I have posted before about one of many attitudes conducive to manifesting visionary, vital, vibrant and viable[mfn]Park Ecovillage, Findhorn Community Purpose statement 2019[/mfn] — ie. innovative®enerative — community life. That was tv-inspired, as I am an audio-visual kind of guy. Lately I came across another brilliant tv-series that reinvigorated puerile notions (!) and resonated with some ongoing musings about community. It’s called “1883” written by Taylor Sheridan which aired in 2021. The story follows a post-US-Civil war family leaving Fort Worth, Texas, joining a wagon train to undertake the arduous journey west to Oregon.
Imagine if you will, the community-life of a pioneering settlers’ wagon train: disparate people with disparate backgrounds, dreams, fears, beliefs, abilities, each journeying towards a disparate though single geographical destination. It’s an unfathomable and unimaginable process before the fact,[mfn]even for the louder ‘professionals’ among them, but with different stakes of course[/mfn] only to be submitted to and hopefully survived! Its biggest takeaway: though individuals want desperately to arrive at the end, they must first learn how to learn, then how to work together, and all that while actually travelling. Wow! Impressively too, their vague but shared goal looms large: a silent and as glaring a character as the breathtaking landscapes they travel through…
Here are some poignant community oriented musings of a reflective 18 year old ‘voortrekker’…
I remember the first time I saw it. Tried to find words to describe it… but I couldn’t. Nothing had prepared me… no books, no teachers, not even my parents. I heard a thousand stories but none could describe this place. It must be witnessed to be understood. And yet… I’ve seen it, and understand it even less than before I first cast eyes on this place. Some call it the American Desert, others the Great Plains. But those phrases were invented by professors at universities surrounded by the illusion of order and the fantasy of right and wrong. To know it, you must walk it. Bleed into its dirt. Drown in its rivers. Then its name becomes clear. It is hell, and there are demons everywhere. …
So much I don’t know about life. We learn to read, we learn rules, learn scripture and manners, and how to avoid saying or doing things that make others uncomfortable. All those things seem to be the opposite of life. Seem to strangle it. But now, I’m sleeping on the edge of civilisation, and soon we leave the edge behind. Then no rules. Then, only life. What an adventure. What an adventure for all of us. ...
There are moments where I feel we are more. Where we have evolved beyond a search for the next meal or the dominance to breed who we choose. Where we breathe fresh air deep and can almost taste its maker. I wish I could freeze this moment. I would live in it forever… swimming in the possible while the mud of the real is stuck to the shore. We weren’t poor. We weren’t desperate. The road west is filled with failures… but failure isn’t what drove him. It was a dream. And the dream is coming true…
Freedom… To most, it is an idea. An abstract thought that pertains to control. That’s not freedom. That’s independence. Freedom is riding wild over untamed land with no notion any moment exists beyond the one you are living. … When I looked out over this land, I only saw the freedom it promised. I knew nothing of the horror that hides in freedom’s shadow.
I always thought of mothers like nervous chickens, too worried about their clutch to ever hunt for a worm. In my mind, my mother was a banker, hoarding my freedom like money. I never once thought of her as a woman with desires and dreams and passion, though passion is the thing that made me. I lie awake at night and my dreams for this life burn inside me as if I’d walked to the campfire and tried to eat it. I watched my mother and I felt foolish for thinking the notion of eating fire was mine alone. It was hers first. Then she gave it to me. I watched her ride and I didn’t see my mother. I saw a woman. And the woman was magnificent.
Looking back, there were two journeys. One was filled with danger and death and despair, the other, adventure and wonder. I was on the latter. And I loved it! I didn’t know enough to know they would collide. I didn’t know enough to know how cruel and uncaring this world can be. The world doesn’t care if you die. It won’t listen to your screams. If you bleed on the ground, the ground will drink it. It doesn’t care that you’re cut. I told myself when I meet God it will be the first thing I ask him: why make a world of such wonder then fill it with monsters? Why make flowers and then snakes to hide beneath them? What purpose does the tornado serve? Then it hit me: he didn’t make it for us. ...
[It was] as though I was born on this journey. But I wasn’t… We were leaving a place and seeking another. And the journey was the necessary, miserable road between the two. Somehow I felt immune to the dangers of this place. As if the land and I had struck a deal. I could pass unharmed so long as I loved it. And I did. I loved everything about it. But crossing the Brazos
[River — the wagon train’s first big material&people loss –] taught me there was no deal. No matter how much we love it, the land will never love us back.
I think cities have weakened us, as a species. Mistakes have no consequences there. Step into the road without looking and the carriage merely stops or swerves. The only consequence, an angry driver. But here, there can be no mistakes. Because ‘here’ doesn’t care. … Freedom is accepting consequences. Embracing them. Wrapping them around you like a blanket.
We were leaving Texas. Entering the Indian territory… and redefining our meaning of unknown. Far from the cities that have paved the world away, and the farms which have tamed it into a resource. We were no longer under the cloud of civilization. Only sky above us now. No more walking over bridges. Out here, we swim horseback through rivers. There is nowhere to chain love to vows and ceremony. Out here love burns through you like a fever. And when the devil comes to rip that love from you, there is no funeral with somber speeches that dull our senses and deaden our hearts. Out here, you turn toward the pain as it tears into you, and you let it. When you do, the devil gets bored. He seeks another soul to eat. And you get to live again.
The best way to know if land is truly undiscovered is to seek words to describe it. When you can’t, you know it’s virgin land. Untouched by our dirty hands. To see it is to be silenced by it. Made speechless by its endless uniformity… To crest a rise is to see another that is identical. One must read the sun and stars like a sailor to navigate this place. We’ve seen nothing but grass for over a week: no game, no birds, no snakes, not even a lizard, and no evidence the human race still exists. But the plains are littered with bones. The dirty hand of man can go unnoticed in the city. Because his dirty hand made the city. But in this place, where innocence is a mineral in the soil, the filth of our touch is an apocalypse. ...
I understood my mother’s worry. My choices make no sense in her world, where customs and prejudice rule, where law cannot reach. There will be customs and prejudice here too, I’m sure. But they were born of this world and belong in it. To import the traditions of the place you fled, the place that failed you, is to condemn the place you seek with the same failures.
Apart from the vague goal of ‘Oregon’, the pioneers share one characteristic: each is to a greater or lesser degree courageous. As the story unfolds their tenacity and determination is thoroughly tested on all the above-mentioned levels, and more. The Number One Lesson: survival demands active teamwork over time; a self-leadership plan, willpower, honesty, humility; and lots of faith in eachother’s capabilities.
Fun Fact#1 You & I are really quite extraordinary — truly — just the way we are. #2 Every choice has been/is always your & my own, ditto our results. #3 Whatever society may claim, it can’t control us. Every decision has only two choices: our own or the path others choose for us. #4 Those who will turn to others when they’re in need are the truly brave amongst us. #5 Tomorrow morning’s quality of your & my community rests on the authenticity[mfn]audacity, as viewed by Ego[/mfn] of my body+mind+spirit choices today. I wish us good luck and keep my eye on the goal: our Highest Good.