Hope In Exile: Forbidden Tales From The Mythic Fringe
(this is the text of the lay sermon I delivered yesterday)
A few weeks ago I mentioned to Susan that one of my first Unitarian sermons was titled “Hope in Exile: Forbidden Tales from the Mythic Fringe,” and soon after just saying that title, I agreed to do it again, here in DeKalb.
The first time I spoke using that title, it was November 11, 1980, in All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church in Shreveport Louisiana. I had just preached on “The Reality Game” earlier that August to a standing ovation and immediately I had a vigorous fan club. One guy wanted to be my agent and put me on the road. He’d exclaimed “Don’t you get it? You write your own material! You could be another Johnny Carson!”
I got similar acclaim for this sermon, “Hope in Exile,” and I got so scared I stopped going to church. Staying home was easy actually. Drew had just arrived, and if I stayed home with him Donna could go to church.
There was also a feeling of failure I was pondering. My purpose in each of these two sermons was to tempt people to be a little braver, a little more curious with their minds, but that was not the result. After these two sermons I got a lot of ‘Oh, Steve, we love you! You are so weird!’
I pondered that. I was weird. Because I was weird, does that mean they didn’t have to be? That I was doing the weird stuff for them? My surmise was that my sermons had largely failed.
There was this one guy though, who said a few weeks later, “I was sitting there listening and sort of going ok, but when you said whales had souls I just caved in. I gave up! You got me!”
So, ‘Forbidden Tales from the Mythic Fringe,’ what was that all about?
Back then I said that you became a member of the mythic fringe if you gave the time of day to a story without knowing for sure if it was true, or if it was false. I didn’t really talk much about the ‘Forbidden Tales’ idea, or really the ‘Hope in Exile’ idea.
Almost a year ago a friend I respect a lot told me in confidence that he didn’t trust the media. I listened while he confided that all the media was slanted except for one television channel. This statement of his really got my attention because I make a point out of trying to understand the biases and influences seeking to control our public national mind.
He told me that only one news outlet was fair and balanced, and I was about to make a joke about Fox News, which uses that phrase as a trademark, but has helped more than any other media source to blur the lines between commentary and journalism. My joke would have been a rude one. (Like “We distort, You deride.”) When this good friend of mine said though, that only Fox News was presenting the news in a way that we should trust, I was speechless. I stayed practically speechless, and to this day don’t really know how to talk to this guy.
I could say that his statement exiled me, but it didn’t. I exiled myself from being able to talk to this formerly close friend. Why? Because I did not know how to talk to him in any way he might find sensible. His views were apparently so different than mine that I feel inadequate to know where to begin.
That does show how the exile works though. Another friend of mine has just come back from Ireland, and was amazed that you can talk politics with almost anyone there. You can have reasoned, intelligent discussions about politics, he says, in a way that only I, of all the people he knows in the U.S., can share with him. On the plane flying back from Ireland he cried, and wished he could just go there and live.
In 1980, heck, I was only 29 years old. What did I know back then? My hopes were pretty vague. As I said in that sermon, it was ‘hope in something other than the system, something more powerful than politics, more far reaching than economic theories. Hope for a change, a surprise perhaps. Hope in life itself.’
I quoted Margot Adlers book, “Drawing Down the Moon.” At the time I was a card carrying member of that Pagan Spirit Alliance. I told stories about aliens and mystical beings who might, I hoped, come here to save us from what we are doing to the planet.
I told stories of first hand experiences I’d had with a friend who could see auras and read peoples minds, and I referred to Neal Young’s rock and roll song from the sixties, about silver spaceships coming to take us away, to rescue us.
This sermon is going to have to be a little different, because I know a lot more about how the exile works, and I have these tattoos to remind me of where I fit in to a community. My Lakota name is Hecya Tokya, First Elk, the member of the herd that first ventures into the meadow and tells the rest of the herd it is safe. It’s my voluntary job then to explore information that would be too risky maybe for you, and to report back on the good stuff.
