The old adage, "The ends justify the means," seems to have become SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) among the Bruderhof leadership. One of them stated recently, "I treat my brothers one way, and the rest of the world another." This is precisely how one's values drift off-center. The minute one draws a distinction between "them" and "us," the Golden Rule has been canceled, not to mention all the other New Testament teachings upon which the Bruderhof claims to base its life. Over and over, the Bruderhof has moved out into their neighborhoods to "do some good." But when their underlying motives surface, they are seen to be self-serving, and their "unselfishness" manipulative and unctuous. According to reports, this perception is shared by many of their neighbors.
"If everything doesn't go their way, they pull out," a neighbor commented. "Pretty selfish behavior for people who claim to believe in brotherliness."
A company is contracted to lay carpet only to have their workers watched carefully by Bruderhof men and dismissed after the first day, to have their work completed by insiders. The Bruderhof serves on TEVAS (Town of Esopus Ambulance Squad), only to pull out when the squad leader won't bend the rules and transport a patient on an IV without the required paramedic on board (which the Bruderhof would have to pay for). Food Bank distributions to the local poor in the Fayette County area are carefully logged into a datebook. The hundreds of pages of names and the food items donated are presented later to county tax assessors as proof that the Bruderhof is a charitable organization and should not have to pay their property taxes.
Doesn't the New Testament say something about treating your neighbor as yourself, and proclaiming one's holiness and generosity on street corners?
"When you have lied to yourself long enough, you stop trusting other people," another neighbor commented. "I think that's their basic problem."
Two unusual connections: one of the guitarists knew John in Woodcrest, and John also met a minister, now out of the colonies, who had attended John's baptism there. John and Susie plan to travel to a small church community in Tennessee where, in John's own words, "We hope to find a true people of God and begin a life of true service to Christ."
Ursula Boller Lacy -- 4/3/22 - 4/21/96
Two mini-buses will be leaving England late Thursday afternoon, 25th July, to catch the 10 P.M. ferry crossing from Ramsgate, Kent, arriving in Ostend, Belgium, approximately 2 A.M. We drive overnight through Belgium, then Holland and Germany, hoping to arrive in Worpswerde by mid-morning on Friday, 26th July, in good time for the start of three days of non-stop fraternizing!
Our two main drivers will be Ben Cavanna and John (Gottfried) Holland. If you would be prepared to do some relief driving on main roads to give Ben and John a rest, please contact Ben.
We expect to catch the overnight ferry back to England, arriving early on Tuesday morning, 30th July. For U.S. KIT folk traveling by mini-bus, please contact Joy or Ben on arrival in England for up. One vehicle is leaving from Swindon, the other from Southwest London. The mini-bus cost is £79 per person, or approximately $120, to be paid to Joy in dollars when you meet her. If you want us to book a cabin for the Channel crossing, (four hours), please book this immediately. Two-berth cabins are £10.50 ($16 US) and four-berth cabins are £5.50 ($8 US) per person each way.
Our brief remembrance for Laurel Durgin was held on Sunday just after the picnic. Several former Bruderhofers sent notes, several spoke briefly. It was particularly nice having members of the Durgin family present. There was a reading of a prayer written by Laurel a short time before her death. Very moving. Next year will be here before we know it, so those who couldn't make it are re-invited for the Fourth Annual Picnic in 1997. Join us for a wonderful weekend of camaraderie and love. Greetings,
I would like to explore the phenomena of growing up in the Bruderhof by posing a few questions that might lead to descriptions of specific episodes or events, and what these experiences were like: your thoughts and feelings as well as situations. The research would also try to identify helpful coping mechanisms, with possibly some focus on people who have had counselling or other forms of therapy and their perception of its helpfulness. I realize this way of doing research is more time-consuming and emotionally intensive for participants, so this initial letter to KIT is just to gauge the likely response. No one will be named, and information which would identify you will not be used.
I expect to attend the EuroKIT conference at Worpswede and the U.S. KIT conference at Friendly Crossways, and hope that much of the information can be gathered by face-to-face interviews. If you are going to either conference and want to participate, I would like to arrange to meet during those days. If you are not going to either KIT gathering but would nevertheless like to participate, this could be done by correspondence or, if living in England, by meeting with me during the autumn. If you are interested, I would be most grateful if you would drop me a line (Foxglen, Pinemount Road, Camberley, Surrey, GU15 2LU) or telephone (U.K. 01276 26938) so I can be in touch with you before the conference. If it's easier, just contact my brother Timothy Johnson in Atlanta and he will pass on your message. Best wishes,
Even as a child I couldn't take this unlikely story seriously. I was always more interested in the progress of the bonfire. I wonder if they still conduct this quaint ceremony on the hill.
One thought that did cross my mind was of the danger involved in challenging established fanatical believers. There are a lot of rabid gunslingers around these days -- witness Martin Luther (Dream) King, Jr. and John (Imagine) Lennon -- so let me be the first to deny any involvement with KIT. On a more serious note, I must confess that I haven't yet paid my $30 sub, but don't expect me to hang myself over that.
I know my April Fool's "guess" is late, so I won't mind not winning your competition. It was quite difficult, but you can't fool me! It must be: "KIT comments: We appreciate Rosie's critique, and invite our readers' reactions!" Just in case I'm wrong, bring back the utterly brilliant KITland Kartoon and the highlight of the year, the April Fool page. And while you're at it, who was "The Bard?" As someone once said, or if they didn't they ought to have -- '"Tis better to satirize than to terrorize."
I am reminded of the institutional inmate who announced, "I'd rather have a full beer bottle opened in front of me than have a full frontal lobotomy operated on me." Kind regards and best wishes, Your Obedient Servant (YOBS?)... P.S. Only fooling -- seriously,
To top it off, this book costs only $11.00 plus postage. You can order today by simply phoning 1-800-521-8011. I personally have visited Mumia four times in jail. I know that Mumia would love all of you to have a copy of that book. So pick up your phone today.
The article mentioned that Christoph had a meeting with the Pope last fall in New York, and said that it was important for there to be healing between the Catholics and the Hutterites.
"We feel it is important for our relationship with the Catholic Church -- the dialogue I have started with the Pope and Cardinal O'Connor," he said.
My sister Ruthy and I had to get to know each other for the first time, really, while she was here. We had not seen each other at all for 35 years, and before that, only very briefly if I happened to be sent to Bulstrode for some reason. For some reason, the powers that be or were decided that it was better for us if our family was split up, so Jenny and I lived in Wheathill, Ruthy and Gwenny lived in Bulstrode, Mum, Dad, Anthony and Johny were sometimes at Bulstrode and sometimes in Germany, I think mainly at the Sinntal B'hof. So we had a lot to talk about and share, both about the last 35 years and also the years before. We had a wonderful time and lots of laughs. We laughed so much, much of it because of how the B'hof was behaving in America. There were chasing all over the place looking for Ruthy, but of course they were more clever than that, so they got the police to do it for them as well. They got the police chasing after Ruthy around N.Y. State and Pennsylvania and goodness knows where else. This carried on long after Ruthy had left the country, so we just couldn't help laughing.
All the time there was also a sad side to the whole episode. Isn't it sad that they have to go to such lengths to try and get somebody back by force when all the person wanted was to have Freedom? They used every means they could, including, would you believe it, getting Interpol to search for her.
I am writing now only for myself, because Ruthy has started a new life elsewhere. My feelings are that we don't want too much talk about how Ruthy actually escaped, both for the sake of those who were involved in helping her and also because the less the B'hof finds out about that the better, but both Gudrun and I are quiet happy about people contacting us again as normal, now that everything has quieted down again.
I thought what Rosie wrote in the April KIT was very good. Her views were well presented and I thought very fair. I agree with most of what she says, which includes what she writes about COB. So thank you, Rosie. I also feel that COB did their own thing separate from KIT, so they have to put up with the consequences of what they did themselves. At the same time, I can't understand how the Bruderhof can sue COB for using the name 'Bruderhof.' After all, we or they are children of the Bruderhof. If that is wrong, then how come they have still called themselves 'Hutterian Brethren' long after they split up and after the Hutterites forbade it? Shouldn't the B'hof be sued by the Hutterites for using their name?
The B'hof people seem to believe theirs is the only true way, the only Christian way to live. So those 2,000 or whatever people are right, and all the other millions of Christians in the world are wrong? That seems to me a bit conceited. Of course community life does not work without people, so then they must make people live to their beliefs, and this doesn't happen without some kind of force, and the force they use is control. They control the people there by whatever means are necessary. Of course it is all done out of love, so people are controlled by love for their own good, and when somebody doesn't cooperate and steps out of line, they will be punished in love by whatever means are necessary, even if it means putting them into a mental institution or on drugs and completely messing up their lives. In Love!
I have noticed that all of us "exes," who are outside are called 'KIT people'. Could somebody please explain to me what 'a KIT person' is? I would like to know. From my experience of 'exes' whom I have met, they are all as different as chalk and cheese, and a good job that is too. Just imagine if we all thought the same how boring it would be. It would not be worth having a KIT conference because we would all agree and have nothing to discuss. It seems to me an interesting point that if half the people who are on the B'hof were outside and half of us outsiders were inside, then the insiders would still all be the 'goodies' and the outsiders would still be the 'baddies.'
The B'hof also uses KIT as a very convenient enemy. In an authoritarian or totalitarian regime, the leaders often will use an outside enemy to unite its people and, if necessary, an imagined enemy, often starting a war on a trumped-up charge. The Communists used similar ideas to stay in power. They would make out that everything in the west was wicked and bad, and by controlling what people were told or what they heard, they could control the people. I believe the B'hof uses similar methods. The B'hof also has its "security department," rather like the KGB. Another result of using KIT or all outside people as being so terribly evil is that then the people there are scared to leave even if they want to. Luckily, Ruthy wanted to leave strongly enough, and had enough trust in her family outside.
I know of many non-KIT people who have been cut off from their own families on the B'hof. These people often have especially not become involved with KIT or with people involved with KIT, but have still been cut off for no reason, so they feel doubly punished. They have sacrificed friendships so they can keep a contact with family members on the B'hof, and then they still are cut off from their own family by the B'hof. We know it is the B'hof hierarchy doing it, because people there have no choice of their own.
