|Warren Family from series Darvell Bruderhof Community, UK © Richard Ansett 2019|
I am spending time with people who I may not immediately seem to have a natural affinity. On the contrary, firstly I always feel like an outsider and my adopted psychology seeks out anyone who shares my sense of dislocation regardless of any sense of otherness. Here I find an empathy with a need to withdraw to form a safe new universe in microcosm. This community, who has literally attempted to isolate itself, is representative of my view that we create worlds within worlds as a subconscious strategy to manage contemporary, complex reality. Of course the irony is that fear and contempt for Sodom are feelings we all share.
Here the word of God forms the firm boundary within which to explore the human experience. The Bruderhof boundary, based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, feels much closer to the lived experience than the limits imposed by the secular state. Rules are an attractive alternative to chaos when we struggle to find our place in, what I define as, 'a relatively free society'. The modern state no longer offers nostalgic cultural norms that we can feel part of (or alienated from). Even punks feel the need to belong to a movement, a collective alienation and we are denied even this right to feel 'other' now. The state has found a way to attempt to manage our rage through a strategy of inclusion. If queer is a welcome section of society it is in its very nature no longer queer.
We are not yet taught in schools to cope with the now inevitable associated existential anxiety that pervades society. Millennials must sometimes crave something less multi-dimensional that will quickly answer the open questions that have led to a 'mental health epidemic'. Cast adrift to form our own unique relationships to society we, instead of embracing the complexity and extraordinary gift of freedom of thought, withdraw to form more controllable worlds. We should however resist the desire for order and instead examine inwardly for solutions to why we aren't coping.
To refer to a biblical allegory I am very much involved with; can we say with certainty that if we fall down we will be helped up again by another member of our society that is so huge in comparison to the 300 members of Bruderhof, we call each other stranger? I believe so actually.
Prayer seems an ineffective remedy for the suffering of others, I see it as an entirely delusional and self-serving act that subjugates responsibility. It is at best a placebo defined as 'a measure designed to humour or placate', but there is an element of deceit in convincing the patient that what they are offered has any power to heal. There is huge value in being given some time and genuine care however it must be freely given to be most effective and not linked to a promise of heavenly timeshare.
The Bruderhof community will say I am missing the point and I agree that all my rational, atheistic objections fail in the face of 'faith'. I am doomed to never benefit from the power of God ifI do not believe and continue to stubbornly deny his existence. I am doomed to a life without answers, a constant searching for truth through one painful life experience after another and then the risk of eternal purgatory. How wonderful it would be to subjugate responsibility and be held in the strong and comforting arms of the great patriarch.
The Buderhof community in their isolation and withdrawal are no different to us, they are inescapably part of our community too. None of us can exist in isolation, we are entirely reliant on each other for our existence whether we have realised it or not. Our society allows for those that chose not to recognise that they are part of it.