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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.
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I'll be reading at Bar Thalia in NYC on Friday, June 21st at 8:30pm [Jun. 15th, 2013|08:16 am]
This Friday, June 21st, I'll be reading from my Zendik book (working title: Mating in Captivity) at Bar Thalia, on NYC's Upper West Side. The event is part of the Lamprophonic Emerging Writers Series. There will be three other readers: Audrey McGlinchy, Carmen Petaccio, and Daniel McDonald (you can read bios here). Each writer will have ten minutes. I'll be up first (so don't be late!). There will be a break after the second reader. Please come!

Details:
Friday, June 21st, 8:30 pm
Bar Thalia, attached to Symphony Space, 95th and Broadway (entrance on 95th St.)
Nearest trains: 1, 2, 3 to 96th Street
More info about the series on its Facebook page.
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Zendik Update [Feb. 14th, 2013|06:15 pm]
Fawn & Erim are selling the farm. The asking price is $950,000.
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(no subject) [Jun. 7th, 2012|01:28 pm]
Arol died on June 6th, 2012. She was 73.

May her soul rest in peace. May her complicated legacy turn to renewing humus, as it composts.
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Sex, Money, Mind Control: The Zendik FAQ... [Dec. 27th, 2011|05:00 pm]
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...like you've never seen it at zendik.org.

Click here for the Zendik FAQCollapse )
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some signposts [Dec. 27th, 2010|01:39 pm]
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This is my personal blog, in which I write about whatever I want. Sometimes what I write concerns Zendik. But I've been gone from the farm more than three years now, and its presence has faded. So if you've come seeking information about everybody's favorite West Virginia cult (well, not everybody's--I suspect the Hare Krishnas prefer New Vrindaban), here are some signposts:

My writings about Zendik-as-cult are concentrated around December 2005/January 2006; that was when I discovered I'd been in a cult, and began investigating what that meant. Also, in October/November 2005 there are a few entries (private when I posted them, now public) in which I began to admit to myself that I had doubts about Zendik, and maybe didn't want to go back. Those entries afford a peek into the psyche of one who is still a believer, but beginning to break free.

There are, of course, references to Zendik throughout my three-plus years of blog entries, but if you want the concentrated download, feel free to head straight for it.

Now available on YouTube: "The Ballad of Zendik Farm," in which we learn the history of "Larry and Carol," and imagine an alternate universe in which (C)arol comes to her senses. I wrote this song in spring 2008.

Coming sometime, to a book store near you: "Mating in Captivity: A Memoir."
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Surveillance Song - Lyrics [Apr. 15th, 2010|04:58 pm]
(listen to a recording here)

I’m gonna wait till it’s me behind the wire
I’m gonna wait till I’m in the cattle car
I’m gonna shop till there’s nothing on the shelves
I’m gonna figure you won’t go that far

I know you watch me only ’cause you love me
I know you keep my best interests at heart
Without a chip in every wrist
How would you know who the bad guys are

I’ve heard the screaming and I’ve seen the warnings
Some of your children don’t love you like I do
They say your prisons will turn us into servants
I know they’ll hold us closer to you

I’m gonna wait till it’s me behind the wire
I’m gonna wait till I’m in the cattle car
I’m gonna shop till there’s nothing on the shelves
I’m gonna figure you won’t go that far

I don’t worry about food, air, or water
My only fear is the terror scare
We take what we want from the earth God gave us
I don’t see any danger there

So I’m gonna vote for John Obama
He’s gonna roast my demons whole
After he has done your bidding
For our country’s mortal soul

I’m gonna wait till it’s me behind the wire
I’m gonna wait till I’m in the cattle car
I’m gonna shop till there’s nothing on the shelves
I’m gonna figure you won’t go that far

Our soldiers are coming home from the war
To free us as Iraq was freed
Unless you’re a traitor, what’s to be afraid of?
Safety tastes like liberty

Life’s so much better here behind the wire
I didn’t mind riding in the cattle car
Food is cheap and gas is free
And you are watching over me
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When the Oil Runs Out - Lyrics [Apr. 15th, 2010|04:56 pm]
(listen to a recording here)

Oil runs down from Alaska
Oil runs up from the coast
Oil runs in from the desert
Oil runs out
What’ll we do
When the oil runs out

We’ve been throwing a party
For two hundred years
In a house that we borrowed
We drank all the beer
And we raided the pantry
And we wrecked every room
And oh my god our mother
Is about to come home
What’ll we do
When our mother comes home

Oil runs down from Alaska….

We can run for the hedges
We can hide in the swamp
We can claim we didn’t do it
We can fall down drunk
Or sleep till we’re sober
And rise in the morn
To the task of repairing
What we haven’t destroyed
What’ll we do
To repair these rooms

Oil runs down from Alaska….

We’ll plant trees in the bedrooms
We’ll hold hands on the hearth
We’ll leave logs for the lizards
Where the cars were parked
We’ll use the empty barrels
For catching the rain
And we’ll make this place a garden again
Yes in this ruined mansion we will garden again
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GMO Song - Lyrics [Apr. 15th, 2010|04:52 pm]
(sung to the tune of "Frere Jacques"; listen to a recording here)

These five crops are
Mostly grown from
GM seed
GM seed
Corn canola cotton soy
Corn canola cotton soy
Sugar beet
Sugar beet
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to believe in this living is just a hard way to go [Jan. 14th, 2010|07:17 pm]
So I did in fact get Girlfriend in a Coma out of the Mid-Manhattan library and I did in fact reread it. It didn't have much of an effect on me this time around - the story lost plausibility about two-thirds of the way through, and the characters did not engage my sympathies to the extent that they once did.

Ten years ago, when I was casing The Communities Directory for likely cults/communes, I was terrified of my own lethargy. I was wont to spend entire days in my bedroom, in my mother's apartment, reading books and escaping into sleep. I didn't know what to live for, and I detested the social strictures and bureaucratic tangles I feared might suffocate me. I was afraid there would come a day when I would find myself bereft of the will to rise from bed.

The main characters in Girlfriend in a Coma are wastrels. After being delivered from a fatal sleeping sickness that kills every other human on the planet, the protagonistic group of friends - already dissatisfied with their lives - descend into lackluster misery. They don't cannibalize, or otherwise turn against each other (they don't need to, since there's still more than enough canned food in abandoned supermarkets to go around), but they also don't treat their reprieve as a spiritual kick in the pants, a spur to peer deeply into their lives, circumstances, second chances. At the center of their psyches is a vast gap, an embarrassing emptiness.

As a twenty-two-year-old recent college graduate, I identified with this fictional gang of ne'er-do-wells. My life, like their lives, lacked a backbone.

That, thank god, has changed. I don't claim to have been visited by the Angel Gabriel, or to have seen the face of eternity. I have built a certain steady belief in the worth of living. This world - this world as it is, not this world as we wish it would be - is endlessly fascinating, for all its faults. Beneath the surface of every seemingly monolithic industry - banking, insurance, retail, real estate - is an intricate organism one must live inside for years, if one wishes to gain anything approaching complete understanding. There's healing, drama, heroism, wonder...in the current and the aftermath of earthquake, hurricane, collapse, disaster. Here we are. Here I am. Yesterday I read part of a book on the bitter history of chocolate, and dreamed the name of William Blake. Today I walked 6.2 miles and puzzled over a volume-based pricing scheme for delivering CSA shares. I look with longing towards the blooming future - and, when I remember, treasure the incomparable gift of the ever-regenerating mazes I navigate each day.
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