1993, 03/10-11. This Present Drudgery.
Wednesday March 10
Sitting in the donut shop sipping coffee. I want to just look out the window in a daydream.
[I was daydreaming about being in my hometown. I often lapsed into daydreaming about my pre-cult life, the only other life I had known before coming to the cult, and sometimes the daydreams felt very good. I read about inmates in internment camps (such as Americans of Japanese descent who were put into camps during WW2) who, while their present lives were a meaningless treadmill in a dull, boring crowded institutional setting, their memories (often idealized) about their past, pre-camp lives and their daydreams about what their lives would be like after they could return home (which were often often dreams with unrealistically high expectations) filled their thoughts and were a diversion from their present drudgery.]
But my thoughts are turning to and getting absorbed in an article I read about David Koresh in Time Magazine, about how his group is one of many sects and splinter groups, each with a variation on the “truth” that their followers ardently adhere to, to the exclusion of all the others. [Each of these groups believed that their way was the truth and that all of the other groups were wrong.] Couldn’t I be, or am I in one of these kinds of groups? The article said that one of these groups split over the interpretation of a single verse in Ezekiel. Could we be the same? It sounds crazy, but to the insiders, it could seem totally plausible and make complete sense with all the background they have and all the preparation they had leading up to it, plus their trust in their leader. Not all can be leaders, so they look to others, and choose the one that seems best. Are they locked in a society like I am, with checks and balances that go far beyond their rational thinking, causing them to accept, believe and comply with it? Do they stand to lose something if they don’t believe and obey – such as family, friends, position, job, security – both physical and “eternal?” Are they motivated by fear?
I am thinking about my brother and that I would like to be able to go to his police academy graduation if it’s not already past. It is difficult here to go somewhere unless we can prove it has an official religious purpose. I consider how the author Chuck Colson doesn’t have this ”withdraw from the world syndrome,” but a much more healthy view. Though you could say that wherever he goes, he has a Christian purpose by virtue of his very life and intentions. But let’s not idolize or put such authors on a pedestal. My brother will probably rise to captain and then eventually be chief of police.
Well, let’s collect our thoughts. I’m getting another late start for a day of soliciting, but I need to sit somewhere and clear my head. I do find this activity essential, but neglected.
Sitting in a restaurant, watching the world go by. The sound of conversation and the clattering of dishes. People walking by outside, mostly an older crowd.
I don’t like our “meeting” life. Last night, so much time was spent on settling brothers, doing for people what they ought to do for themselves. It was the same thing with the morning meeting. When I heard them getting together in there, I was quick to walk out and go down the street. It’s the same thing every morning. Andrew shouting about doing our Christian Training, recalcitrant new ones to settle, the dingy warehouse atmosphere, and all of these ones caught up in it. They seem to love it, saying the same old stupid inane things.
Everybody speaks in lines and clichés and there is some kind of correct performance going on that is expected and encouraged. It is crazy, but we don’t have an outsider’s critical eyes (one who is not caught up in, or bound by any reasons to take part in this, under pressure to do it and in trouble if he doesn’t, so he must throw himself in there and perform and be concerned about that instead). Nothing really gets done, but I suppose one can have a sense of accomplishment and of fitting into the right mold if he does these things and the shouting in weird tones of voice.
There is probably as much unconscious, under the counter, as well as above the counter and literal things being said and done. I think it is to avoid punishment and to show they are being good – before God and man, but probably much more before man. That is the driving reflex force and God is probably hardly considered at all, or only as an afterthought or as a tag-on justification for doing all of this. And the show goes on, it rolls on and on, and who knows where it is going or will end up? A directionless road. “If you don’t care where you are going, any road will get you there.” That is what these meetings are like (and maybe this life, to expand the criticism a little wider). I guess it’s the mere sense of going somewhere (together) which is the payoff or the gratification. We are doing it – whatever “it” is. Don’t anybody say anything. I just wanna keep doing this. It feels good.
Thursday March 11
Waiting for Barry [a new brother] in downtown Brooklyn. I think I am driven by useless things such as having to solicit until he arrives (instead of waiting in a coffee shop). So I walked to 26 Court Street, but was barely able to drag myself through the building and only selected large offices at that. I realized I would be better off it we solicited as a team, so I quit.
While leaving a card at a desk, I saw a hand mirror, which of course got me thinking about how might go to hell.
