In this fateful hour, all Heaven with its power,
I place between myself and the powers of darkness.
Madeleine L’Engle ~ A Swiftly Tilting Planet
One of my favorite things about the commune was the music. We had in our company several talented singers, songwriters, and musicians who created wonderful music.
How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings.
Most of the songs were based on verses from the Bible (KJV); as a result I memorized many encouraging and edifying passages of scripture. It was at Brother Crane’s house in Durango that I first heard the commune music; it was a tape recording of the women.
I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem
Coming down out of heaven from God.
Made ready as a bride adorned for her husband,
Coming down out of heaven from God.
When I heard that song, I decided that I, too, would be a singing sister.
Every night at our meetings, there was singing. Brother Killy, Brother Sebastian, and Brother Hiram usually led the worship. Brother Killy and Brother Sebastian were especially gifted; they taught me how to play the guitar. Sister Kit and Sister Tara wrote the loveliest songs, and I always looked forward to their music.
Note: Being the commune and all with the submission thing, the women only sang by request; otherwise the “women were to keep silence in the church.”
The issue of women singing was only a minor tussle in The Music Wars.
The Music Wars
People’s taste in music is like their taste in pizza – everyone has his or her own ideas of what makes the best pizza topping. Likewise, everyone has differing ideas about what constitutes good music. One example: At the time, apocalypse-themed songs were popular; many of our songs were based on the books of Isaiah and Revelation concerning the end times. There was one song going around that was not based on scripture; I think it was based on someone’s adaptation of a George Romero movie. The song – “I see my Lord come shinin’” – was about as grim as you could get. It was about a guy imprisoned and tortured for his faith, a real downer. One of the brothers really liked this song and would wail it out in empathy for the tortured brother. Eventually the wailing got to be a little too much for the Patriarch, so he put the kibosh on it next time it was requested.
One of the other brothers requested the song “Oh, Mary Don’t You Weep.” The Patriarch said okay. At this the Wailing brother took umbrage. He pointed out that the Mary song was about Pharoah’s army getting drowned and argued that it was a song about death and how was that any worse than his song about death. In the end, we sang neither song, for which I was glad. Neither one was my taste in pizza toppings.
Music was part of another type of war – the battle for the soul. My first experience with this was at Yosemite.
Yosemite ~ Part I
During the summer of 1972, Yosemite National Park was swarming with hippies; to commune with nature under the influence of certain illegal substances was a very hippie thing to do. (“Rocky Mountain High”) A few of the more ardent fans of John Denver were making a nuisance of themselves at the park, and the park rangers did not know what to do with them. They made an arrangement with the Patriarch in which they would give us a free campsite for the summer in exchange for our taking in anyone they found strung out on drugs. Eight communies were selected to go to Yosemite and minister to the hippies there. In the party were two married couples, two single men, and two single women. I was one of the single women chosen to go.
Note: The Captain hugged me and kissed me goodbye; apparently he had forgiven me for being worldly over the green notebook.
Yosemite was (and still is) extraordinarily beautiful. It’s a little over sixty miles north of Fresno on Highway 41 in Sierra National Forest. Yosemite Valley is another hour from the park entrance. Our campsite was in Upper Pines, close to Lower Pines, Curry Village, and the Merced River. We set up our tents and set out to explore the valley floor. Amid the splendor of the river, the waterfalls, the rocks, and the trees, there were hippies – hundreds of them. I had never before seen so many people outdoors in one place, which kind of ruins the effect of nature’s solitude.
It wasn’t many days after our arrival that the rangers brought us our first ministry project – a young man strung out on something. Whatever inner hell the substance produced, it manifested itself in loud, intermittent wailing and sobbing. What could we do? He was imprisoned in his own personal apocalypse without a key. Two of the brothers held his arms to keep him from hurting himself while the rest of us played the guitars and sang. What I remember most about that night was the sounds of “weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.” It was a long night.
By morning he had recovered enough to sleep. When he awoke, he stumbled off to whatever rock he called home. I don’t know what happened to him because he never came back. If he was like many druggies, he groped his way back to his personal prison. When a person is bound and determined to be bound, there’s not much that one can do about it. We can offer thoughts and prayers, guitar music and songs, hands to hold, and arms to embrace, but the hedgehog is not easily tamed. The incident reminds me of what G. K. Chesterton wrote about arguing with a mad man. You will probably get the worst of is because his mind is not hampered by the things which go with sound judgment, such as a sense of humor or by the certainties of experience.
“The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The mad man is the man who has lost everything but his reason.”
A person like that no longer hears the music that heals, that edifies, that encourages. The only song they hear is the one of their own creation. In it they tell their story to themselves over and over and over.
Note to self: I would much rather crochet during the Apocalypse.