Always ethereal, always eclectic, I write as the mood strikes, when there intrigue reveals itself. Usually that means something controversial or adventure of some sort.

I've tried really hard to be unprovocative, but have as yet been unsuccessful.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Running Water

The woman said to him, ‘Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that running water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?’ Jesus said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.’ The woman said to him, ‘Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.’
Our manager spent an hour in the middle of the night trying to repair our frozen hose, but to no avail. He came the next day, and had an awful time of it. He and an employee spent hours wrapping the line in heat tape, and then laying down straw above and below, over the ice pond that had formed, to ensure that the line is kept warm and he doesn't need to come out again in 30 below weather. He put down bricks to keep the wind from blowing the straw away. And then, I asked him about the water coming out. He had felt our special hose to keep the water tasting clean was not wide enough, and would freeze too easily, so he used his own hose. But that one had sprung a major leak. In a fit of rage with much cussing, he removed all of the electrical tape and straw bales, to discover a large pond forming beneath the hose. He had to turn the water off, and come back to it later. (I feel for him, but, had he done this two months ago, when he said he would, when the weather was warmer, his work would have been far quicker.)

As he was doing all this, we had to run the water inside the cab so that it would clean the lines. Unfortunately, it appears that the bathroom sink runs down into the sewer line. RVs typically have two lines, grey and black. Grey water is water from the sink. Black water is for your unmentionables (sewage). Typically, only one line is open at a time, to prevent undesired smells. And one would think the bathroom sink runs to the grey line.

So I opened all the water lines, and went below the RV, to open the black line (which must be done from outside), just to flush everything out. Unfortunately the black line was frozen shut. And while I was below, trying to open it, suddenly a torrent of water began dripping down over me. Yes, the the bathroom sink runs to the black line. It filled up the tank, and ran into the shut valve. Then every opening began backing up, including the toilet. So yes, this was raw sewage dumping down on me. And yes, when I went back into the RV, the sewage from the toilet had dumped all over the carpet of the bathroom. (Who puts carpeting in a bathroom? How does that even begin to make sense?)

So the next two hours were spent renting and using a steam cleaner from Ace Hardware (who gave us a generously discounted rate), driving into Waunakee and back only to discover I'd left the carpet cleaner at Ace, and driving back into town and returning. The RV is now cleaner than it ever was, and happily, the raw sewage is no longer sitting on the bathroom floor.

Meanwhile, our manager was able to repair the hose, only to discover that the heat tape system was now soggy with water, and had to be replaced or dried out. Evidently, heat tape isn't actually tape. I had this image in my mind of something like electrical tape, wrapped round and round the water hose. Heat tape is actually a euphemism for an electrical system with a cord running down the length of the hose and plugged into an outlet.

Late in the day he returned, applying more bales to completely cover the hose. He has to wait for the heat tape to dry out before he can reapply it in the next few days. But after hours of work, our manager has provided us something immeasurably important this winter: running water, so we don't have to return again and again to the well Piggly Wiggly to refill. I am forced to admit, he is an agent of the coming Kingdom of God.

Friday, 21 November 2008

What's going on behind our RV right now.

Our manager has taken his own time to apply heat tape to the hose for our water. It was supposed to happen two months ago, but he seems to be always too busy. So today, even before sunset, our pipes froze, again. We would have run the water tonight, but didn't expect it to run into freezing between 2 and 430 in the afternoon. While I was off at a theology discussion Meetup, the manager came over for an hour in the bitter cold to try to unfreeze the hose, but was unsuccessful. Therefore the water has to spray out so the whole thing doesn't freeze permanently, creating a beautiful fairy winterland outside behind our RV.

Mystery is in part unveiled in the light of day...

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Countryfied RV

A shout out to Siv, for helping me countryfy the RV.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

A Horrible Dream

Last night I dreamt I was on a road trip with Obama. He was still about to be President, but he was ten years younger- my age. Obama, another friend, and I were driving in a small car over a great distance, when we came to a very mountainous coastal area, similar to what you find in Northern California, but on the East Coast. Our friend was driving, and Obama was instructing him on how to shift, for evidently this particular manual was rather complicated.