For about ten years, once a year, a lady named Penny Kelly was visited in her kitchen by a little group of brown robed monks who just popped up out of nowhere. She’d been praying for some years to know what her life was all about, but when these guys showed up she ran sobbing upstairs to her bedroom and cried with her head under the pillow. They said they’d be back later, and once a year for ten years they did return. Each time they’d show her a vision of the future.
What would you do if the prescription and non-prescription drugs in your medicine cabinet from this day on were to be the last of these that you will ever see? Does that scare you? Ok, how about if one by one, each of these, even aspirin, became scarcer or harder to get over a five year period till at last you had to live without them all? Some people, like me, don’t even think that drugs are the best way to stay healthy in the first place.
Our governments, Penny Kelly’s little brown robed visitors showed her, are being robbed from within by corporate influences and most of the world’s population is so unhealthy and drug dependant that as the government and modern corporate medicine fails to protect us, well, the population will just shrink. New and old diseases, some man made and some caused by just plain bad nutrition, will trim our numbers here and there. Increasingly odd weather patterns will show up too, and the result will be, well, stressful on our numbers.
We will become a more spiritual society, with small local governments within the next fifty years instead of large cumbersome governments that cannot adapt quickly in the face of changing conditions. Local groups, they showed Penny, will be able simply to make better decisions.
Penny Kelly’s book is named ‘Robes,’ and I fell in love before chapter 2. I didn’t need little men to know that our system is in trouble, but their vision of hope, of how things could be, is badly needed in my life. Donna and I have for years worked on becoming healthy, in harmony with the earth and independently of drug stores, because of our hope to survive and to help others do the same. Maybe somehow we can help you.
The first thing we need is hope in a situation that otherwise seems hopeless. Hope based on forbidden tales.
John Taylor Gatto’s story is not very hopeful at first reading. He got a Teacher of the Year award in the 1980s from New York State and New York City in the same year, and quit his job with an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.
He says that our modern form of compulsory schooling grew from the industrial needs of the great coal burning empires of the eighteen hundreds. As an example, kindergarten was invented by a Prussian, and supported by the Prussian government, as part of a plan to make their soldiers more effective, and to make their factory workers more productive. By surrounding a nice teacher with a large enough group of small children, they schemed, the young students would naturally compete for the teacher’s attention, producing disloyalty to each other and more loyalty to an authority figure instead. Kindergarten got a Prussian patent, and was full of features carefully worked out for specific social ends. They designed an entire school system around the goal of a scientifically managed society, wherein our opinions and our ability to organize ourselves are under centralized control and management.
It was plans such as these that great thinkers of the last century, men like Dewey, supported by Carnegie and the Rockefellers, was brought across the ocean last century, and became part of a subtly veiled treason, as John Gatto says. The Federal Government was never to control our schools. The schools were to be state run. In spite of that sticking point there was a successful campaign wherein the same agency that controls our army also gradually gained a subtle but effective kind of control of our schools. Gatto points to the radical change between 1967 and 1974, when teachers across the country all lost the prerogative of disciplining students. He points to documents that his publisher would not allow in print, indicating the plan that as our schools become more violent, we would accept more government protection, both in schools and in society at large.
How do you fight a hundred years of carefully planned mental programming? I didn’t think John Taylor Gatto had any hope at all until last week, when I read his words about home schooling. Thank goodness that our own son was home schooled for his first three years before the state shut his first teacher down.
Suddenly I am very hopeful about the home schooling movement.
Penny Kelly though, takes the Steve Veeneman prize for the most hopeful vision of the future. A hundred years from now, almost nobody will travel. Our children will live in communities of between 20 and 200 people, and each community will trust noone but themselves to grow all their own food. Everyone will still have cell phones, but trade will be by barter between communities. If someone gets into pottery, and makes a few dozen extra plates, they can use the Internet to arrange a swap with someone else who has saved ancient rare books. Instead of UPS or Federal Express though, shipping will be bartered for, with truck drivers who can get fuel and have armed guards, since there will be plenty of bandits in the woods.
