Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Pilgrim's Process, Part I

1/21/07 - Lord's Day - After Breakfast. An article entitled The Pilgrim's Process:

Part I

"Have you got a minute?
A little time that we can spend
Open up and let me in
Share some memories
People in a hurry
Every day goes by so fast
No one takes the time to ask
how it used to be"

(Robert Earl Keen - "I wanna know")

It has been a relatively short time since America embarked on the great industrial experiment - shorter than you can probably imagine. When my grandmother was a girl, she lived much like we live now... now that we have rejected industrialism for a return to God-centered and Biblical Agrarianism. Sadly, back then she did not even know that she was free, nor all that the new industrialism would cost her. Her generation was even then being taught that they were poor and without all of the "good things in life", and that the only solution to their problems was to fully embrace the new great society. A couple of generations before her, they lived the same way as she did; in fact, not much had changed in her family for hundreds of years prior to the industrial revolution. None of her ancestors would likely have considered themselves “poor”. In the Bible the “poor” were widows, orphans and those who, because of some infirmity, were forced to beg for bread. No one working the land and with food and raiment considered themselves to be “poor”. The word “poor” didn’t come into its modern usage until the Industrial Revolution, through marketing, merchandising and consumerism - brought about by rampant covetousness and the burgeoning consumer mentality. Everyone without electricity and the modern time-saving conveniences now considered themselves to be poor. Everyone was poor except the very rich, and everyone now wanted more than anything else… not to be poor. This was the precipice (as covetousness always is) from which a people would be thrown into an abyss of mental and physical slavery.

My grandmother’s generation was told that all the new things and ideas that were coming would be good for them, and would free them from hard labor to a comfortable life devoid of stress and turmoil. The push-button society was going to free man to pursue intellectual and spiritual endeavors, and would eradicate poverty, inequality, and need. The industrial revolution was as near to her in time as the home computer revolution is to my own children. On the day she was born, her father would have never imagined the changes that would happen in the span of her lifetime. Together they saw the advent of the motorcar, the aeroplane, readily available electricity, and the death of the horse-powered farm. In four generations our family went from a family with the skills to provide almost all of the staples and necessities of life, to one that relied on the world and its corrupt and failing system to provide for all of them.

"I wanna know
Did your father own an automobile
or a two horse carriage with wood spoke wheels?

I hear you used to walk to school seven miles a day
Did you ever ride a railroad train
and the very first time you saw a plane

Did you think the world had gone insane?
Tell me what you've got to say

I want to know.

(Robert Earl Keen, "I wanna know")

The failure of the industrial experiment is one of the most evident but unspoken truths in the culture. It is right in front of anyone who cares to look. When I think about a once vibrant, stable and strong culture now trapped on the industrial treadmill, drowning in the consumer mentality, enslaved by the insatiable needs of their "time-saving" devices, mobilized only in the desire for any new entertainment, employment, or some mental excitement that will anesthetize the mind just long enough to keep it from recognizing its miserable existence - and its eventual end.

My grandmother died blind in a nursing home.

Her last year was a sad exit from a world that had sold her lies. One of my clearest memories of that year was of her vainly, frantically and randomly pressing extra-large buttons on a telephone my parents had purchased for her bedside in the nursing home; she was mumbling to herself, praying that someone, anyone, would come get her and talk to her and maybe take her out of that place. Her mind was gone, but somehow I know she knew what was happening to her. Her children were trapped in the modern system and were exhausting themselves on the treadmill of debt, desire, comfort and status. The desire for maintenance and stability, advancement, comfort, and purpose-driven progress made it all but impossible for them to be able to care for her at the very end. They did make the effort. She lived with my aunt for most of her final years, until her mind started to go and she could not care for herself while my aunt was at work at the hospital. A few of my cousins and I tried to keep her out of the nursing home by rotating and staying with her on the nights that my aunt worked; but we were all in college and trying to get a toe-hold in the great society – so one day we could claim all of its promises for ourselves. All of her living children worked industrial jobs, or they lived too far away to offer much help other than financial assistance. They “system” made it easy to shuffle her off to the home. Everything she owned of value, including her home, was to be sold off to pay the nursing home. I guess it is wrong to call such a place a “nursing home”. It is a weigh station and a waiting room for the unwanted and unneeded to drop off this earth. It is where you take old and worn out people so you can continue your own journey there. We all visited. Then we all went home. She cried, and her mind went. Sometimes she was lucid and talkative, other times she was lost in her own mind, having no idea who she was even talking to. Sometimes she cried and begged to be saved from that place, and all along I knew that she knew what was going on. She had given birth to 8 children, and had provided for the 7 of them that lived into adulthood. Her husband died almost 30 years before she did, so she spent a good part of her life without a spouse. She had been married as a teenager. She did what she was told, raised her family, worshipped her God, and believed the lies of a culture that didn’t care one whit about her, except for what she could do to benefit the Great Society.

My grandmother raised a lot of her own food, cooked on a woodburning stove, shelled peas in the summertime and knitted and quilted in the wintertime. She was an Agrarian who was dragged into the Great Society by the overwhelming flood and bonds of modernism and necessity. She went to nursing school and helped bring thousands of babies into the new industrial world. They have a plaque for her on the wall of the “birthing center” in the hospital where she worked for a couple of dozen years.

They taught her that she used to be poor, so she bought a car, even though she went to church and the grocery right down the street from her house. They taught her she used to be poor, so she got electricity even though she had a non-electric stove for cooking and heat. They taught her that she used to be poor, so the oil lamps on her shelves and tables became antique ornaments while electric light flooded her rooms. They taught her that she used to be poor, so she moved up in the world, and her children now feed the same machine, and they can’t see their way out of it, because, after all, their momma used to be poor. Some of them got educated, and all of them wanted their children to “have more than we had”. The grandchildren have more stuff all right… and more debt, more stress, more diseases, more divorces (I can’t even count them all), more step-relatives, more modernism, and, well… just more. They have less of God and true religion, less freedom, less practical intelligence, less survivability, less integrity, less moral uprightness, and less of a probability of surviving even the lightest of disasters. And they told her she used to be poor…

If there were no wind we might, we think, hear
The earth grind on its axis, or history
Drip in darkness like a leaking pipe in the cellar.

(Robert Penn Warren – “Evening Hawk”)

More later in part II,

Michael Bunker

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