Some people there do have a sense of humor, though. We received an invitation from them to attend a conference at Darvell called "The Wind Blows" for 18-30-year-olds. I feel quite flattered, as my age is over 50. They are so keen to have us that they sent us two invitations! Greetings,
I can understand, being a parent now myself, the stake parents would have in finding any way possible to pass off accountability for the losses and abuses suffered by the children of the bruderhof onto the group-mind and the elders. And also to make much of their own suffering in place of this. Maybe some of this is even true. Also, it's hopefully true that we do the best we can with the knowledge we have at the time. But as adults and parents, I think we have responsibility to children everywhere in any way possible and our own in particular. It does not save us from learning our lessons to try to pretend we are as innocent and vulnerable as children are. It doesn't redeem us to minimize their suffering or our part in it in order to maximize our own suffering or use it to hide behind to avoid our responsibility toward them. Neither time, distance nor their growing up absolves us from accountability for the harm we caused or allowed to come to them when they were too small to protect themselves.
The hopeful thing for me, in learning all this through my children and our evolving relationships and the children around me, is that it's never too late so long as we are alive, to make amends; to heal what is past but continues to damage them and our connection with them. We can ask to hear their viewpoints and really listen until they feel heard. We can give respect for what they see and knew because of what happened to them. We recognize and acknowledge the ways we allowed them to be endangered by ourselves and others. We can give them truthful information about their history. I never got any of this from my own parents. They were always too busy abdicating, dissembling and scrambling to cover themselves from their own accountability. That only leaves disconnection. There can be no reunion so long as they are saving and protecting themselves by sacrificing the physical and mental (etc.) health of their children. That would not be unlike if the Children of Israel (COI) left the children on the sea floor between the dividing great waters to run for the safe shore, because pharaoh's army was getting close or the waters seemed too high. Maybe believers would say, "Of course somebody's god would have come through and gathered the children to her bosom." But guess what? No one did that for us. My parents died running away.
Most of the "cult awareness" I hear about is from the perspective of those recruited as adults. They often go into counselling others, carrying their own agendas about what happened and what to believe and the purpose of healing without facing their own participation in the "cult abuse." Their children have been raised and formed in the image and shadow of the ideal, "utopian vision" that the adults delude themselves they're signing on for. With their eyes on the prize, and until it begins to tarnish for them, they do not see what happens to the children. Now that we try to communicate our experiences through KIT, the AOB (Adults of the Bruderhof) run for cover, or hide behind the "apologists," or put up walls of rationales it's too tiring to try to surmount or decipher.
Alongside this, there is something interesting and strange mirroring of cult behavior in KIT too. I suppose it's SOB imprinting we are bound to be carriers of. But we are not bound to mindlessly and dutifully perpetuate it. There are the designated power holders and their helpers, such as the founder and early acolytes, and the power-by-kinship to SOB power families. These people are deferred to and coddled by those who have no other hope of entering the inner circle, so have to stay as close as possible to gain reflected power by being experts and informers, and otherwise making themselves indispensable to the inner sanctum. There are the apologists who pretend to walk the line between factions openly, but really speak for the power-that-be as they see them and as they excuse and evade. There are the "cool and objective" observers who disguise themselves in academic garble and profess to have no agenda of their own and none but the purest intentions. There are those broken in other ways and angry, minimized as crazies, agitators, pathetics, etc., who can't be taken seriously. There are the ebb and flow masses between them who tell interesting and unthreatening stories. There are the uncertain humorists. There are plenty of others, but these are some of the most obvious ones to me.
By participating in perpetuating this mirror image of what we've "come out of," we all continue to lose connection with ourselves and each other. Its proof of the effectiveness of the SOB's thought-control methods that this still goes on in our relations with each other through KIT. The vindication of the SOB's boardinghouse-reach power over us is also evident in the susceptibility of many ex-members to the SOB's pretense at "dialogue" and "deep, real concern," etc. I don't see how anyone can believe in their sincerity after all they've done and are still doing. Their influence shows also in our lack of boundaries with each other -- getting easily hooked into thinking we can, should, need or have the right to fix, speak for, or elder each other. There may be no official "KIT group," but still there is the shadow of one made apparent by scapegoating of individuals deemed disagreeable, "evil," pathetic, and so on, and then the isolation of these: "blame the victim, dress them up in all your worst fears, and get rid of them, one way or another, believing you thereby get rid of bad influence." It's easier than hearing them out and acknowledging that each one holds a part of the whole view.
There is the similar "favours system," where as long as you feel you need and are getting so much from the "group" or powerholders you are beholden. For some of us, our critical thinking breaks down at all points where we try to communicate in any form of the "group," because it's patterned after the one we grew up at the mercy of (no mercy). For others, thinking in this setting becomes hypercritical. It's disablingly subjective or enablingly objective. To be let back into inclusion, one is required to allow oneself to believe that one needs the "group," that we're all some happy family rather than a bunch of really different people with some shared history. There are the "special tour" conferences where those who show themselves to be happy graduates are made welcome by "the all," and those who are not part of this show of fun communion, contented campers and well-adjusted survivors are marginalized and over-ridden once again. Thought reform is not always so overt as the SOB's. It doesn't need to be to have its effect, especially with those who have been formed and trained by it already. "One of the cult's main arguments is that thought reform does not exist." (CAN Conference report). I've had some connection with CAN since it began, so I do have some idea of what I'm talking about beyond my SOB childhood.
It seems to me that many people who were adults in the SOB, or who grew to be adults there, still "smother their natural, nurturing and follow the parenting (eldering) rules..." in order to remain in good standing rather than be excluded by the perceived inner group. It would seem that no one would want to be abandoned or marginalized by others who had some similar experiences of a life that no longer exists but in our various memories. I know I don't. And as angry and despaired as some people who write to KIT get me, I wouldn't wish this on anyone else either (to be marginalized, etc.). I think we need equal access to each other in any way it's possible, especially the children of the bruderhof.
I have to believe that if it was really understood by the AOB and ALOCOB (Allies of the Children of the Bruderhof), the people who joined as adults and people who are allies of people who were children in the bruderhof do not have, and perhaps cannot really know, the experiences and effects of this on people who were children in the bruderhof, then there would be no self-appointing or "apologist"-appointing to COB of those who were not children in the bruderhof. Then there would be little going off half-cocked for one's own reasons in the name of COB, because people who were children in the bruderhof are more likely to have a realistic idea of the repercussions of any outside rattling of their cage on the children who are currently in the bruderhof and their families. People who were children in the bruderhof have enough to deal with without being held accountable for the actions of people who weren't (PWW) and feel compelled to take under their own advice or for their own amusement in the name of COB, or whomever other acronym.
Sorry to spell this so redundantly, but I still feel like none of this is adequately being taken seriously. To me, that's why people who were in the past and are now COB and children in the Bruderhof (CIB) are continuing to bear the brunt and repercussions for people who didn't really understand what it's like and what might be the consequences of half-baked and insufficiently-informed actions in the name of COB, no matter how well-intentioned.
It's not my intention to hurt anyone by writing this. I apologize for any pain my words may cause that doesn't lead to some recognition or insight. Maybe it's worthwhile to at least consider the applicability of any words or ideas that cause pain or anger. If it doesn't apply, then don't concern yourselves about any of this, as it's just a-musing if it's not true for you. It does seem true to me. This is my current and abiding viewpoint, and not necessarily that of the management.
The little professor talk of Leonard Pavitt's friends is great and makes me laugh and sigh. I often like reading KIT, when I can stand it, and usually learn something, howsomever excruciating. I especially like the Primavera reminiscences.
"Gently stealing with promise comes the spring, brings life to each living thing..." song from the English bruderhof adults from my Isla class. I do remember all the many song I learned in Primavera. It's so interesting the differences in what people chose or are compelled to remember, and what forms we carry our memories in. Blessed be,
If we draw up battle lines between KIT and the Community, then surely a battle will follow. And you can count me out, for one. KIT has helped me enormously -- I don't know where I'd be without it. But if, as Christrose suggests, it is slipping into becoming an organization, or even becoming closely associated with one, I'm gone. Airing our memories has been possible through KIT, and that privilege has a value beyond measure. Yes, they are just memories, but their actual accuracy is not as important as the ongoing damage caused by them, and how one's present lifestyle is limited and distorted by them.
My family was asked to leave Oak Lake in January, 1965. We were told on Saturday and drove to Ulster Park, near Woodcrest, on the Monday immediately after. My overbearing father set the rules right from Day One. We were to continue to adhere strictly to the community lifestyle, right down to the very last detail. We even had to have Family Meeting at 9:30 every Sunday morning! He had Mum as his ally and spy, totally loyal and devoted, reporting back to him every slip-of-the-tongue, every casual gesture, and any spontaneous glance or remark. There would follow a mini-brotherhood meeting in the evening when my father would list all the sins we had committed, tell us that our thoughts and our behavior were not in the right spirit, and then read a long passage from Blumhardt, Guardini, Eberhardt, or similar. Then we would sing Kein Schone Land or some such, which basically meant nothing to me and just emphasized the fact that I didn't have a clue what was going on.
There were never any relaxed conversations amongst us: we were all stiff with trying to force ourselves into a mold we couldn't see or understand. My parents also put up invisible barricades between themselves and local people, and took full advantage of the fact that our house had a tall hedge/woods all around it. Mum did make a few friendly gestures to the neighbors, but these, without exception, were nipped in the bud by Dad. As they were both non-American aliens, neither of my parents had anyone they could contact from their previous lives. If there had been anyone, it would have made no difference anyway. Dad would only speak to Bruderhof members, and expected his family to follow suit.
My brothers and I were enrolled at Kingston High where the Woodcrest kids went. Of course we travelled on a different school bus, but shared a lot of classes with Woodies. For me, not terribly bright at the best of times, the change of school in mid-January was desperately traumatic. The academic standards at Kingston were far higher than at Uniontown where I started high school. Whole chunks went missing. For example, in Pennsylvania we were doing Medieval times, and when I got to Kingston we were supposed to write analytical essays on Bismarck! The gross negligence of the adults responsible for my education and emotional welfare just screams out at me almost daily, even now, over 30 years later. Their silence and ignorance is just as evident now as ever. Just as painful and just as unrecognized. What could they have possibly been thinking of? I hadn't even been able to empty my locker at Uniontown! Just whisked away between going home on Friday, all unsuspecting, and the beginning of school the following Monday. Who doesn't know that 16 is a precarious age, fraught with loneliness, anxieties, and fear of the unknown? Yet, nobody talked to me. Nobody explained. And to this day, nobody has apologized.
The Kingston teachers were sympathetic and genuinely worried about me. Several approached me in private and offered individual help. But I couldn't share with them, partly because I didn't know myself what was wrong, and also because I felt I would be betraying my parents. I was totally in awe of them and accepted all their decisions without question. It would have been wicked to discuss the situation out of their hearing. Over and over again, I had it pointed out to me that any negative feelings of mine were simply the result of egoism and self-pity, and showed that my heart was full of the wrong spirit. So self-hate, even loathing, set in. I was some sort of low worm who found it difficult to rejoice in the Lord (impossible, even) and covered in dirt at everyone else's feet.