Too complicated for our friend. As we came to a particularly sharp curve, above a particularly tall cliff overlooking the ocean, he shifted wrong, and didn't pull the right lever. Instead of going around the curve, we went over the cliff, falling 1,000 feet to the sea below. All three of us fell out of the car. I knew enough to angle my body to surf the wind, so that I would not land on the rocks below. I continued to catch the updrafts, looking for deep ocean to catch me, but aware I might not succeed. At the last moment a rocky islet appeared, and I almost hit it, until I kicked my feet up at the last moment, and splashed in the ocean beyond. (In a dream, falling 1,000 feet into water doesn't kill you.) I was relieved to have landed safely, but had a foreboding feeling of dread, that Obama and out other friend had not managed to land in the water.

Shortly thereafter a massive rescue operation commenced, looking for Obama and our friend. They were never found. We knew that they had both died, and I wept. I knew Obama would be the first black President Elect, but never the first black President. All around me people cried, for the end of a dream.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Drinking the Kool-Aid

This moment marks thirty years. Thirty years ago today was the greatest mass murder-suicide in modern history. It's the first political event that I remember, and it profoundly changed my life.

I remember seeing the centerfold of Time Magazine, with the bodies splayed everywhere. It seemed only a centerfold could hold them all, there were so many. I still remember the smaller photo of a dead child, sandwiched between the bodies of her parents. I was in the second grade, and our commune was there in the city of San Francisco, where the People's Temple of Jim Jones had started, and where most of its victims had lived.

It's hard to know why memory remains. Maybe its the horror of the event. Maybe its the similarities in difference with us that caused it to stick in my mind. Maybe its the impact it had on my future.

My childhood was fairly typical. I grew up in a Christian commune, surrounded by 80 brothers and sisters, something like a fictive kinship society. I tell most people overseas that it was a like a traveling tribe, as that is the closest it comes to making sense to them. We were inside American culture yet outside, at times traveling in 8 buses and sleeping in church basements, at other times owning property like 24 acres in Southern Oregon. We shared everything in common, and put the group before the individual. Privacy was minimal, but not immorally so. Individualism was greatly devalued, and it felt like one giant family. Though I lived in a separate room or house with my nuclear family, Those 80 others, mostly older than I, were genuinely older brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, mothers and fathers. It was a wonderful way to grow up.

It was part of the Fourth Great Awakening- but this Awakening was the first in American history that wasn't primarily Christian. America tends to go through revivalistic cycles every few decades, when a new social paradigm emerges, and there is an intense battle between the old lights and the new lights. This was the 60s. We were part of that small Christian element, the Jesus Freaks, or Jesus People. And we were growing.

Though there were some fringe elements of the Jesus Movement like Calvary Chapel, the heart of it was communal. It wasn't organized in the slightest. It was perhaps the first major Christian movement not tied to one leader. Though Lonnie Frisbee comes the closest to being a founder, even he played only a bit part compared to the movement as a whole. It was the Spirit who truly lead, and he did that through communes. There were hundreds of communes cropping up all over the U.S., in Europe, even as far away as Afghanistan. Christianity Today hailed the Communal Movement as the next great step in Christianity.

Then came Jonestown. My father was visiting Keith Green that day. As my dad drove up, Keith told him, "It's a dark day for Christian community." He was never more prophetic. Immediately the Communal Movement ended. We had 80 people in our commune. After Jonestown, we never grew in numbers, and eventually, like every other Jesus People commune except for JPUSA, faded away. The entire nation became freaked out. There were people coming up to my dad, the head elder, telling him that their parents had told them to leave, because he happened to share the same first name as Jim Jones, and ran a commune. No one could think straight anymore.

