Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
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Like my brownhouse:
   doomed utopian religious community
Sunday, April 22 2007
This morning Gretchen and I went for a walk together in the woods, retracing the steps (more or less) that I'd made two days ago. We went down to the ancient foundation where I'd looted the hunter's chair and then scaled the precipice to the southern tip of the property we just purchased, although we made that climb easy on ourselves by doing most of it in the deep, curving ravine leading to a dry waterfall at the edge of one of the shelves in the escarpment. As had been the case two days ago, the romping in the woods had made Eleanor so hot that she cooled herself by lying in a little creeklet at the bottom of the Mountain Goat Trail. That had to have been a brisk experience; though the forest was hot from the sun baking on a brown surface of leaves undiminished by a leafy canopy, spring water hadn't been ice too long ago. Indeed, the ice pack on the Ashokan Reservoir broke up as recently as April 2nd.
This afternoon, after waiting for Gorilla Glue to dry and a round of sanding, I installed my new set of shelves in the laboratory. They were unweildy enough for me to enlist Gretchen's help. As I worked, Sarah Vowell nattered on about various assassinated presidents from my computer's speakers. My soundtrack throughout the day consisted of the Kingsbury Manx, Sarah Vowell, and Slayer (with a particular emphasis on freshly-downloaded MP3s from the album Divine Intervention). I'd mostly lost track of Slayer after Seasons in the Abyss, so I've been acquainting myself with the music they've made since then.

This evening Gretchen and I watched a documentary that is part of the PBS series called American Experience, and it was about the Jim Jones, Jonestown, and the famous Kool Aid-powered massacre that happened there. Interestingly, Gretchen found the early socialist mission of the church laudable, and it was only after Jim Jone's sadistic, manic-depressive personality began to assert itself that the story began to creep her out. (She'd also been disturbed by an anecdote early in the documentary of a youthful Jim Jones deliberately killing a cat just so he could hold an elaborate funeral for it.)
At the end there, you would have had to have been seriously brainwashed not to be alarmed by all the hallmarks of a doomed personality cult. It's a real testament to the herd mentality of human beings that over nine hundred stayed behind to be killed after the loudspeakers began blaring the manic pre-recorded rants of Jim Jones throughout Jonestown 24/7.
What makes the difference between utopian religious communities that survive and those that do not? I suspect that the main thing that dooms a lot of them is the emphasis given to the teachings and dogma of a single person. It's possible for one person to be sane and stable enough to keep a functioning movement together, but too often the unchecked power that the leader finds at his disposal is such a temptation that he begins to damage his relationships with individuals in his movement (usually sexually), creating a cascade of lies and cover-ups. Simultaneously, his riches and retinue of sycophants increasingly cuts him off from reality, leading to poor decisionmaking. When the crisis finally comes (and it inevitably does) it's a pent-up tsunami of destruction. The situation I'm describing can even happen in modern political systems, particularly when unusual circumstances give unexpected power to the wrong people. We've only just begun to dig out of the shit pile Bush's administration has produced (and insistently demands to keep producing) since the blank check it got on 9/11/01.

The new shelving unit, with the painting I'm using as a door "open." The white structure running along the ceiling diagonally downward above the new shelf is the set of insulated pipes carrying hydronic fluid to and from the solar panels. They exit the house above the middle of the shelf.

That same painting-door nearly "closed." It's a painting I did in September of 1999.

The way my laboratory looks when approached through the teevee room.

A closeup through the door.

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