Two hundred years from now there will be less bandits, I suppose, for they say there will be a little automated train car system will carry items between the medium to large communities. People in small communities will walk to the nearest one with a shipping depot. These train cars will have a computer keyboard where you can type in the destination for your package, and an honor system will be all that is needed for it to arrive safely. We won’t even need cardboard boxes, for there will be these spider web thingies that will shrink around fragile glass items and keep them safe while they travel.
The Internet will be alive and well, and plenty of people will be making movies and writing electronic books and messages. Every community will have at least one room with gobs and gobs of computers and television screens, and this is how we will all keep in touch.
I don’t know about you, but I am getting ready now. I am learning all I can about computers, and can even do my job over the Internet if I have to. I’ve been studying soil biology and grow my own earthworms; I know how to ferment vegetables to preserve them without canning equipment or lots of heat. My most vigorous hobby enterprise is learning how to get good nutrition without buying supplements, because it looks very much like the World Trade Organization’s Codex Alimentarius will soon make it illegal to purchase what I consider to be normal amounts of nutrition by any means, unless we know the tricks of how to do it.
I am thinking about reading George Orwell’s Animal Farm again.
Perhaps after this sermon is over you will decide that I am not really all that hopeful. You should have seen me in 1980 though. I was a lot more hopeful, but I didn’t know what I was looking forward to.
Between 1980 and now, each bit of new relevant information I absorbed took me further into what Robert Anton Wilson calls the Temple of Doom. It’s as if by learning something new you enter a place where the door closes behind you and none of the doors you find from then on lead back to the place you came from.
Education is like that, isn’t it? As King Solomon said in the Proverbs, “Much wisdom bringeth sorrow.”
What I’ll say is that if you find a smart person who seems happy, it may be very worthwhile to find out why. He or she may not feel at liberty to speak openly. How indeed, would you make someone like that safe enough to confide in you?
You can try to make smart happy people feel safe by showing that you appreciate the mythic fringe, that you won’t dismiss ideas or stories that sound strange at first.
The Mythic Fringe is between apparent truth and falsehood, in the gray area that our leaders appear to hate so much. It is Mythic. Its stories carry meaning, insight or survival and make us stronger. Myths even make us stronger if all we do is work through them and reject them. The Mythic Fringe is a Fringe, a place of loneliness, where your friends may be few and far between, where you may have to keep quiet at work about things that matter, or where you may decide not to eat certain poisonous foods or drink certain poisonous drinks. In the Mythic Fringe you may have to work on appearing normal in polite society.
Hope in this exile is primarily a choice, but what do you hope for? Do you hope that western corporatized civilization eventually overruns every square inch on earth? Do you hope that every non-genetically modified plant, animal and insect disappear? Do you hope that after we all get used to paying high prices for water, we start paying for the air we breathe?
These are the directions our society is headed in, unless a nuclear war saves us. What else can save us? Aliens? It’s worth noting that alien abductees never report that the little visitors are curious about our government. Heh, government, our government at least, would be irrelevant to them, would it not?
Aliens have seen planets ruined before. By one report, those little grey runty ones turned their planet into a smoking cinder, and are studying us precisely because we haven’t ruined ours totally yet. In a panic they genetically removed their pleasure centers, so they survived, but aren’t really very happy.
By another report, those little gray fellows are so smart that they actually have to forget an awful lot of what they know to have as much fun and pain as we ignoramuses have. Can you put yourself into a position like that? Would you voluntary forget anything to have an emotionally more satisfying life? It’s an interesting question, is it not? What would you hope for if you indeed knew everything that there was to know?
The Neocons would like us as United States citizens all to hope for Christ’s return and the Apocalypse, but if you studied Leo Strauss you know they don’t believe in any of that one bit.
I’d like then to end with that one great question, which is still ‘what do you hope for?’ Genuine, intelligently informed hope, may after all, be a rare commodity.
At the risk of repeating myself, and at the risk of not being immediately really helpful, let me suggest again, ‘hope in something other than the system, something more powerful than politics, more far reaching than economic theories. Hope for a change, a surprise perhaps. Hope in life itself.’ Current Mood: satisfied