During the first year, my brother and I were supposed to be members of the Woodcrest High School Group. But after two unfortunate incidents, which were both actually just simple misunderstandings, I was told that my presence would no longer be acceptable. I was not to go onto hof territory any more, which brought a great sense of relief. The more devastating aspect was that none of the Woodies were ever to speak to me at the high school, nor me to them.
It took me about 12 years to even begin to sort myself out after this cold, cruel treatment. I entered adulthood as a great big Nobody. Nearly six feet tall, with auburn hair and freckles, I accepted that I was ugly physically. I could not accept being ugly inside no personality: just a squiggling mass of stinking maggots who moved aimlessly and randomly about. That's what the inside of me felt like. No purpose, no rhyme or reason to anything. On a practical level, I was abandoned to life totally unprepared. I had absolutely no knowledge or experience of shopping, cooking, hair styling, make up, handling money, socializing, making friends, or any of the thousands of little things we're all supposed to pick up along the way. I didn't even know what to wear, as I'd always been told.
Having been taught for so long that my role in life was to be invisible and unheard, I was pathetically vulnerable once out in the big, wide world. If anyone did notice me, I would grovel with gratitude and immediately relate to them in a far too familiar manner. It was almost as though I had an infant's mentality in a grown body. Everywhere I went, I tried to adopt people. I looked for fathering from any friendly male. Far too easily, I would begin to pour out my heart, trying to make up for all those silent years in a few short hours. This went on for years, and if it hadn't been for my beloved aunt in England, it might well be happening still. Innocence is always spoken of in a positive way, but there is no place for it in the modern world.
On a different note, I would like to respond to Mike Caine's letter in the same issue of KIT. Please don't tar all Americans with the same brush. My parents were living in Syracuse, NY, in 1954, and joined Woodcrest from there. They had no money and no previous association with any community or commune of any kind. Neither of them was American. My father originally came from Saint John, New Brunswick, and had been a soldier in the Canadian Army during World War II. My mother was British and came from Brighton in Sussex. They had only lived in the U.S. for about two years before joining Woodcrest, and in all their years in the Community, they never came across anyone whom they had known previously. My parents knew nothing about the Society of Brothers before their introduction to it in the autumn of 1954. The first Brothers they met told my parents to start packing their bags with a view to moving to Wheathill, as my mother was English. They would happily have done so if it haven't been for suddenly being told about the new American hof, to be called 'Woodcrest.' Right from the beginning, they meekly did as they were told. They couldn't have helped to destroy Primavera because they'd never even heard of it.
I hope this doesn't sound unkind, but I do feel that there is a clique of KITfolk who knew Primavera and Wheathill. The rest of us suffer for the "sins of the fathers" -- we inherit the stigma of having helped to destroy those early hofs. Please examine your own inner thoughts on this as I would dearly like to be proven wrong. With very best wishes to all,
My own experience with you and the Bruderhof is certainly more recent than that of Ramon and perhaps even of Dr. Julius Rubin --with whom you so generously intended to share your recent letter. I can even recall the night we first had an opportunity to meet, December 14th 1994, when I surprised you and Joe Keiderling in a Bruderhof van outside my residence - at a time when my wife and daughter were home alone. When I discovered you there, Joe drove away at a good clip, attempting to conceal his identity.
Let me stress we had the opportunity to meet December 14th but your rapid departure, after being found outside my home, prevented that from taking place. Joe later took exception to a strongly worded letter from me to both of you indicating I had filed a police report in regards to your visit. He felt my concerns were unjustified.
Perhaps you didn't know at the time that was I aware of unannounced visits to the unoccupied homes of other former members of the Bruderhof who later discovered personal records and files to be missing. And, as you so clearly know, I personally saw a wiretap in place in the home of an ex-Bruderhofer right here in Maryland. I am certain I made my position clear in my letters to each of you -- I will do everything in my power to have you (and/or Joe) arrested for harassment and trespass if you ever come to my home unannounced again.
Later that week, you both told me you simply intended to come "calling" but realized at the last minute you had failed to "call ahead." That was in December, 1994. In July 1995, however, you told a reporter in Kingston, NY that your real purpose in being outside my home was to determine if I was harboring a fugitive from justice.
I later established the "fugitive" in question, the one you were seeking (who are you guys anyway, bounty hunters?) was Jason Barton. As you will recall, Jason shared his story (KIT VII #11, Nov. 1996, p. 8) of homosexual assault, allegedly at the hands of four different Bruderhof men -- beginning at age seven. If you had found Jason that night, what would you have done with him to keep him quiet??
Now, we both know the Bruderhof doesn't condone homosexual behavior any more than it does gossip. You indicated your displeasure about homosexuality, in fact, in your letter of April 8th, stating that Ramon had left the Bruderhof "in order to engage in sexual activities with both women and men."
Therefore, it appears to me that reporting sexual assaults of this nature to secular authority may not be Bruderhof policy. I challenge you now to speak out on behalf of the Bruderhof (you seem to speak for them in so many forums) and clearly and openly tell us what that policy shall be from this point forward. You have an excellent opportunity here to mend fences with me on this matter and to disarm one of my prime concerns about today's children of the Bruderhof.
Christian, I could attempt to cover each of the paragraphs in your letter, but it would simply take too long. Just the same, I have never seen a letter so much filled with hate as yours was of April 8th. That really surprises me as you so often speak of your Christian way of life. I am really sorry you feel as you do towards Ramon, Julius and me.
To sum up, I will not stand by doing nothing when either I or my friends perceive threats from any quarter. I am not going to stand idly by when children anywhere are subject to sexual abuse of any sort when, in order to prevent embarrassment to any church, those abuses are not immediately reported to the police.
I am not going to grovel for "permission" to visit our family when that permission is grounded in intimidation and coercion designed to still the very questions and issues raised herein. And as long as the least of us is denied visitation, we have determined our family will not visit the Bruderhof, nor will our voices be stilled.
That which you have told my wife's parents has poisoned our relationship with them, and we are not the only ones to have undergone this demonization. What you have done to families is morally and ethically wrong -- and un-Christian. This policy must be reversed, and you should start now.
Reflecting on our meeting at the botanical gardens in May, I must say your remarks about having alibis for certain times and events, and observations that the police can't do anything for lack of sufficent evidence. is a pretty poor commentary on the depth of your belief in Christian behavior. It would seem to me to be an unusual religion that depends on alibis and lack of proof for protection from the consequences of the actions undertaken by the members of that religion. Just be sure you know the alibis are in place; the day will inevitably come when they will be needed. Guaranteed!
There are those in the KIT readership who have questioned the wisdom of my inflexible approach to the Bruderhof during the last two years, and I understand their concerns. Those who have questioned my response to the provocations you have presented still don't know the whole story, but they are now realizing that those who have done absolutely nothing have suffered exactly the same consequences as our family has undergone.
Christian, let me remind you of a line from one of my favorite gospel songs. "You can't be a beacon if your light don't shine." And, right now, "Your light don't shine!"
I must tell you that, in spite of all, I like you personally (Joe Keiderling as well) and earnestly hope that we can someday meet as friends, share some stories from the "bad old days" and have a chuckle or two in the process. I'll remind you here that it's your turn to buy! It would also be gratifying if my wife could visit with her parents before they die and my daughter could again have a chance to love the only grandparents she has ever known.
It could be worked out. For everyone. Love,
Comparatively few will give enough thought to religious fanatics to interest themselves in cultic problems. This vast majority, according to the Arnold cannon, haven't seen the light of his message yet -- they're the unploughed ground. To say, "I've heard of this and it's fine with me for you to choose it," is to be on thorny ground already. The prophet is not accepted in his own neighborhood. If you have been there and left, you cannot become neutral in their mind set. Any talk about them without knowledgeable interaction with things now makes one the enemy. Of course one can be absolved of enemy activity by admitting an evil spirit and becoming cleansed. The problem, then, is that such an unquestionable explanation leaves no place for social accountability. Is this all about being friends, not enemies?
Still, to have friends "outside" whom you don't try to rescue from capitalism, to whom you don't try explaining "Community," and so have omitted witnessing for Arnold purity is to be "sitting on the fence" -- very bad. What are my values? There's no sense in trying to be assertive about what I don't know for sure. To the best of my recollections, my parents' purpose was Christian social interaction every day, with self-discipline. For the second generation, disciplinary rules were a confusing invasion of privacy. The high ideal of a socially accountable government by the people was usurped by redefining community. Children were expected to behave for their own safety during long reprogramming, communal meetings. It was the end of parental rights, and now I cannot say for sure what my rights are as a parent. Does it take a village to raise a child?
If you grew up there as I did, and you tell people about some things that were lovely. you may be told, "That's nice," or maybe, "Very interesting." And watch out for, "Why don't you go back?" When you tell folk about problems you saw there, you will probably be told to "forget it and move on." Sometimes I think my values have been smashed by the Arnold redefining philosophy of God's Revolution. I don't see how my parents could have accepted that redefined vocabulary. I think there is great danger of redefining. I think there were two languages in my upbringing, that of my parents and that of the group. My parents' use of biblical terms was not the same as the group implications. How can I find a dialogue of meaningful structure? How can I move on and become as neutral as those who advise me? I must be able to use words to make myself understood. Neutrality can so easily become unexplainable apathy. How can I commit myself without explaining what I think?
It is easy to give advice with little thought. For those who are given to mulling over this commune business that was originally a work of peace, it is not easy to stop -- take the advice and move on. Can there be a war to end war?
Trying to be neutral is of course the only way to carry on. But to stop thinking about it is to be in the grave And when, in the course of survival endeavors, you are faced with recruiting either directly or indirectly, it is the same question: "Are you for us or against us?" With neutrality as my intention, it's still painful to hear about the challenge of decisive hof life. How can I confront what I believe to be hof deception and deceit? In the most neutral attitude possible, I must say, "I'm against your recruitment work because I consider it devious. You make a life commitment seem quite easy, with an invitation to try out, and you can't even honor your vows to each other." Do they really believe in each other enough to still recruit? The effort to pinpoint those who are against them must be necessary to avoid the more painful questions of how they are for and against each other.