[I had a dream about going to hell, which I often thought about. These dreams helped me to believe Stewart Traill’s terror messages about hell. One of the last things I saw in the dream before I died and met a very angry Jesus who said he was casting me into hell, was a round mirror which was on my wrist like a watch, in which I could see an angel walk up behind be and touch me, so that I had a heart attack and died.]
Then, what’s the use of all of this? If I close jobs, I will not be saved. I will not have earned salvation at the end of the day because I closed three jobs. I see all the useless things I am driven by, such as feeling like I have to go closing when I might as well wait for this new brother to arrive first, and some vague hope that if I do a lot of work, or bring in more customers, I will be saved. Though when I look at it directly, this illusion vanishes. Like a mirage, it is only visible from a distance, but when I get there, it is only dry ground. Yet it looks appealing, like real water, from a distance. I don’t have anything here. If I stop here I will die, so I go towards the mirage. Also somehow, I have to have a good closing record for the others at the office, especially for the sisters, who keep record of how many jobs each of us is closing and how much money we’re bringing in. If I slack off, besides closing less jobs, somehow there is a system of divine retribution. If I take an hour off, it will be paid back somewhere by a God who sees in secret.
So, I am driven today. It’s not even me who is living. All day long, just a gnawing unconscious knee-jerk reaction. I have a feeling that I have got to get something done, so I am doing it. (Probably it is that I am not doing the right thing, so I am “hiding” in this anyway. Maybe like new ones who stay back, claiming there is work to be done in the kitchen, so they stretch the menial work to fill out a day and invent things to do and problems to fix. It’s empty, but it feels better than having to go out and work.)
Also, there are girls here. I see them in the fast food restaurants. Beautiful black, Indian, and Puerto Rican girls. I’m doing my best not to look at them, but it causes a sweet feeling nonetheless, like honey. (I remember how I used fantasize about a girl like that, a girl like Delores.)
[Delores was “Young Sheep” sister in the church who left about ten years before this. I could not do anything to try to start a relationship with her or to see her, though I said a few things to her sometimes. I was so unreal – and so bound by the COBU prohibition on relationships, that although I got my wish one time and sat next to her for the ride all the way back to Brooklyn one night, I deliberated the whole time if it was alright for me to speak to her, and when I finally decided I should, we were only a block away from the house. She was very friendly to me. After that, I used to call over to the fellowship house in Brooklyn, pretending to call for a brother who was most likely not there, and hoping she was the one who picked up the phone, and when she did and said the brother was not there, I said, “And how are you doing, by the way?” One of the reasons also that I was hesitant to talk to her was that she was in a younger age group in the church, and I was an older brother and I was afraid I would be treated – not by her – but by the older brothers, as a “wolf” who was trying to steal this precious “lamb” away .])
There really is no escaping this – the general array of my life, the impersonalness, the “inability” to get married that goes way beyond the idea that I have just not met the right person yet.
Seeing girls everywhere. I’m filling out today’s required time, then I have another obligatory place to go to. There is the emptiness or ambiguity of the hours from 5 to 7 p.m., where technically speaking I am free from soliciting and sweeping, yet there is nothing I can really do. (For instance, I want to avoid the office altogether and go to the library, which doesn’t quite solve life’s problems, but it is better than walking to the office in a daze and then squirming around in the glue trap.
[I used to get caught up in various (in)activities in the office and leave several hours later with a feeling of having wasted time and not having accomplished anything.]
Maybe I could research things, for future job possibiliites and who knows what else. A principle or idea I have is that the best use of an hour or so that falls my way is not in “dissipation,” but in preparing for tomorrow’s work. For the next calendar day, but maybe also future projects. So then maybe I come home and go through my lead box [file box of potential customers] so it’s ready for tomorrow, rather than laying around reading and drawing. So maybe the library could be used for these things when I go there, to have a specific aim in mind, something that may not solve my life’s problems. Maybe I want to learn speed writing or a foreign alphabet, but maybe also I will search out businesses or directories of some kind, accessing information. (Not to say those activities to unwind, like light reading, have no place, but, I notice this state of mind entering in about preparing for tomorrow rather than just unwinding for today when I want a break.)
I felt refreshed after writing this. I don’t know whether it was caused by the subject I was writing about, or if it was the act of thinking and writing itself.
I am soliciting for work in Brooklyn Heights. I enjoy the old architecture, the sunlight reflected off the buildings.
You can read the next section of this journal here: Little Toy Soldiers.