16 August 2008

Letter 3.3

The third flood of the wadi was very minor. Friday night, about 5:30, it filled up to a level and speed slightly less than that of the first flood. By Saturday AM it was virtually gone, with only a slight brook, about 3 feet across, 3 inches deep, and clear and drinkable, left. This brook has persisted and flows even today. The rest of the wadi is dry, hard, slippery-no-longer mud, beginning to show cracks from the sun's usage, and rocks, stones, and pebbles are imbedded in it like cheap jewelry.

We've gone onto a fairly steady 6 AM to 5 PM shift now, 6 to 1 on Saturday. (Sunday, of course, is a weekday.)

The Peace Corps rejected me. I got a letter stating that I was medically unqualified, because of my sinus, They said that while my condition may not hinder me here, when I got overseas it might. I wrote back informing them that I already was overseas, as overseas as one can get, and that if working to reclaim the desert 70 hours a week didn't affect me it wasn't bloody likely that teaching English would. To no avail.

Sunday and Monday we had a huge dust storm here which blotted out the mountains even the near ones, made a specter, pale and evanescent, of the sun, and crept under the doors, through the screens, into our mouths, into pores of our skin. The entire world turned powdery white. Not yellow, as I'd always imagined dust storms -- I suppose because the Negev isn't a sand desert -- but white. High winds kept the dust circulating for two days. What a mess to clean up after!

I've been verging on a decision to stay here -- to become a member of the kibbutz and remain permanently in Israel. I love the life here -- the work is the only I've found substantial and meaningful. The socialistic way of life suits me -- the faults in the system are few, and those that bother me, in fact, are usually because they are undesirable reversions to capitalism. (Down with revisionism!) I get along well with most of the people, and the Negev, of course, is wonderful. I haven't made a final decision yet and keep wavering between several alternatives. At the moment, though, I think I had better wait for three reasons. One: I think it would be impossible to escape the Israeli army until I'm beyond the age of draftability (30?). Second: I have only been on the one kibbutz and I should see others to have a basis for comparison. Third: I still want to see more of the world and I'm afraid that if I don't the desire will get stronger and stronger while I become more and more committed to the soil here. Perhaps I better get the wanderlust out of my system first. So, at the moment, my plans are to leave here next month for Eilat, where I'll work for a few months (work's easy to come by, I'm told, about 20 times better paying than the kibbutz,and probably 20 times less satisfying, but I can camp on the beach for free, and so save a lot), then head off either south to Africa or east to Asia... we shall see...

The most important of many things I've learned in my seven month stay here is why I left the U.S. and what I am looking for. When I left I knew that I had to, that there was a dissatisfaction so basic and profound that no amount of social reform could change it, no amount of withdrawal less than total would allow me to escape it. Even now, knowing what it is, I find it difficult to plainly state my case. It has to do, though, with a sense of values that has become not only distorted but artificial. It is distorted, for instance, to want a new car every year -- and I mention this not as a major complaint, but only a minor but common symptom of a far more important illness from which I am attempting to recover -- because the reasons are ones of pride of possession rather than pride of accomplishment, a desire to be ahead (and above) others rather than equal with them, a certain exertion of authority and power that I find wholly repugnant. But it is also artificial because the desire does not spring naturally from the complex of forces within a dynamic culture but is placed there through advertising, propaganda, and example to induce the consumption, acquisition, and waste necessary to prevent the society from collapsing upon itself.

I'm not expressing myself well. My own collections of many things were the personal symptoms of a wide-spread American disease that places emphasis upon Most; Fastest; Biggest; Newest; etc. and equates these quantitative things with the very different qualitative thing: Best. That's wrong to the point of immorality. But even this, I think is a symptom of a larger, more dangerous thing I've tried to escape from. Perhaps you can see what I'm driving at -- at the basic sickness of mind, a perverted and distorted sense of values that makes it moral to kill your neighbor if he tries to break into your fallout shelter -- or even allows that such a thing needs to be discussed; at a society that can murder to maintain a dictatorial, unpopular puppet regime in Saigon, or refuse the Dominicans the right to a freely elected and popular president, and then, after these murders, rapes, and tyrannies, frown and tut-tut and shake its head disparagingly because someone reads Joyce. Or Miller. Or Balzac. A society where a woman can die in screaming agony on the streets from an insane man's knife and not turn on a light or make a phone call -- surely such a society can be no more sane and no more innocent than the crazed murderer.

And the cure is so basic, so deep-rooted, that it will never be affected. You know the things -- relatively minor things -- that happened to me personally right up to the moment of departure, when the government tried to stop me from leaving the country. These have affected me, as have all the impersonal, or distant, things, and I have been seeking a society free of this. I may have found it on the kibbutz -- if not in Israel. And I may not have. I'm not certain yet. The reasons I'm leaving Ein Gedi are related to all of what I've written, in an obtuse way. There's, not space left to go into it here, nor have I the energy, for I'm rather exhausted mentally right now, as another episode -- the Desert Months? -- of my life is ending, but be patient and in time I'll try to explain more about what has happened here -- and in myself.

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