Maybe what forces polarization is instinctively avoided as long as individuals realize that they have choices in how to love. I would still like to believe (in communism of love) that Christian communes are possible. On the other hand, no group commitment can be more important than marriage. And obviously a spouse cannot eliminate or try to degenerate parenting instincts and still be a partner. A child cannot be obligated to a group that eliminated and decimated various choices of how to love within different family dynamics. And I'm well aware of the perplexity of friendship on the hof that, not voiced, has become a psychosis that tranquilizers cannot cure. But I cannot repent anyone else's belief system. (to be continued)
But today I want to reflect a bit on the expression "self-destruction" (short for 'suicide') which is mentioned once in a while in connection with the B'hof. "They are on a self-destructive path." That may not be correctly expressed. It may be correct for the "devoted" followers, those who work all their lives for nothing (expressed in U.S. $) and only work for a promise they get from their leaders that if they do what they are told to do, they get a reservation in Paradise after they are dead! And in the meantime, the leaders get richer (expressed in U.S. $). I do honestly admire the tremendous devotion of those concerned to work like slaves all their lives and all they receive during their lifetime is food and clothing, just enough to stay alive and -- what is important -- to stay on as devoted members. After all, the promise to receive that place in Paradise after they are dead is in the contract!
When I was working for Coca Cola, a colleague of mine told me: "You know, Hans, being employed and staying employed at a multinational company is self-destruction. They pay you a good enough wage to stay one, but load you with responsibility which, in the long run, you can't cope with. Not if you are honest. You overstress yourself and end up with, at least, one hell of a stomach ulcer, which means the early end of your life. Now, if you are stupid enough to kill yourself for the Company, OK. At least you can enjoy life in your spare time with the money you get."
Now on the Bruderhof, no money, no spare time, just work, responsibility, stress, etc., and then -- the end! But a chair in Paradise, so J.C.A. promises!?! And if that isn't a lie, tell me another! The Big Socrates supposedly said, "I am not afraid of death. I am just curious to see what I find on the other side." I supposed he meant that he was curious to see if there is any truth in what wise guys say will happen on the other side. The Brazilian says, "It must be very much better on the other side because no one has come back yet to complain!" Faith, boy, faith!
All I am trying to get at is that in my case at Coca Cola, it wasn't the Company who cares about me killing myself for them. They paid me at the end of each month. The Bruderhof is anxious to see you die for them before you get your wage. What wage? A saying I learned a long time ago I never forgot: Those who know and know that they know, follow! Those who know not and know not that they know not, ought to be shot!" I am being unfair with J.C.A. I think he knows that he doesn't know.
Dear Bette, your last paragraph in KIT VIII #4 April '96, p. 2: in essence I agree with you. In German you said Der Mensch ist kein Gemeinschaftstier," which means roughly "A human being is not a herd animal," -- although you seem to have a problem. You actually are "allergic to anything like community." I would say that a community on a voluntary basis with the money shared out equally to all members -- and no Gemeindestunden (brainwashing) -- sounds good, doesn't it? If we should get rich, we would all get rich and not only the Founder of such a community, and his family! We all fly a Gulfstream jet or we don't fly at all!! There is one thing worse than self-destruction and that is the destruction of the whole of humanity, not with an atom bomb, no, but with J.C.A.'s thesis that he writes in his book. I haven't got the book, but I read excerpts in The Plough. It's all about pure or holy sex the way everybody should do it, in his opinion. What I am worried about is, if we really take J.C.A.'s word and try and do sex the way he prescribes it, it won't work. Purely the mechanical aspect of practicing, see, it won't work. It won't function! And if we don't get it to function, there won't be any more offspring, so humanity will go extinct! That is not a joke! That's what J.C.A. suggests and, as he is the biggest liar I ever met, it makes me wonder if J.C.A. is trying to swindle us into doing something that is completely impossible, to get all of us under his control again? Or is he completely out of his mind? He has children of his own. He couldn't have done that in the same holy way as he is trying to indoctrinate us!!!
By the way, the murderous weapon (Magnum .44) episode has not finished, as J.C.A. tries to convince us (indirectly). I would only be satisfied -- and that is only -- if I could receive a photocopy of some document in KIT from the same sheriff who issued his gun license and we all saw it in KIT, stating the hand-back of his license to the sheriff!!! In the meantime, I am convinced that J.C.A. still carries his gun under his armpit, ready to shoot anybody crossing his way. Not me, that's for sure, and I think I am faster on the draw! I always tried to figure out what my father (Hans Meier) would think or say about the 'shooter' that his Elder carries around. I think if he knew about it, he would turn himself in his grave at least as fast as a ventilator!
A short message to my brother Andreas: "Don't worry. I won't send any more letters to you, as you promised to me to send all of my letters back to me unopened." Isn't he a stinker!
Okay, here I finish. My problem is that from my writing to KIT and posting my letter, to the moment I get a response back, it takes easily 82 days! Paciencia! 5/12/96: Thank you for sending the KIT 1994 Annual, I received it only recently, and am trying to read it in one 'go,' but have to stop always short of getting dizzy. Too many facts!
Here's a little message to anyone in the B'hof reading my letter: As a neutral KIT reader, and for that matter, a Plough reader, I would like to remind any such reader that most of what is written in KIT, if it is criticism, you had better consider it "constructive" criticism towards any individual inside the B'hof, but definitely "destructive" criticism against the setup the way it is!
I would like to ask J.C.A., the one who insists that the words written in KIT are lies, what is the different between: a) words written or said about things actually experienced -- words you can prove, or b) words that have no hands or feet -- which cannot be proven, most of which originate from 2000 years ago, however beautiful they may sound?
You who like to guide your "followers" to your -- plans? -- by threatening them with what you suppose you know about what will happen to them in the future if they don't obey, let me tell you a clever little fact: "The future does not exist! If the future existed, it would be 'present,' and as it isn't 'present,' it doesn't exist!" Sorry, prophets! I don't call you liars. You told your verses 2000 years ago, as I learned at school. I don't know if it is true you ever said such stuff! The only thing we can expect from our 'future' is: if we are no good in this life, we are sure to be no better in the next! J.C.A., you don't know the future, I don't know the future, nobody knows the future! But this time I didn't want to get involved with B'hof problems. I would much more like to get in touch with Dr. Annita B. Jones, licensed psychologist, I find on page 70 of the KIT 1994 Annual. That is, I find her offer to any ex-B'hofer to volunteer to help her on some survey about possible traumas left over from our time at the B'hof. This can be done all via KIT. If you could give her a message from me, if her offer is still open, I volunteer! I'll probably have an interesting little story I experienced while I was a baptized member on the B'hof.
To KIT staff: I very much appreciate your effort to convert my Engish-spelling into English-english spelling. It definitely reads better! With a good conscience, I would sign the leaflet you sent with the Annual with a very good written compact writing about the tremendous "crap" the leaders of the B'hof produce! So, with a bit of luck, the next time we'll look into some of the psychological problems that occur on the B'hof, provoked by the so-called leaders. Thanks,
Unfortunately, there appear to be very few signs of spring in the May issue of KIT. Indeed, the icy wind of Christian Domer is trying only to push spring further away. He seems not to realize that spring is inevitable, and that the great wall of ice that the Bruderhof leaders are trying to build to keep away those despised KITters will have to melt sooner or later. While this issue of KIT has little in the way of good news, I so want to congratulate the staff on their clever April Fool's joke! Count me in as one of the readers who wants to keep the April Fool's page of KIT as a balance to all the negative stuff.
Our family is looking forward to the summer holidays: I am nearing the end of another year of teaching music and whatever, and in dire need of a rest; our daughter Erinn is finishing grade 11, while our son Eben is trying to find a summer job in Hartford, CT, to support his studies at Mt. Allison University in Sackville, N.B. My wife Karen is still working part time at the local hospital, but we fear that she may soon lose her job because of looming cutbacks, and her lack of seniority.
Our niece, Clara Arnold, who has been living with us for the past six months, is also hoping to find a job in the U.S. once she finishes school here next month. Clara is 18 and is the eldest daughter of Lukas and Linda. She left the Bruderhof with their reluctant consent less that two years ago to live with her great aunt and uncle in Florida. She has endured some difficult years on the hofs and was unable to mesh into the community life. Life on the outside has not been easy for her either, but she was able to earn her high school diploma through correspondence school. Clara then attended the Froebel Institute in Mississauga, Ontario, last fall, but decided that Early Childhood Education was not really to her liking, and found the school's emphasis on religion only reminded her of the Bruderhof. The Bruderhof refused to help her financially, and she did not want her relatives to pay for an education that she did not like, so she left Froebel and came here to live with us. We were able to obtain Clara a student visa so she could attend high school, and she has been doing a fine job academically. Unfortunately she cannot get a job in Canada on this visa, so we are hoping to find her a job and a place to live close to someone who can give her the support she needs.
Clara has not heard from her parents since Christmas, when she received the same patented instructions that others in KIT have written about, not to contact her family as long as she had any association with KIT, or with people who associate with KIT. (What was that promise that Christoph made again?)
Along with the rest of the world, KIT is continuing to evolve as it matures and situations change. Most would surely agree that things are quite different today to what they were when KIT first started, as were the early KIT conferences compared to the most recent ones. If KIT were a sailboat, I would say that its crew has done a rather good job of sailing through uncharted waters while being buffered by gale force winds of criticism from both sides. The boat is still afloat, and KIT's integrity is still intact. We, the readers of KIT, also have a responsibility to stay abreast of developments and to be sensitive when new requirements appear. With more people leaving the Bruderhof these days, it is particularly important that we avoid interfering with the efforts made by the host families or those closest to the situation, as Andy Harries pointed out. After all, helping new leavers is one of the aims of KIT. Thanks to the friends who have given us and Clara a helping hand! Cheers,
One should quickly review the geographical location of Primavera and why it would be host to jaguars and pumas for such a long time. Primavera to the south was bordered by a wide impenetrable everglade-like swamp, teaming with yacares (caimans) large constrictor snakes, nutrias and carpinchos (capybara -- a large guinea pig). The main water source for this swamp was the river Tapiraguay which had its origin in the foothills of the Paraguayan cordillera of Amambay and Mbaracayu. The river entered the relatively flat lands just west of Santani and north of the Schmeling Estancia. The jungle of Monte Jaime extended itself from our southern boundary running east/west all the way to just west of Santani, with the river Tapiraguay flowing along its southern edge, or meandering through a wide swamp which continued all the way to the main river Paraguay 70 to 80 miles to the west.
The Tapiraguay at times got totally lost in the swamp and high reeds, but occasionally it would open up for a few miles along the jungle's edge, as it did along Monte Jaime and all along the south end of Monte Riveros which kind of formed the spine of Primavera. A little brook called Ihu in the village of Vaca Hu, east of our property, fed into the Tapiraguay, flowing along the north side of Monte Jaime through Campo Dolores, past Isla Guazu down into Campo Invernada and then into the Tapiraguay. At the level of Monte Abebo just where the sliver of Campo Carapei entered Campo Invernada, the swamps started and it was barely possible at that point to reach Monte Jaime on horseback. Only during severe time of drought , when the Ihu had run dry, was one able to cross at that point with a wagon or log-carrying alzaprima. Monte Jaime was also spotted with many potreros (open grassland surrounded by jungle), making it ideal for all kinds of wildlife.
