can talk to me without getting blasted, and I’ll take time to listen. (But I don’t want this noised about because such things are usually considered bad. Why am I easy to talk to? Because I don’t insist.)
[This is what would be said about me, if it came to a Certain Person’s ears that the new brothers considered me someone they could talk to, unlike how they felt about most older brothers. Most older brothers did not consider me as someone to talk to or trust, because I was not willing to bear the image of Stewart, nor was I willing to imprint it on others. Or, I should say, I was no longer willing or able to do this.]
Paul S. walks in as I wrote this. “What are you doing?” I said, “Oh, just keeping notes, on my group and what I do.” A half truth. I am worried that this could be considered subversive. It’s certainly different. Really, everyone should keep diaries. It helps you be more thoughtful. But, maybe someone will get suspicious. What are you writing down in that book? What if I were ordered to surrender this book, or else? Such a thought came rushing into my mind. I couldn’t stand on “principle,” that is, that one’s diary is a personal matter. It would be defying an order. Defiance = arrogance = crime = punishment. I like writing in this diary. It’s one of the best things I’ve done in a long time.
Paul asked another question. Where did I get the Russian Bible tapes, and if the length comes out longer or shorter than the English Bible tapes. He also asked if Leo knows why he is here. That is, is he here for right reasons, and that he should get a full understanding of what we’re all about.
In the hall outside, Bob M. said, “What happened last night?” (At first I didn’t know what he was talking about.) “I heard you were fighting with all the brothers.” I tried to explain it the best I could. I started by saying, “Well, it’s sort of like ‘he who first states his case seems right.’ Well, Bob, I guess you had to be there.” I mean, my opening comment seems argumentative. It sounds like that kind of talk, you know, a “case,” and anyone who goes on and on about a circumstance, well, we know that person is causing trouble! I suppose if this were to continue, I would have to lay down and say I was wrong, even though I don’t think I was, because it will just escalate from there. “Well, it may have been a small thing, but you seem like you are fighting now!” This is a situation where the idea of defusing is really needed. In fact, this is where I have been coming from with anyone who talks to me about it, defusing them! Trying to defuse the situation, smiling, being friendly. My worry is that this could go big time. Who heard about it? Did it go in the messages? Will there be a message back?
[Stewart said at a recent meeting that we should be “defusing the bomb,” that is, helping brothers who are under temptation and ready to blow up. I realized I needed to “defuse” the people who were talking to me, and to defuse the situation I was facing. And I was worried about the situation continuing to escalate and word of it going into the messages to Stewart and having him make a pronouncement about how to deal with me, which everyone would have followed, if this happened.]
You can read the next section of this journal here: Notes From The Gulag.