The Shakers

Integrity versus Biological Survival

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Society / Survival / Integrity /
@ K. 2006 05 03

When I was a teen, 1950s, my mother was reading something from her book club on religious sects in America. We read parts aloud to each other. I don’t remember all of the sects by name. I certainly remember the Shakers. Whatever the name, my favorite sect reported on was the one that practiced chastity till there were no members left. Now that’s sincerity!

I’ve thought about, written about, preferring integrity to survival for a long time and the theme makes at least several appearances at K. The Temple banded together against Jesus. Jesus died, in torment. Would you rather be Jesus? or Caiaphas?

The mugger drags the lady into the alley, kills her, takes her wedding ring. Would you rather be the mugger? or the late wife?

Would you rather live on Iroquois land, practicing a democracy derived largely from Iroquois tradition? or be the dead Hiawatha, credited with uttering the democracy originally, his successors slaughtered?

Now it’s tricky. Christians believe that Jesus was resurrected, that Jesus is going to come back, get justice / revenge … You mean Jesus didn’t really die? was just fooling? playing us for suckers?

What if he did really die? Well, so long as Jesus, the man, was anything like Jesus, the myth, then I’d still rather be the dead Jesus.

It’s especially tricky with groups like the Shakers, especially comparing pk at 17 and pk at 67. At 17 I was all for the Shakers’ subordination to this God. Now I don’t like the idea of sentient creatures being subordinate to any entity: not God, not any. Growing up, accustomed to centralized authority, I’ve grown to despise authority. I’ve grown to despise centralization (where it’s the default setting). (Centralization had be handy, used with caution.) (In general, I prefer the decentralized universe, with life evolving as it can, the centralizing civilization.)

Nevertheless I still have a huge soft spot for the Shakers. That has been quickened by my viewing of Ken Burns documentary, The Shakers, which I just rented on DVD. The Shakers is far and away the most beautiful of the Burns work I’ve seen, thanks to its subject: show Shaker artifacts and you’re showing beauty. The Shakers were amazing artists / artisans (inventors, workers, etc.). (See some Shaker architecture.) (Shaker architecture anticipates Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier … Cézenne, Mondrian …

I was a virgin when I read that book with my mother. I was a Christian. Chastity sounded like a good idea to me, hormones burbling or not. Chastity sounds like a bad idea to me now, hormones ebbed or not. Still: THEY thought it was a good idea.

The group I’m (mis-?)remembering died off; the Shakers abandoned their initiating devotion to celibacy after a decade or two. Their founder, Mother Ann, was dead. They decided to reproduce. And they did well: till cheap manufactured good eroded the last of the Shaker integrities. (Having made their own non-pareil fabrics, waterproof, wrinkle-free, they started themselves buying cheap cotton goods!)

We’re here! But are we better?

Well, in some ways. (pk with his Mac can’t be matched by much throughout history!)

The Mortality of Utopias

The early Christians, according to Acts, tried sharing to the hilt, tried communal property. It didn’t last, my Sunday School teacher told us. Then Christianity didn’t last, think I. Maybe human social nature isn’t up to it. It does not follow that the Utopia was wrong and that the failures who fall from it are right.

People lived without governments for thousands and thousands of years. Some people still live without governments. More and more, the big kleptocracies drop bombs on them, napalm them to hell and gone. Does that mean that the people dropping the bomb are right and the people the bomb is dropped on are wrong?



About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
This entry was posted in integrity and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s