On the western border of our property, where the Mennonite Colony of Friesland was located, we were separated by a wide strip of jungle, I believe it was Monte Tapere, which also extended itself down to the Tapiraguay swamp. In between Monte Riveros and Tapere lay the grassland Guana, which provided an open view from Loma Hoby south to the swamps of Tapiraguay. The first settlements of Primavera, Loma Hoby and Isla Margarita where located near the northern end of the property, leaving the southern jungles, grass lands and swamps in relative quiet and untouched isolation. In this setting, wildlife could still flourish unmolested for many years. It included an abundance of deer, wild pigs (curei and javalin), agouti, agoutipai, tapir, coati, raccoons, anteaters, porcupine, several types of armadillos, small rabbits, apereas (small guinea pigs), monkeys, and in the swamps, nutria and carpinchos. Add to this the various predators: foxes, aguarai and an aguara guazu, weasel, opossums, ocelots, pumas and -- the king of the South American jungle -- the jaguar.
In the swamps and rivers there were the yacares and a large snake called curiyu, a relative of the anaconda, growing up to 15 feet in length. There were of course many, many other snakes, poisonous but mostly non-poisonous, large and smaller ones, jungle snakes and grassland snakes. The place was a paradise for birds and I will not attempt to mention them except for those which were a possible catch for predators such as the small and large grassland quail and their exact opposite, the small and large jungle hens, the larger similar but plumper than the American grouse. There was also the Ipaca and the Chirigote, with a few wild turkeys. All these birds could fly but spent most of their time on the ground and with that, were easier prey to predators. During the first few years, jaguars were frequently sighted. I vaguely remember that after a jaguar had killed an ox, someone build a tree stand, waited for him to come back to feed at the carcass, and shot him. It was either Wilhelm Fischer or Adolf Braun, with a Mauser (German army rifle) that Rutenberg, the previous owner of Primavera, had left behind. The dead tiger was brought to the Hof, but we kids were either too afraid to go close, or were not allowed to see it. I was too small to remember the details, however it left us scared. We thought tigers were everywhere.
Wilhelm Fischer worked with the cattle together with some other men from the Bruderhof. We also had our native gauchos with Feli, the capataz, being in charge of them. Wilhelm loved the outdoors, was a knowledgeable hunter and had a special gift to tell hunting stories, and to embellish them into what we call in German, Jaeger Latain.
Here are two of his stories:
"One day while herding cattle on the Campo Guana, about 2-1/2 miles south of Loma Hoby, we discovered a natural salt lick just at the edge of the jungle. It was a quiet and secluded spot shielded from the open campo by two islands of woods now known as the Tieger Waeldchens. (Years later at the northern end of the larger island, a succession of excluded brothers would dig a tacamar (watering hole) later to be called the Wally Tacamar, after Walter Bennett). I inspected the salt lick and noticed many tracks of deer and wild pigs. A tree close by with strong low branches, about 12 feet off the ground was ideal for a tree stand, so I thought this should be easy picking to shoot a deer or wild pig. The following Saturday I had no special duties, so here was an opportunity to try my luck at the salt lick. I saddled my horse, shouldered the Mauser rifle, for ammunition two cartridges should be enough, so off I rode.
"I followed down the middle of the Campo Guana, riding south and around the two wooded islands in order to approach the salt lick from the south since the was wind blowing from the north. I tied up my horse to a tree in the lower island, and then crossed the 400 meters of open grass to the jungle by foot, approaching the salt lick from down wind. I climbed the tree next to the salt lick, and made myself as comfortable as possible. I wanted to light a cigar to fend off the ever-present mosquitoes but decided against it because the smoke might alert the wild life, so I only chewed at its end. By now it was close to 4:30 PM. The sun would set around 6:30 PM, so this gave me about 2 hours of daylight. The native deer start to forage around this time in late afternoon and come out of their hiding places. It was a warm summer evening, the droning of the large black cicada coming from the jungle's edge, the eerie call of the large woodhen could be heard off and on, with the occasional shrieking of a small monkey in the jungle.
"The only birds still making noise were the various types of parrots flying high and off to their nightly nesting places. Otherwise it was quiet and no noise from civilization could be heard. The mosquitoes were a pest, but I'd be there only until sundown. The salt lick was only 15 yards from my tree and I had a good view of it and the edge of the jungle. After about one hour, I heard rustling in the woods and the slow but gradual approach of an animal. I cocked my rifle, judging by the movement and sound that this must be a deer. The underbrush was too dense to see anything, and there would be no clear shot until the deer would step out into the open. All of a sudden there was a tremendous snort and puffing as the deer bolted away and back into the depths of the jungle. The suddenness of this noise jolted me and I nearly fell off my branch. I could not imagine that the deer had noticed me since it was coming from up wind. What a disappointment! A commotion of this nature normally means that one can forget about any other animal coming into the area for quite a while,. By then it would be dark and I had hoped to be on my way back home.
"Sitting there contemplating my next move, I heard a noise again, like soft but gliding steps coming towards the salt lick. My rifle was still cocked, and at the ready. To my utter surprise, the head of a jaguar eased itself out of the bushes, looked around and then the whole animal came into view. He was a beautiful animal standing there sniffing around and looking out to the campo. I was not sure if I should take a shot at him, having only two cartridges and being more than 2 miles away from home and civilization. I did not have much time to think, a moment later a second jaguar stepped out of the under brush.
"What should I do now? I was partially hidden behind the leaves of the branches and the jaguars were upwind from me and had not noticed my presence. With only two bullets it would have been senseless to shoot one and then possibly the second. I decided to do nothing unless noticed and attacked. The jaguars evidently came to the salt lick as a place to lie in wait for other animals to feed. Once found out, there was no point to hang around anymore. They looked across the grassland towards the wooden islands as one could hear the lowing of cattle in the distance. I was worried that they might take off in that direction and possibly find my horse. They lingered for a while, sniffing around the area, slowly drifting north along the jungles edge, proceeding against the wind. To me all of this seemed an eternity. I wanted to get off that tree before dark, make my way back to my horse and get out of there.
"The jaguars kept on strolling north along the jungle taking their sweet time. When they finally disappeared in the high grass more than 400 meters away, I decided now would be the moment to get down from the tree and make it back to my horse. I slid down the tree, kept bent over so as to avoid being seen against the sky and walked quickly towards my horse, constantly looking north to where the jaguars had vanished, rifle at the ready. By the time I got to my horse, the sun was already down, the noise of the droning cicadas seemed deafening while I was concentrating on possible sounds from the jaguars. My horse must have gotten a whiff of the jaguars because it was nervously moving from side to side. I quickly mounted and galloped towards the open campo where I would be safer. The next mile we went in a steady gallop before slowing down to a trot. I sure was glad to be back on the Hof by 7:30 PM, but late for supper."
Ever since Wilhelm Fischer's adventure that day, the two wooded islands were called "the Tiger Waeldchens," and whenever we passed that spot on the way down to the river Tapiraguay, one could not help but search the edge of the jungle for a possible glimpse of a jaguar.
Another encounter with a jaguar happened about a year later. For anyone who read the book by Roger Allain, The Community That Failed, at one point he writes about a time of severe drought during the earlier years. It was so dry that it was possible to cross the swamps of Campo Invernada to Monte Jaime across from campo Carapei with Alzaprimas to extract logs. This was never possible again for the rest of our stay in Primavera. The drought was so severe that the cattle had to be driven all the way down to the river Tapiraguay to drink because all other watering holes had dried up. From the east, the cattle were driven down Campo Dolores through Campo Invernada along Monte Riveros, through what is normally impassable swamps. The cattle could find water at a location called Canarische Inseln where the first rivulets came out of the main Tapiraguay swamp. From the west, the cattle had to be driven down the Campo Guana, again along the edge of Monte Riveros, skirting the swamp to a spot called Cairo, where the river was wide and open. To tell the story in Wilhelm's own words:
"That particular day, we had driven cattle from the east, down Campo Dolores, and Campo Invernada to the river. Special care had to be given that they would not rush into the deeper swamp in the crush to get at the water. Now that the cattle had found the water, we could let them on their own. They would drink, but then return to Campo Invernada and stay nearby as long as the drought held on. The cattle also would forage in the jungle on shrubs and wild bitter oranges.
"We decided to rest for a while at the main bathing place called the Tauf Stelle, drink terere, and wash the horses . Then we would continue along the river until we emerged again on the west side of Monte Riveros on to Campo Guana. We would spend the night at Anselmos Rancho, our border guard at the southwestern corner of our property. Then we would do a similar drive for the cattle on Campo Guana the following day.
"From the Tauf Stelle, the river runs straight west for about half a mile, moving slightly away from the higher-lying jungle. A narrow strip of trees, Ingas, followed its edge, usually underwater but now high and dry. Here the river makes a right-angle turn back to the jungle, hits the high banks of Liverpool, as we called this spot, and veers off sharply to the left again. The river must have changed course over time because in this right hand turn there was a deep wide-open lagoon, mostly covered with water lilies, and another large-leafed water plant which we called Kamalotten.
"The lagoon is connected by an open channel to the main river at the turn in Liverpool. This leaves an inverted L-shaped peninsula, accessible only from up-river during low water levels. The inaccessibility of the lagoon made it an ideal place for the yacares (caimans) to nest and breed on the peninsula. The yacares also liked to sun themselves on the peninsulas edge, just 30 to 40 feet away from the main land and jungle.
"That day, after we rested at the Tauf Stelle, we saddled up and proceeded west along the river. As we neared Liverpool. the horses started to snort and become very nervous. It was then that we noticed 5 or 6 large yacares lying on the opposite bank on the peninsula. We stopped and marveled at their size, and their apparent disdain of our presence. Feli dismounted, took his machete from the saddle, cut a heavy green branch into 2 foot sections, went to the edge of the channel and pitched the branch at the head of one yacare. With one quick snap the yacare caught the branch and just cracked it in two.
"'Donnerwetter! 'I exclaimed. 'Feli, try that again!'
"Feli tossed another heavy stick with the same result. The commotion caused one yacare to plunge into the water, and the others started to shift around. All of a sudden we heard a deep growl coming from the trees just behind the yacares. We scanned the bushes, and could make out the movement of a tail angrily being whipped around, and only then could we see the shape of a jaguar crouched on a partially fallen tree, well camouflaged, with only his moving tail giving away his location. At the first growl, all the yacares plunged into the water, and with that the jaguar seemed to growl even louder with apparent anger. By now our horses became wild, and wanted to bolt out of there. We had no rifle with us that day to protect us should the jaguar decide to cross the narrow channel and attack us. Jaguars are not afraid of water and are good swimmers. We quickly mounted our horses again and left as quickly as possible, leaving one angry cat behind us. It took a long while before the horses calmed down. That night at Anselmos, Feli recounted a few more stories about jaguars as we were sitting around the camp fire drinking mate."
