|Bitter-Angry, Bitter-Sweet: Reflections on a Nine-Year Journey
||[Jul. 15th, 2013|03:30 pm]
I started this blog in spring 2005, just a few months after leaving Zendik. At that time, I still cleaved to the Zendik mission. I wanted, more than anything, to mow down my “DeathKultur” fantasies so I could return to the Farm and commit for life. Instead, with a lot of help from many friends, I stumbled towards understanding Zendik as a mirage, a collective delusion. I could opt out, if I wished. In fall 2005, I did.|
At that time – in late 2005 – Zendik was still going strong. There were thirty-plus Zendiks living on the Farm in West Virginia. I could imagine the disgust with which they would greet what they saw as my apostasy. I might have freed my mind, but I could still feel the power Zendik held over my body. Some days I lost myself: I plummeted into a trough of doubt, where I was wrong and they were right and unless I repented I could never be whole or fully human again. As I railed against Zendik, as I detailed its inner workings, as I sang “The Ballad of Zendik Farm” – I was fighting for my life. I was shoving a new story of Zendik into the world because I felt, if I didn’t, the old one might once again suck me under.
* * *
An ex-Zendik who left the Farm almost twenty years ago recently posted a dispassionate account of his Zendik experience. He included a link to my FAQ – “angry, bitter, mostly accurate,” he said. I agree with his description. I wrote the FAQ in 2008, when I’d been gone less than four years, in command of my mind for a mere two and a half. I was angry and bitter then – anger and bitterness were appropriate to that stage of my journey out of Zendik. Most of what I’ve said about the Farm in this blog was true for me during the early stages of that journey.
Now, I’m in a later stage. I’ve been gone from the Farm going on nine years; I’ve been freed in the mind for seven and a half. During those seven and a half years, I’ve written draft after draft of my Zendik memoir. Each draft has demanded deeper inquiry into what I wanted – and got, and didn’t get – from Zendik. It’s demanded that I cultivate compassion for my characters, that I ask what they wanted, and what made them who they were. Also during those seven and a half years, I’ve come to realize just how large a role collective delusion plays in most lives, just how deeply it pervades the stories of most cultures. I love (what Mary Oliver calls) “our only world”; I feel blessed to be in it. At the same time, I see groups like Zendik as weeds that flourish in response to deficiencies in our cultural soil: A fully healthy medium, roiling with unseeable life, would not need weeds like Zendik to spring up, to go wild, to incite a sticky, messy, ugly eruption of healing.
* * *
As I have healed, the word “cult” has become less important to me. Think of it as a cross, a bulb of garlic, shoved out in front of my chest to guard against retreat to that dark place where my choice was Zendik, or living death. I still think it’s accurate, but I don’t need the word, as protection. I don’t need you to use it; I don’t need you to agree with me.
* * *
We all travel in cycles, friends. Let us respect where each of us stands in her cycle.
If you never lived at Zendik, please do not dismiss those who did as blinded idiots. (If I have provided fodder for this view, please forgive me.) I have said before, and will say again, that Zendik harbored some of the smartest, boldest, kindest, imaginers and creators I have ever met. It gave me some of my best friends.
If you did live at Zendik, and still feel love for it, please do not dismiss me as your enemy. I simply moved through the angry-bitter stage of my cycle more publicly than most did. The public nature of my journey helped some, hurt others. It cost me – maybe for now, maybe for good – the friendship of some who are still dear to me. On balance, I believe it’s helped more people than it’s hurt. I hope so.
* * *
I haven’t written much here for quite a few years. I realized, around fall 2009, that it’s not possible for me to blog about Zendik-related developments and also cultivate the contemplative state I need to write my memoir. The memoir matters more; its potential to yield understanding runs deeper. I hope, when it comes out, that some of you will read it. When you do, you may not recognize the narrator. Why? Because writing is more than a practice of recording: it’s a process of discovery. Through writing, I’ve come to see my Zendik past as a deep well of insight. Every day, I draw from that well.