1993, 03/18. Good Fences Make Good Neighbors.
This is the start of a new diary book. This is valuable at least to me, because it is the only place where I record or say what I really think about anything.
“Good fences make good neighbors.”
[The reason why the saying “good fences make good neighbors” appealed to me was that I lived in a communal organization where Stewart Traill, the leader of that organization, constantly hammered us with the point of view that a totally open life, without barriers between people, was the only way to live honesty and truthfully. To believe that a certain amount of privacy actually helps people to get along better than utter transparency does was near-blasphemy.
What actually happened was that this communal life produced a society of people in which there were no relationships between men and women and everyone related to one another only through the filter of church teaching. Peoples’ conversations were only spoken in the phrases and concepts taught by Stewart. If anyone varied from this way of speaking, the difference was noted and the others brought the erring person back into line.
Open living also meant that church members informed on themselves and also exposed the faults of others’ faults, while Stewart lived in privacy, without being open and honest about himself and he was accountable to no one. What church members confessed and repented of was, besides the usual sins one might hear of in any church, anything that was not the stated goals of the church (and its businesses) and its leader. Being alone or taking time for one’s self was “cheating,” “trying to have it both ways” and “having a double life.” Any desire to do anything other than what the church wanted us to do was “desiring a life in this world.”
I have already explained it elsewhere, or it should be evident in most of these entries, that the communal life style and the treadmill of work and COBU’s belief system all worked together from different angles to get us to conform to this way of life.]
March 19, morning in Red Hook
Waking up the pet shop this morning [*]. These people really do live like dogs. It smells in here. It’s like a training shop for decadence.
How can human beings be content to live like this? Somehow it goes with the territory or is inherent in our church’s teaching. Certainly, it’s acceptable. Since there is no drive to fix it and everybody tries to live oblivious to it, it must be part of the religion.
[* The “pet shop” was Peter’s term for the Red Hook warehouse, that is, for the conditions in which everyone lived here, especially those who slept in the common area.]
We have to “settle” these new brothers. This means we have to find things for thirty or forty year-old men to do. We have to baby-sit them, for righteous, religious reasons. This is our duty, our work. Also a good way to bog ourselves down.
[We had to leave in the morning to get to our jobs, yet there were about 10 men living there who had been brought in off the streets. Most were not the type who could be taken to a job site where machinery was being used, nor could they be trained to use it, although there occasionally were ones who could. That meant someone had to assemble a “flyering team” and take them out to hand out business flyers, with little or no food to feed them with. They were also supposed to be receiving “Christian training” from us, which meant that they would read the literature that Stewart Traill produced, which was a couple of 8 x 11 printed pages of the main points of his current teachings. We also read the Bible with the new brothers, but this was filtered through the lense of Stewart’s teachings, which meant that we read “hell verses” and “warning verses” and short studies on giving up our lives in this world and putting to death all the things in us that were our will and not God’s will.]
Now we are “settling” three new brothers, stuck in the middle of this.
I have to take the new brothers out flyering because there is nobody else for them to go with. This is a charade. A lot of wasted time in trackless wastes; marking time, looking busy and not being very productive. Maybe I am making all of this up, but, I certainly need deliverance from it.
We swept up two brothers today – dubious converts, though one may be serious. I think of what I am bringing them to. Is there any hope for them? But maybe I am over-exaggerating the hopelessness of the situation.
I was asking new brothers in the hallway at Woodruff how they were doing, stopping them and asking them questions. I don’t know, I’m just being an actor. I’m thinking also that no amount of performance or effort is going to overcome the punishment that I’m going to get from Brother Stewart. Real or imaginary, the ax is always hanging over my head. Though really it is Jesus who said, “The ax is laid to the root of the trees.”
Sometimes I show new brothers verses about not fearing or obeying man, but obeying God instead, or verses about giving account of ourselves to God only and wish I could do the same myself. This performing can only go so far, then I’m sure it will all blow up in my face.
Real or imaginary also, I often get a constructive feeling, like I know how to manage time, or manage myself, and that I understand people and can see what is going on (socially) and I am learning how to listen better. I’m understand the world around me better – particularly this one I live in.
I am now going to read about the faith of the Reformation, hoping to refresh myself and my faith – and to help set my own views straight and/or have a context in which to fit the teachings I “learn” here. Or, if not a context, maybe a reality check.
[I began to do a survey of Christian doctrine and Christian history in order to have a context into which to place, or to compare, what I was learning and living in COBU.]
You can read the next section of my journals here: Looking For A Way Out.