Wilhelm Fischer had many other interesting hunting stories to tell, but these two stuck in my mind with more details than the others. As for his trusted Mauser rifle, I believe it would end up in the hands of a well-known local hunter by the name of Jose Mello who also worked as a lumberjack for us, cutting down timber through out our forests. I got to meet him many times some years later, while roaming the jungles of Primavera. In fact we would do some hunting together. One night at the Tapiraguay river, Jose Mello was cutting timber in that part of the jungle, and we took him onto our boat. He with his Mauser, Gabriel Arnold with the flashlight, myself in the back paddling the boat quietly down the river, we spotted a large carpincho (guinea pig) sitting on the peninsula at Liverpool. With the light of the flash light blinding the animal we were able to come with in 10 feet, when Jose blew it away with his Mauser. That night we enjoyed carpincho liver and meat instead of trying to harpoon yacares.
May I just say a word to you. You do a valiant job, it is highly regarded. Thanks. I just point out that you joined the Community, you knew the rules and were prepared to pay the cost -- any cost. Rightfully, therefore, you are still within the rules and should be working nonstop to have them upheld, brought up to date, and amended as and when required. I don't know what you do, as I don't know you. It just seems to me there is far too much winging going on generally. (When my parents were getting elderly, I went to see them. I asked, and Dad wrote, "Don't come," but I went anyway. I had a good visit in Woodcrest shortly before Mum died and went to her funeral. For Dad's death, I attended the love meal in Darvell) So one can (or could) do things. I often went to Darvell, and told Merrill about Heini's wrongdoing in Primavera, and mentioned the 623 (?) who were expelled. I did not get anywhere.
Reading KIT, I get the idea that we see the Community almost exclusively in human terms. One point I will make: they live it, we don't. We mostly just yack about it, and them. There are bad things in the Community, bad deeds and bad vibes: to set Interpol onto my little sister is truly horrendous. But the coverage of the Church seems one-sided. I would like to seek, with anyone who will, the true position. You may print this letter. (Publish and be damned!) Anon,
There is not a single teaching in either the Old or the New Testament against masturbation. It is therefore a lie to claim that a Christian must not masturbate! The concept of sexual purity in regards to masturbation is an invention of several fanatic Christian sects, such as the Bruderhof and others, and is of course supported by the Roman Catholic Church that has historically been into sexual obsessions. See, for example, the excellent book, Das Kreuz Mit Der Kirche.
When will this harping on face-to-face meetings end? I'd gladly meet with Domer et al., but I don't have the time nor the money to fly east. Any time, here in Phoenix, I'd be available for such an encounter! Apparently Domer has a fat travel budget and seems to be everywhere except where I can meet him.
I also like Susanna Levy's stuff. She was very stämmig when I knew her in Loma! Karen and Glen Greenwood, Good Luck!!! Hans J. Meier, it's good you are back! Tell all about the secrets of the jungle! How is Lux? Hanz Z to M Caine! That's a truism, but sometimes the heavier hammer drives the spike? Mike, don't let the EuroKIT get under your skin. Diversity is tough, but the only honest thing!
I miss the Hummer! Hope you guys are keeping it lively!? Is Nadine keeping her promise to widen her vocabulary usage?
Now a word to C. Domer. Christian, the veiled threat: "The realization of our best dream will be your worst nightmare" is about as devoid of love as anything anyone could say. In the past, the Bruderhof I knew would have taken you to task on that one. In fact, it would have excluded you for directly violating all admonitions on love. That statement is repugnant, and I dare you to publish it in The Plough. Don't you want your friendly readers of The Plough to know how you treat KITfolk? Where is you witness to love? Do you really believe that your litany of sexual purity is what the bruderhof is all about? Is it your message to the world that your greatest dream will be the worst nightmare of those you hate? Let's meet face-to-face and find out what this visceral hatred is all about. The brothers and sisters I know on the Bruderhof would recoil from your letter and disavow any connection! Love to all,
I have heard that there is freedom of speech in the Kommunity but now there seems to be only freedom of speech for Mr. Welder and another very Christian person. I am not quite sure of his name, but I heard from the Alzaprima friend of mine that this man is very Christian, which after thinking about it, I wonder how it's possible to tell. What do you think, Prof. Denkenlos? Is there a scientific test for this sort of thing? I do not have as much insight, nor contact, with these people as you do. Let me know what you think! Hope to hear from you soon. Deiner Gedenken,
Sometimes, after spending several hours visiting and talking with folk at the Kommunity, I feel on reflection that despite all the trappings of the 20th century, like their cars, sophisticated machinery and the jet plane, etc. it seems, to quote V. S. Naipaul (A Turn in the South, pg. l14) "to belong to another age, to exist in a melancholy time warp. It made me think of the prisons of the spirit men create for themselves and for others -- so overpowering, so much part of the way things appear to have to be."
I can understand, I think, that after one has spent the best part of one's life in such an 'overpowering prison of the spirit,' it must be enormously difficult to see at all objectively. I now understand better the keeping to the 'party line', the lack of personal, spontaneous thinking that one senses when talking to these obviously very intelligent people. I suppose there must be very many things, both negative and positive-seeming, that lead a person to give up his personality, as we see it, and decide for such a life. I have felt the negative side with their preoccupation about the hereafter and their belief in Hell. Watching the 'Comical' video, I was struck by the way in which The Welder affirmed that Hell did exist. It was done with the quiet, assured air of one for whom it would remain a belief only, as he was not personally going to find out whether it actually did or not. In fact I fully expected the next camera shot would show him taking lessons on the harp. I would not have been at all surprised to hear him also affirm his belief that the sun orbited the earth and that Copernicus had been rightly branded a heretic for suggesting otherwise.
I was reminded of something else from Naipaul's Among the Believers (pg. 101) when writing of one group: "Something else underlay the feeling of community: anxiety about the hereafter. It was important, it was fundamental, it locked all the components of faith together: the anxiety whether on doomsday, one was going to torment or bliss."
This seems to apply to the Kommunity and, for a non believer like myself, I have to make an effort to realize that these 'today's people' could possibly be affected by such feelings. I suppose this comes From their deep desire to be absolutely sure that they have found 'the true meaning of life'. There again, I simply do not have this overwhelming desire 'to know what it's all about.' I feel more with Lao-tzu: "one must accept life as a whole, without needing to understand." I suppose if asked where I stood regarding such beliefs, whether I saw myself as an agnostic, atheist or whatever (one simply must have a 'label', mustn't one? One feels positively spiritually naked without one!) I think the nearest I can get at present, taking Lin Yutang's description of one in The Importance of Living (pg.436), is to describe myself as a pagan, for he writes, "[the pagan] is one who starts out with this earthly life as all we can or need bother about, wishes to live intently and happily as long as his life lasts, often has a sense of the poignant sadness of life and faces it cheerily, has a keen appreciation of the beautiful and good in human life wherever he finds them, and regards doing good as its own satisfactory reward. I admit, however, he feels a slight pity for the "religious" man who does good in order to get to heaven and who, by implication, would not do good if he were not lured by heaven or threatened with hell ..... one who dreams with one eye open, who views life with love and sweet irony and who mixes his cynicism with a kindly tolerance."
I am not suggesting for a moment that these good folk the 'Plain Brothers and Sisters' have chosen this way of life solely out of fear of the hereafter. There must be many, many things at work including, as William James puts it (Varieties of Religious Experience, pg. 93) "If a creed makes a man feel happy, he inevitably adopts it. Such a belief ought to be true: therefore it is true -- such, rightly or wrongly, is one of the 'immediate references' of the religious logic used by ordinary men."
Thinking of the varieties, not only of different religions but the enormous variety of widely varying groups within just one religion, for example the Christian religion groups, one realizes that despite the apparently very big difference between the Klapsmuhle Kommunity and the Catholics, The Welder and the Pope have at least a couple of things in common. They both believe that they are infallible and that theirs is the only true way. If they can resolve the latter belief, it will be interesting to see whether that will mean the Welder becomes a Catholic or the Pope joins the Klapsmuhle Kommunity. The Welder is known to favor the latter and looks forward keenly to seeing just how much the Pope will be able to put into the Common Colossal Coffer and is rumored to have promised him his own jet plane and guard dog, and that he can go bowling with the Savants whenever he likes.
The Youth at the Kommunity can be roughly divided into the Earnest Youth and the Not So Earnest Youth, and I seem to have more contact with the latter. The former, inspired by the KIT (Kommune for Intergalactic Travel) monthly newsletter, have started a monthly sheet of their own which they call KAT (Knitting As Therapy). They claim that knitting can be a cure for all sorts of ills in our modern society, and assert that knitting needles can do more for suffering humanity than acupuncture needles. Part of their monthly sheet is taken up by knitting patterns especially designed as remedies for particular ailments. One such has been tried out most successfully by various members of the Kommunity. This is for an illness, suffered by a number of members, the symptoms being a tendency to doze off during the Welder's sermons.
Formerly these unfortunate sufferers were made to stand up during Church Hours if they dozed off, and several sustained some very nasty bruises as the result of falling asleep whilst standing. It was found that if they were allowed to knit the KAT antidote pattern called 'antidoze' they kept awake regardless of how long the sermon dragged on for. The only trouble was that many more members were suffering from what they called CHD (Church Hour Dozing) than had been thought. These other members had appeared to have a thoughtful expression on their faces when they dozed off, leading others to think that they were concentrating deeply about The Welder's words of wisdom. Only those who leaned against their neighbor, snored, or tipped their heads back with their mouths open had been noticed. It has turned out that so many more of the congregation needed to knit the 'antidoze' pattern that The Welder now has considerable difficulty making himself heard above the clack-clack-clack of knitting needles. Greetings,
It was mid-September. In Loma Hoby, the Paraiso trees were in flower. The scent drifted on the warm spring air and countless busy winged creatures buzzed among the small pale violet clusters of flowers that hung like clouds painted in delicate watercolors. The bien-te-vis were shouting triumphantly as usual, their calls echoing back and forth all over the place. A potter bird crossed the road. Three steps running, two steps slow.
I was on my way, drawing paper and pencil tucked under my arm, to see if I could find anything worth immortalising. It was my free afternoon. I was heading toward the small enclosed pasture where the calves were often kept, just behind the little guava orchard on the other side of the sandy path by the "Banana Plantation" house. The young animals were so docile. I liked to sit on the top rung of the wooden fence, and they'd approach gently to sniff my knee, leaving traces of oozing saliva on my skirt. They had such sketchable faces. Their eyes were large and gentle, with charming long lashes, and they tended to make their inquiries with inquisitive and moist snouts.
