Why would I stay in a situation like this? What would draw me to this in the first place? Hope. I had hope that it would lead to something better. I had hope that this training would lead me to transcend everything within myself that was unloving, selfish, greedy, fearful, arrogant, lazy, all the qualities I wanted to overcome. I had hope that all of the beautiful and incredible ideas that MD had about how to transform our world, and to heal it, and give it meaning and wholeness could come true. With this hope I also had uncommon desire, and a willingness to sacrifice just about anything to attain it and help bring it to fruition within myself and hopefully into the world as well. The only reason I say it is uncommon is that my desire for an alternative to this world and what it had to offer, was strong enough to give all of my possessions away, to leave my friends and family and all the comforts I had enjoyed, and to suffer physical abuse. I believe all of us desire a better world and want to be better people but I wanted it more than money, or possessions, or comfort, or safety and that is all I mean by uncommon because I didn’t know very many people that wanted it that much and were willing to sacrifice anything in hopes of attaining it.
I also didn’t have a good theological understanding of man’s situation here on earth. I yearned for Eden, for Paradise and felt intuitively that we are still supposed to be there, but for our sin, however I didn’t have any concepts of the purposes of our suffering here in the meantime; the facts of our fall from grace and the curse under which we live, toiling by the sweat of our brows. I was impatient and unwilling to settle here, and I tried to squirm out of this suffering by seeking my own way. I was infected by pride and believed that I could do anything, and that transforming the world was possible.
I also didn’t want to participate in the tiresome daily grind of life. I wanted adventure and a different kind of challenge. I wanted something interesting and stimulating, as opposed to the boredom and drudgery I perceived in every other option the world offered me. I didn’t want to go to school any longer and just sit theorizing about things, I didn’t like any of the job opportunities or even the idea of going to job day after day, over and over again ad infinitum. And I couldn’t imagine having children, because I was selfish, in my own desires, and I doubted my ability to care for anyone else when I could barely make it in this world myself. I knew I needed to gain more strength and ability to endure and persevere in this world, before I could ever settle down and have a ‘normal’ life, and I was ironically gaining these skills in this community. I say it is ironic because one could say that by joining this community I was fleeing life and yet through it, I was gaining all the skills I would need in order to be successful in the world after I left it.
In addition to these reasons I also stayed because I liked the physical and emotional challenge that it provided. It was exciting and I felt empowered through the process of facing, enduring and overcoming struggles; and I liked the fact that they came in such an untamed way, outside the confines of ordinary humdrum life. The fact that it could be so difficult and potentially dangerous also appealed to my vanity as I could imagine myself to be exceptional and elite in some way. This personal failing or weakness, my vanity, can’t be underestimated, in the power it had to direct my decisions and motivate my actions.
While I was healing from the recent altercation, I stayed for several days living at the auto shop. One evening, as I was resting in my sleeping bag on the shop floor—the shop had closed and I was alone—suddenly there was a tremendous crashing and banging on the metal roll-up door and the deep thunderous voice of a man screaming that he was going to kill me, then he thrust shredded pieces of a manila envelope and its contents under the door and then continued to smash his fists against it screaming. I knew immediately that this was a local man who had been given a restraining order by our community, because he was extremely belligerent, clearly mentally unstable and violent. I assumed the shredded contents on the ground before me were the restraining order, that obviously he didn’t mind violating, which was surprising to me, since the police station was right across the street from our shop. He eventually gave up banging on the door and left and I returned to my sleeping bag. This was not the only time I experienced the wrath of our neighbors or those we had dealings with because, as I mentioned, MD could really push people’s buttons and he was typically several steps ahead of them, which can really make people mad.
As part of my role in the community I was often the front person for our business dealings or other interactions, so if someone was unhappy, they would often come to me and voice their displeasure so to speak. Sometimes it could be unpleasant, such as in this case, but other times it was mildly amusing. For a period of time we rented office space from an attorney in Occidental CA and he was a very sweet and gentle man. I really liked him quite a lot. I wasn’t involved in most of the situations that occurred with him, and I hadn’t spent much time at this particular office, but I was usually the one that paid him the rent and took care of things that needed to be related between our community and him. After several months, from which I gathered, there had been a lot of exasperating and frustrating interactions with us, he finally asked us to vacate. When I returned the key and we said our goodbyes he said to me, “Francis, you are a very nice person and I really like you, but I wish I had never met you.”
I didn’t take that personally and I understood what he meant. It could be really hard, and I represented this hardship. I was the face of his difficulties, in a way, even if I hadn’t been directly the cause of any of them. There was another situation with a client of our landscaping business. I was installing a large flagstone patio in the backyard of his new residence. Everything was going smoothly on the project until, at some point about midway through the project, MD began coming to site and calling me away to other tasks. I felt a great deal of responsibility to finish this job in a timely manner, but over and over again he came and had one or another immediate and urgent needs that I had to accompany him. I tried to find other times to work but almost every time MD would find a way to call me away. Eventually this client became understandably upset at me, and I promised, giving my word to complete the project by a certain date, and to be there every day. But of course, MD was creating a scenario which would stress the limits of this man’s patience, while putting me in a position of shouldering the blame and the client’s anger for a situation that I didn’t have much control over, given the fact that I had agreed foremost to be obedient to MD during my time in his course. In the end, the whole relationship with this client fell apart, my client lost every trace of trust in me, which I couldn’t blame him for, and he fired me from the job. I felt so bad about it. Instead of taking me to court, this client and I ended up in arbitration over the job, and it was decided that I had to pay him some fairly substantial amount of money due to the difficulty I had caused and because I hadn’t fulfilled the contract. It was fair, although I knew that I could have completed the project beautifully and on time, and I would have done so under other circumstances, but it was part of what I had signed up for with MD.
As I will explain more later, the thing in my life that can typically most easily bring me to anger or exasperation, is the feeling that I am being unfairly or unjustly accused of something, and this is exactly the reason MD created this situation, so that I would be accused by this client and held to account for things that appeared to be by my choice, but in reality had been orchestrated for me; and having to face the music, so to speak, and deal with the embarrassment and shame of being taken to arbitration, which never in a million years would I have allowed to happen if it were entirely up to me.
And the goal of all of this? To gain humility and meekness in the face of unfair accusation, and in the face of unjust or false persecution, so to speak. This trap that MD had set for me, pushed me up against one of the things that most worries me or annoys me: an attack against my good name, and by this scenario I had to either continue to defend my pride or let it go and humble myself before this client. To some degree I did let it go, and I gained freedom over my pride. But as I’ve said, this is one of my most troublesome issues in life, so it isn’t something that I conquered entirely in this one scenario.
(to be continued)