The America of Myth and Legend, where people stopped into a local diner after shopping at locally owned businesses in the town square is long gone. Families stop for a meal produced on an assembly line on their way home from a giant box store like Target, Walmart or Costco where they’ve used plastic money to buy plastic shit they’ve been told they need in advertisements for consumer products paid for by the same corporations who dump sludge in the water and air. Our society is deteriorating before our eyes so that we are becoming, in reality, the Idiocracy presented in Mike Judge’s film where people are so stupid they irrigate the fields with Brawndo, a Thirst Mutilating drink with electrolytes made by a company that bought the FDA and FCC and convinced consumers that water was for toilets.
In my view, it’s better to accept reality and deal with it. It’s kind of like when one of your parents has Alzheimers Disease — Complaining, sobbing and shouting don’t change the facts, but there are things you can do to make it easier for all concerned. In the case of our country, it’s not necessarily a bad thing that the American Empire is in decline given that the politicians who refuse to consider single payer healthcare are direct philosophical descendants of the wealthy merchants and property owners who refused to sign the constitution unless slavery was protected by law. Now we’ve got Dominionists and Teabaggers, who believes God demonstrates His love with Stuff and good parking places, convinced their buying power is diminished because the rich don’t get enough tax breaks and that our energy problems will be solved by fracking and deep water drilling in the Arctic. Let’s accept that these folks have trashed the American Experiment with American Exceptionalism and turn our attention toward the future – kind of like Harri Seldon did in Asimov’s Foundation Series. Recognizing that The Empire was doomed, he worked toward easing the chaos that would inevitably follow.
The question then becomes: What can you do, in your own way, to make the world a little better? How will you nurture your own spirit and reach out to connect with others ? That’s how to create community.
It’s happening right this very minute in a valley in the Green Mountains of Vermont, at a place called Farm & Wilderness. I first heard the camp called a Hippie Dippy Quaker Camp by one of the counselors as she hollered out to the crowd of parents, friends and neighbors that the kids were parading down the road, signaling the start of the annual Fair. She was waving a big rainbow flag with a peace sign in the middle. My son went there for six summers, first to Timber Lake, the boys camp and then to Tamarack Farm, the high school camp.
Fair starts with the parade of campers, spreads out across the meadow for an afternoon of fresh food the kids have made from the camp’s organic gardens, human-powered rides, and smashing Conneggburts on each others’ heads. The teenagers from Salt Ash Mountain camp, SAM, perform an original skit for Friends, Families and Neighbors – like the one we saw in 2006 where Independent News was held hostage by Corporate Media. The day ended with a big contra dance followed by a bonfire. A pair of torch bearers from each of the five camps at F&W begin the ceremony and light the fire, and once the parents finally leave, the kids danced to their own wild drumming as the embers lit up the night sky.
The F&W Fair is the culmination of a summer spent living and working together and reflecting on the experience during Silent Meeting.
Until my first Parent Weekend when my son was an 11 year old at Timberlake, I had never been to a Silent Meeting which is integral to the Quaker tradition. I never imagined that 90 boys could sit silently for five minutes, much less an hour, until we joined them in a birch glade where the boys were scattered comfortably on rocks, benches and bare ground.
The difference between Silent Meeting and typical services at Churches and Synagogues is that there is no preacher and no speechifying. The essential notion of Silent Meeting is that if people will shut the hell up for a change, they might learn something. And we did – You don’t have to be in a idyllic setting like a Hippie Dippy Quaker Camp to take care of each other and the environment. People can do that anywhere when they make a simple choice to carry the life of the spirit out into the world. You can do it on the subway in New York City, London, Boston or Washington DC. The spirit lives in each of us and is not limited or defined by setting.
When we think about Community and Interdependence, the world is a very different place than when we focus on an Independence that leads to competition and isolation. There is still plenty of room for individual pursuit and accomplishment within the context of the Community because each individual’s unique spirit is nurtured and celebrated. That rarely happens in Walmart, and never happens in Congress where our leaders only celebrate their personal bank accounts. Old Bernie Sanders, who happens to be from Vermont, makes a stirring speech every now and then, pointing out the error of our collective ways, but few listen.
It is those few who will continue to work for the community in their own lives and subsequently their little corner of the world becomes a better place. As Each One Teaches One, that community grows stronger even in places like Worldwide Hippies here in the virtual world of the internet. All we need to do is take the road less chosen.
The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost, 1915
For more information on Farm & Wilderness, go to http://www.farmandwilderness.org/
Or watch this video and find an antidote to Idiocracy:
PENolan has developed a reputation as a theologian and subversive due to her blog, Menopausal Stoners. She is a contributing writer on Black Magpie Theory, and she reads regularly in the humor series Drunken! Careening! Writers! at KGB Bar in New York City’s East Village. One of those appearances resulted in a clause in her divorce decree that requires her to write under a pseudonym, so she decided to use the maiden name of her Granny the Ho, who had five husbands. Tricia has been teaching preschool for more than twenty years and holds Masters Degrees in both Early Childhood and Secondary Education.