I had been back in Loma Hoby for nearly a year now -- ten months, actually. My stay as Hausmädchen in Asuncion came to an end in December. The Frishmans returned too, although they had to move to Isla Margarita since then. I missed them. Then the brotherhood sent mother and father away, three months ago, to Europe. They were helping to build up the Sinnthal Bruderhof, a new settlement of the community in Germany.
I had lost not only the Frishmans, my ersatz-parents for whom I secretly pined for quite a while, but now my real parents too. I didn't know to whom to turn. I wanted someone to lean on. I tried to befriend Elisabeth anew. When she looked after us all those years ago while mother was in hospital, she never put me under any pressure. I trusted her. She was a patient and sweet-tempered young woman. Maybe I could latch on again.
But it was clear that things weren't as they used to be. She had been engaged last year to Herbert, that American with the patchy, unkempt beard and the wide open, big eyes. His spectacles with the thin round frames made his eyes seem to stare at you even more. He liked to make sharp and witty remarks. I found his sense of humor bewildering. Because of him, Elisabeth was in some way lost to me. It was obvious that her priorities lay elsewhere now. She couldn't help it. She looked like someone very much in love.
Following my return to Primavera, I soon fell back into some of my bad old habits of rebellion, laziness, and that ever-quick temper. My parents were the trigger, there was no denying it. I found it so much easier to get on well with them through letter writing! It was vexing, this recurring offensive behavior. I hated the feelings of unease and guilt in the wake of every incident. And why did my bad conduct just vanish into thin air whenever I was with others? Why was it so easy to be nice with others? I needed to do some serious thinking about this. It just wouldn't do, this kind of show.
I had to admit to myself, though, that father had become a bit more agreeable. He kept his distance. I liked that. He seemed to respect me more. Anyway, I felt more sure of myself since having done well in Asuncion. Yes, I did do well in Asuncion. This wasn't conceited self-praise. This was an honest appraisal of my time there. I felt much more grown up than I had ever felt before. People listened to me. My thoughts and opinions, when voiced, were heeded by others. So why did mother sometimes give the impression that she was irked with my new assertiveness? True, I was criticised much less now, at home, and there were no punishments anymore, but so often I caught mother's disapproving eye! I felt quite incensed by her silent reproach.
I settled back quickly into the Primavera trot and routine. At first, on arrival, I didn't quite know what to expect. On discovering that the well-known situation of old hadn't really changed, I felt a bit disappointed, but it was easy to slip back into the three personas of yore. At home, with my family, I was one thing. In public, I was another although this time around I enjoyed it much more. Private matters, those secrets of my heart, still had to be hidden away and very much protected. There was no one in whom I could confide my innermost thoughts, dreams and desires. But to be honest, expectations hadn't been that great. What luxury indeed to be oneself without the need for explanations, apologies, embarrassment or shyness! Such a world probably didn't exist anyhow. And once I realised that Loma Hoby was still my favorite village and utterly enjoyable, albeit in different ways, I was back comfortably into my old roles in no time at all.
My former classmates were a little bit older and grown up too, and we were now, naturally, part of the youth group. Ours was considered a "good group", renowned for some of its fun-loving, prank-playing members. Activities continued to be much of what they always had been traditionally: dance evenings, song evenings, the gettogethers to read books or poetry. We staged theater plays, we undertook trips and outings to all sorts of places within and beyond Primavera's boundaries.
Very occasionally we'd go horseback riding We chose to go on evenings with a bright full moon. It would be a small group, maybe five or six of us. Arrangements were always secretive because, as a rule, everybody who got wind of such parties wanted to go too. Messages were whispered, and the plan not disclosed to anyone but the chosen few. The meeting point was secret too. Indeed the secrecy of the event enhanced the anticipated delight. It was vital that no one even noticed that tiny glint of pleasure in one's eyes. Faces had to be kept straight. Even little devious stories, little white lies were sometimes necessary.
An oblique thought occasionally crossed my mind: What if these evenings were actually an underhanded way for courting couples to get together secretly, taking advantage of the intimacy and ease of contact? I would watch them quietly and intently, but if they were courting, they did not let on.
The horses moved sensuously, the warmth of the animal's body spread to one's own. The smells of leather, sweat and beast combined with the sharp clear night air into a heady mixture. At times, breaking from an easy pace into a trot and a canter, the horses came so close together that an accidental brush, a bit of body contact -- knee touching knee -- couldn't be avoided. Electrifying moments, those! Sweet and breath-catching!
But those moments weren't for me, really. Not yet. There wasn't anyone whose knee my knee wanted to touch. There wasn't any reason of the heart to keep the secrecy of those riding parties. I joined in for the beauty of it, for the thrill. On such nights, despite the brilliant moonlight, nature remained unwilling to disclose her mysteries, wrapped in secretive, silvery-white rays, or hidden in the fearful shadows of the forest paths. Rustling noises from the underbrush accompanied by the horses' nervous snorting and a jumpy jig only raised the sense of adventure, and the hair at the nape of one's neck. When a nightjar called, it reminded me that, according to lore, someone who heard this cry was to die that night. I would come home strangely sad, homesick for something I couldn't quite describe or fathom.
As I always anticipated, the youth group activities provided a natural setting for closer acquaintance and contact with the community's boys and young men. Still, it wasn't as exciting as I thought it would be. The way in which the Loma Hoby youth group worked was quite different too, if I compared it with the one in Asuncion. Here, one stood out much more if one singled out a boy for a chat, say. In Asuncion, it was much more easygoing -- quite natural, actually. You felt you gave no one grounds for suspicions if you sat for a while talking with a young man. In Loma Hoby, there always were too many watching pairs of eyes. Even the children joined in. They enjoyed speculating about who would be the next couple to get engaged. They made bets on correct predictions. I couldn't blame them, because I had done the same when I was a kid. Then of course there were the adults, keeping a discreet eye on us, making sure no one misbehaved or put themselves at risk. Inasmuch as we had brotherhood members in the group, this should have been self-regulating. But even so they watched, as one watched one's own steps -- and one's glances.
I hadn't found my great love yet. Not that I hadn't tried. I had been in love constantly, or so I believed, for a long time. But recently I began to have my doubts. Love was so perplexing. Those precious feelings came, invaded me, overwhelmed me, and it was all sweetness and dreamy bliss. But after a while, they disappeared again, often much too quickly. Then I'd have to begin looking around again, for another face, another young man, on whom to bestow my tender interests and intentions. There was no one, really. There had been no one, ever. At least not since Daniel, if indeed he still counted. That was the trouble. What I had felt for him had been so overpowering, so condensed, strong and enduring, that I couldn't help but compare every new surge of feelings with those of once upon a time. But the new fondness never quite stood up to what I believed was the real thing.
So I dreamed, hoped, waited and watched. I was sure that one day, someone would appear on the horizon. He would sweep me off my feet, and I would know immediately that this was it. Love at first sight, love for always and for ever.
While I waited for the enchantment to lift, and for my prince to come riding in, proud, handsome and tall, to carry me away into the sunrise of our wonderful life and eternal love, I did what everybody else did all day long. I worked wherever they told me to work. I attended the meetings, I tried to keep out of mischief, I did what was expected of me.
I never opened my mouth in public, if I could help it. I had come to realize that, if I wanted to play it safe, this was best avoided. Anyhow, I was still pretty shy. I blushed easily, and constantly. Sometimes I had the feeling that I lived with a chronic bad conscience, although I couldn't pinpoint any reasons why that should be. Like most of my age group, I was in certain awe of those in authority. Bar my parents, of course. I understood that the less I was heard, the more it was assumed that I was amiable to everything. The more I joined in with group activities, the less I stood out and was noticed. Here was a simple rule of thumb that made life much easier. It was important not to ask too many questions. We were always required to give them our trust, anyhow. This was vital. It was imperative to think along their lines of thought. By this means one could achieve a kind of peaceful coexistence, which saved one from pressures and reproaches. It didn't do to stick out one's neck. Just look at Lorraine.
She had always been a bit loud-mouthed. Not that I had been much better, but by now I had learned to constrain myself pretty well. Lorraine, though, continued making her noisy comments, poking fun at all sorts of things, and telling her rude jokes, sometimes even about spiritual matters. And then, one day, someone must have had enough, because she was given an ultimatum. She was either to conform, and enter the spiritual search, like everyone else, or she was out. Yes, they were that fierce.
When I heard of it, I went straight to Isla Margarita to see the Frishmans. Lorraine seemed very angry, her remarks biting and cynical, but she was quite determined. She would rather go than bow to those pressures. She wasn't ready for the Bruderhof life, and she intended to take her own time in deciding if she would ever be. They were sending her away to live and work, probably as a maid or governess, somewhere in or around Asuncion, as they did with the girls who wanted to try something else. She wasn't going to be allowed to live at the Asuncion Bruderhof house. Girls like that weren't acceptable there. Not even there!
Laura was in tears, and Werner looked pale, drawn and tired. My heart ached for them. Lorraine was so defiant! But then again, and in defence of Lorraine, hadn't they always told us, ever since I could remember, that each one of us had to come to a decision individually, about following Jesus and the call to life in community? I admired Lorraine, but I didn't dare tell anybody.
With Father and Mother away, the Bergensen couple took over my family. I found it terribly difficult to accept their authority. So I was moved out of the family home and in with five other young women, where we shared a couple of bedrooms sandwiched between two large families, in a long, stretched-out bungalow a short distance away. I continued to have breakfast, vesper and the two weekly family suppers with my siblings and the Bergensens, but I began to quietly withdraw from them. I preferred it that way.
Claudia was one of the young women sharing our rooms. She was in her early twenties, engaged to be married to Joseph Brenner, one of Loma Hoby's teachers. He was already getting on, close to thirty years old. Their engagement had been celebrated a while ago, but no-one seemed to mention their forthcoming wedding. It was not uncommon for an engaged couple to have to wait, sometimes indeed for quite a while, but in the case of Claudia and Joseph, they seemed ideal for one another. There ought to be no reasons why they shouldn't marry soon. But they didn't, and it sometimes made one wonder why. And then one night it all became rather disconcerting.
There had been a brotherhood meeting -- a meeting of the baptised community members -- after supper, as was usual at least once a week. Often after such meetings, Joseph would slowly walk Claudia home, while they talked. Lying in bed I could hear their voices floating in from the dark. Only a hum could be heard, no word understood. I imagined them exchanging endearments, talking about their dreams and hopes for their future as a married couple. In my perception it was all very romantic.
