Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Kibbutz I've Always Dreamed Of...

This continual separation from my life in the north, conjures longings for things I despise or criticize like convenience, microwaves, paved roads. I am not complaining of my treatment or the poverty of my hosts, but the simple lack of understanding between two people.

This place is free of billboards, freeways, TVs, refrigerators, and airplanes. Yet I long for something different from simply the opposite of my known world. These people are not fighting for a cause; they are simply trying to survive. It is a life that I am so willing to romanticize but one that I have proven unworthy of living. I do not even think I want to anymore.

I stood looking over the four cuerdas of milpa I was helping to weed, wondering if there was an easier way. If maybe, I don’t mind that machines produced our staple foods. Then I could have my low maintenance garden in the back, and still feel like I was worth something. I see myself as a curmudgeon in a small mountain cabin thinking he is a good writer, or an activist, or simply better than the rest of his neighbors because once he lived in a mud brick dwelling in the Guatemalan highlands. Am I always looking for some angle on everybody else?

How about this, you are not very strong, very brave, very attractive, or even very nice. You have a lot to repent for, and don’t even believe in God like you could. Eternal life is the greatest gift of them all, yet so intangible and far away that it seems irrelevant. Not that I’m caught up in the daily toil for existence like these people, so what’s my excuse? Maybe I’m pretty caught up in the beauty of the earth? Maybe I just can’t get over man’s inhumanity to man, especially when I get behind the wheel.

The utopia in my mind is almost like that great gift; maybe that is the greatest gift, a perfect society, like the one in Zapatista murals or hippie-tourist enclaves. Eternal life is, living forever in a European hamlet that never gets too cold, everyone is a radical and a saint, and agriculture is easy. Man and woman work together, and there is no fighting. No disease. Right on the coast, but with thick forests all around us. Humble, quaint little homes that don’t look too much alike but aren’t contrived. Tropical plants, but no mosquitoes or sweat.

The Kibbutz I’ve always dreamed of.

(Written during the summer of 2006, while conducting an ethnographic study of deforestation in the small indigenous village of Santa Catarina Ixtahuacán, in Sololá Guatemala)

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