To this day, I see its legacy. Most of my peers have no memory of Jonestown, for it didn't have the impact on them that it did me. But there is an underlying fear of anything communal. In communes I have participated in since then, like Intervarsity in Southern California, parents remember, and try to dissuade their children from joining. Other members of communes don't want to admit they are in a commune, but prefer the more generic and unspecific word "community", because they remember how badly everything went arwy in Jonestown. Though "intentional communites" have become more in vogue over the last few years, they lack the commitment that we had in communes, and often seem to be little more than a number of Christians who are friends and roommates. Some are a good deal more, but it doesn't compare, yet, in numbers to what we saw in the 70s.

How do I reconcile something like Jonestown with my memories of such a wonderful childhood? Certainly, there was also darkness in my childhood, and some darkness that I didn't find out about till years later. We weren't perfect. But I loved how I grew up, and wouldn't trade it for anything in the world. I think that is how Christ calls us all to live, when we can.

I see Jonestown as an abberation, and a warning. The greatest goods in life can be corrupted into the greatest evils. Jonestown is a warning of what we do in community if we seek to much power. Jim Jones stripped his message of the power of the cross, with no willing suffering of his own. The message of grace and agape of love of Jesus Christ was lost. Indeed, though he began within the covenant of Christianity, by the time the People's Temple arrived in Guyana, it seems to have mostly been devoted to Communism, and the Soviet variety at that. While there were Christian communes that truly went off the reservation and had too many heresies and errors of control, Jonestown doesn't seem to be among them. It is rather a Communist heresy, going further along the road of Marxist-Leninism than even Stalin in all his purges would have desired. Jonestown wasn't part of our tradition in the Jesus Movement, though it was a reminder of what can happen if we don't follow the Way. And it we in communes were all perceived as being part of the same hydra organization as Jim Jones.

And so today, we find a very lonely Christianity in America, stripped of it's communal element of the First Century, or the 1960s, and often among Evangelicals, filled with unnamed and named fears. Countless times in this last political season, I would have people tell me I had "drunk the kool-aid" in supporting Obama. People who had no idea of the meaning of those words to me, and how much they had torn my life apart. Drinking the Kool-Aid has become a political metaphor, part of the modern lexicon, and is now used blithely without conscious memory of the horror of its origin, and aftermath.

I find our society now views much that is good as more Jim Jones Kool-Aid, much as they percieved all of our communes as mere extensions of the evil of Jonestown. But as with us, many times, it's not actually Kool-Aid. It only looks like it from the outside. Once you drink it, you can find it is actually cool, clear running water. But fear reigns so supreme, no one can reach out and taste the living water.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

The Key to Good Neighbors

I have been repeatedly impressed at the community built up here at Don's Mobile Manor. It's a small collection of maybe some seventy homes isolated here in the middle of the Waunakee countryside. Perhaps it's because there are no walls, and no fences. Nor is there anyone who can expect a tax increase under Obama. But repeatedly, when we have been in need, neighbors have stepped up, often offering even before there was a need. There is a constant spirit of sharing resources and tasty desserts. This was most impressed on me this morning at 730, when my next-door neighbor knocked on the door, his dog's leash in one hand, and my car keys in the other. Somehow, the keys had been left all night on the street next to the car. Not only had no one driven over them, but no one had taken the car, or even dreamed of it. Instead, a neighbor came by in the early morning to deliver the lost keys.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

I've never done this before.

Vote for someone who actually wins the Presidency. Will this be the first time ever? Oh, glorious day!

You should all totally move to the country. Waiting in line to vote is a lot more fun here.
This is an Obama Papa.

I asked for more than one, but they would only give me the one ballot.

For only the second time, I got to vote for a man to be President who will be the first person of colour in the Oval Office. (Well, if you count the VP, the second person of colour in the Oval Office.) Last time was a caucus- this was the first time I was able to put a mark next to his name. Let it be known, for all time, I got to vote for the first black man for President.

And a bit anti-climatic, but still a joy- there was actually a ballot initiative, in our supposedly initiativeless state, but at the county level. Thankfully it was a gimmie, similar to Obama's plans- universal health care, at the state level, mandated to be the same as what those in state office get.