That night, Claudia tip-toed into the room as usual and undressed in the dark, very quietly so as not to disturb us. Then I heard it. It was like something from very far away, from very deep down. Like a painful groan. It came from Claudia's corner, and startled me. I raised my head to try and see in the dark. Then I realised what it was. Claudia was crying. She was sobbing into her pillow, trying desperately to smother the sound. It was heartbreaking. Suddenly it didn't make any sense at all. Here was a beautiful couple, very obviously in love, of a good marrying age, baptised members of the brotherhood, both apparently in good standing. What was wrong? Why did she have to cry so bitterly, to be so desperately sad?
From then on, whenever I heard the couple's mumbling voices from outside in the dark, I paid special attention. Sometimes Claudia sobbed while she was with Joseph. It was unbelievably sad. Did he at least hold her in his arms? I couldn't make out why all this despair. Was it because she couldn't bear to wait any longer? Because they had to prove something to the brotherhood before getting to marry? What could be so unbearably painful to tear her to pieces, the way it did? What was going on that was so cruel?
As such things went, I knew that I'd never find out. Claudia and Joseph would eventually marry, and whatever caused her those bitter tears would then, hopefully, have disappeared, gone away. It was all I could hope for. There was nothing else I could do.
My younger siblings tended to look to me for comfort at times of homesickness for our parents or bewilderment at the unfamiliar demands coming from the Bergensens. For quite a while I had to grapple with acute feelings of dislike and downright antipathy for that couple. It was very hard not to criticise them, even if only in my heart and thoughts. How dared they slap the little ones when they made mischief! How dared they impose certain punishments which not even my own parents had ever dreamed up!
I knew very well, though, that if I pursued these vicious "anti" feelings, my 'ugly thoughts', as I called them secretly, I would have to own up to them. This I was not prepared to do. So I worked hard at myself to forgive the Bergensens in my heart for all the woes they were inflicting on me and my siblings. If I didn't do it in my heart, I'd have to do it in public. And that was the last thing I needed. That would definitely be asking too much. It was bad enough as it was.
Despite my private and silent dislikes, however, I had to recognise and admit to myself that Sigrid Bergensen was essentially a kind woman. She was somewhat obese and had trouble with walking. She did only very light work during limited hours of the day, often at home. She frequently had her main meals at home, and was on the food distributor's list for special things that were given only to the sick, the very old and the "very special".
One of the items she got on a weekly basis was cigarettes. Now here was a woman who smoked! It was the first time that I saw a grown woman on the Bruderhof do that. Many men, young and old, smoked. We youngsters occasionally stole a cigarette, although smoking often made us choke or puke. We did it because it was part of the growing-up thing, so that one could boast about it to one's friends. Yet to discover that a grown-up, married woman -- and a brotherhood member at that -smoked regularly, like a man, was quite a discovery, and that she even received her cigarettes as part of her weekly rations from the Kastner, the man who oversaw the food distribution, was simply amazing.
When Sigrid realised how intrigued I was by her "licensed" smoking, it didn't take her long to discover how to get me on her side. She'd invite me occasionally, to join her for about half an hour at the end of an afternoon, after finishing at my work department, but before the small ones arrived back home. She'd invariably have ready a pot of Schwarztee, the real tea, to be had only by persons with health problems like herself, with some milk, a bit of sugar, the latter often also rationed for us ordinary mortals, plus -and this was her coup -- a cigarette. A legitimate cigarette! To be smoked by me, with relish and no sanctions, while drinking a cup of real Schwarztee, with milk, and sugar! Like a lady! How elegant! And how emancipated!
Well, she had me there.
And now they were sending me back to Asuncion!
I sat quite still on the fence, watching the calves' contortions as they licked themselves and clumsily scratched their necks with their back hoof, or jostled with one another, waiting till it was time to do something else. I had done enough sketching for today. I felt at peace at the moment. No one knew where I was. It had been an unadventurous afternoon, but a quiet satisfaction had overcome me from nowhere, and that was just as well.
I let my eyes roam beyond the small pasture and down over what could be seen of the campo of piquete-i. Above, in the blue spring sky, a few cumulus clouds hung, seemingly motionless.
This time I wasn't going to Asuncion as a Hausmädchen. This time they wanted me to help in the offices at the old house. I wondered how they got that idea. I had some ability in typing, but they planned to send me to proper typing classes outside, to polish those skills. I was to learn shorthand and accountancy, they told me.
I was going to work with Mark Bates. I knew him a bit. He was married to Marylin, our gymnastics teacher. We had weekly lessons with her, very early in the mornings. We'd get together at five o'clock, even on cold winter mornings when it was still dark, and do our synchronised exercises in the dining hall, with tables and benches piled against the walls. Marylin was really schneidig, a plucky young woman. She outdid us in every exercise. Mark and Marylin had no children, they hadn't been married that long, as a matter of fact. I knew that he was fun-loving, with a great sense of humor. I was sure we'd get on well.
Anyhow, I was only going in January. This was September. The Christmas preparations usually began in October, and after that the Advent weeks would soon follow. Christmas and New Year's arrived quickly enough once we were into December. Yes, Christmas. I enjoyed these festivities, that was the best time of the whole year. Apart from my birthday, naturally. But this time around, Christmas was without Mother and Father, of course. Mother wrote that she hoped to have a Christmas with snow, at the Sinnthal Bruderhof. I couldn't imagine how snow felt, but it probably was something very special, hearing mother pining for it as she did. Mother was always so homesick for Europe, for the European seasons. She used to go on and on about it, and get quite emotional and sentimental. Now she had what she wanted, at least for a while. She'd not miss us too much.
I hoped my siblings wouldn't be too unhappy either. It was comforting that the Christmas celebrations were always so embracing, enveloping the whole village. Any distinctions became blurred between where family ended and community began, so the sense of belonging spread beyond the family setup, anyway. It was also that one time of the year when everybody got such nice presents. Christmas gifts took away a lot of heartache, and dried many tears more easily. It surely would be all right.
But how would the youngest ones take it when I went away again in the new year? The parents gone, Peter and Martin too, and now I... In my heart of hearts I hoped that they wouldn't take it too badly, because the truth was that I didn't wish to stay. If it was all right for Mother and Father to go, it surely was even more all right for me not to stay either. One of the things they talked about frequently was that one shouldn't tie oneself emotionally to anybody, to parents, siblings or anyone else. Emotional ties were frowned upon, they were considered to be bad and unhealthy. They distracted from the life in community. Everybody must be loved equally, no one receiving preference over any other. The love must be brotherly or sisterly, not emotional or sentimental. At least that's what I believed they meant. So if I went away with an easy heart, at least I wasn't reinforcing emotional ties with family members.
I was pleased that they were sending me back to Asuncion. I had come to a bit of a stand-still, a dead end, spiritually. There were too many distractions in Primavera. All sorts of events drew one away from the search for the meaning of life. It was too easy to slide into apathy and listlessness.
The next step expected of me was the novitiate. I had no doubt that I would ask for it. It was just a matter of time, but I hadn't yet felt very compelled. I roughly knew what kind of questions were raised and what answers and convictions expected. All the spiritual aspects of our life would be talked through and pondered during study evenings with other novices. Faith had to be total and absolute. Not a shred of doubt was tolerated. These get-togethers were for the airing of all such matters, and usually continued for a number of months, at the end of which a date was set for baptism.
All this intense spiritual striving was not quite upon me yet, and probably would be much pleasanter in Asuncion, next year. While initially I had found it perturbing to be in a much more intimate group there, after a while I discovered that matters of a more inner nature were so much more easily discussed in that smaller circle -- especially with someone like Werner Frishman. I didn't yet know whom they were planning to send there as houseparents this time, but they always sent couples who got on well with the young ones.
I had noticed that after I turned eighteen, they looked at me with eyes that gently betrayed their hopes and expectations. So far, nonetheless, their unspoken messages had felt more like a warm and comforting interest in me. So for the time being, I hadn't felt too much pressure. As usual, I was determined to do it in my own time. If I was to give myself and my life, by embarking on this journey and asking for the novitiate -- to be followed inevitably by baptism -- I wanted my vows to be absolutely honest, coming from a place within me where I could look myself in the eye and, with utter truth and sincerity, be rock-solidly certain that I was doing and choosing the right thing.
On reflection, I now see that this had been a bit of an in-between phase, this period in Primavera, and not only spiritually. First the Haustmädchen job came to an end and I had to come home. Shortly afterwards, the Frishmans moved away from Loma Hoby. Then my parents went too, and the Bergensens moved in and took over my family, while I was asked to move out.
None of these changes had made me particularly happy or had taken me anywhere. It was common practice in the community for people to be moved around constantly. I was no exception and didn't expect any different. There was nothing unusual or noteworthy about it. It had to do with employing everybody in the places and jobs in which they were most suited and useful. It had to do with not allowing anyone to develop a too close and too strong attachment to one's village or the people living in it. Again, it went back to those emotional ties of which one needed to be wary.
Noteworthy was what lay ahead, I told myself. Life on the Bruderhof really only began after baptism. That's when one became a full-fledged adult. That's when marriage loomed on the horizon. At least that's what I counted on. But there was still some distance to travel before I reached that goal. First there would have to be baptism. Marriage only came after taking the vows, but one couldn't get baptised just because one wanted to get married. I had understood this a long time ago. One couldn't even be in love with anyone if one wanted to be baptised. It would make them very suspicious. They would think that you only wanted to become a member so that you'd be able to get the boy or the girl of your yearnings. Oh no, that was not allowed, not at all!
Once baptised, then one could finally begin to think earnestly about marrying someone. And there, yes, there I would finally encounter the magic place, the promised achieving of that remarkable state of being, that ecstatic exaltation that could only be found in the physical and spiritual union of a man and a woman.
Still, I remained aware that marriage brought with it many immediate and farther reaching consequences, and those could be pretty overwhelming. But as I wasn't really in love, I decided that any such worries ought to be left on the back burner for the time being. There was no one in whom I was truly interested, certainly not for marrying. I would keep marriages as a continual background hope and dream, the ultimate goal for my very personal expression of love. But for now this was surely something very much for the future. For a future far beyond today's horizons of my inner eye. For now, I didn't wish any greater changes in my daily life. Things were all right as they were.
Yes, I was pleasantly adrift, moving with the tide, riding the gentle waves of the sea of life and enjoying its leisurely pace. There was no need for hurrying. Everything would fall into place, in its own time. I was quite sure of that.
Children's voices and laughter now drifted in on the wind. I was beginning to feel a bit stiff, still sitting on the fence. The calves had moved away, gathering at the bottom of the slope near the gate by the cow stall. The air was getting cooler.
I jumped down. It was time to head back into the waiting village.