Forests and Gump
By John B
When my dear old Arkansas mother used to get upset with someone, she would sometimes declare that they did not have “sense enough to carry guts to a bear!” Other times, she would simply say the individual in question was lacking in “gump”.
I knew Mom meant that so-and-so was stupid or had no common sense; she was referring to “gumption”, but she usually just said “gump”.
As I was growing up I used to hear a time-worn cliché about not being able “to see the forest for the trees”. It took me awhile to figure that one out; although it is a cliché, and is definitely time-worn – it’s also very true. In fact, it is truly amazing how many people even today cannot see the forest for the trees.
When I quit the Worldwide Church of God on May 29, 1992 (ten years ago next month), I was surrounded by trees. Big trees, tall trees, fat trees, leafy trees. So many trees! Telling me this, promising me that, threatening me with death. Trees, everywhere I looked. Millions of ‘em.
But I knew there was a forest around there somewhere. I couldn’t see it yet, but I had heard rumors of it. I had even glimpsed a peek at it through the writings of a Few Brave Men (Bob Gerringer, John Trechak, David Robinson, John Tuit, and others). I was pretty sure it was more than a rumor, but I still couldn’t really see it. Not yet.
All I could see was trees.
I quit the church anyway, after 40 years of living in or under it. Talk about stepping out on faith! No biblical patriarch ever took a larger step than I did in 1992. I was scared speechless, spitless, and shitless. In my head I knew it was the right thing to do – I had to find that forest – but in my gut and in my bones I was terrified – so goddamned many trees!
After all, what if that forest wasn’t really there? What would I do then?
But it had to be. Somewhere. When you have that many trees there has to be a forest somewhere, but where the hell was it?
By quitting, the first thing that happened was the trees no longer wanted anything to do with me. The trees turned their backs on me. They were deeply saddened, some were angry at me (“you just want to spend your tithes on yourself, don’tcha?”), and others really didn’t give much of a shit one way or another. The net result was that, as the days and weeks went by, I began to see fewer and fewer trees. The trees drew farther and farther away. After a few months there was hardly a tree in sight.
And sonofabitch! There was the goddamned FOREST!
It had been there all the time, of course. I just couldn’t see it.
The problem was that the trees were all brainwashed. Each one had accepted to a greater or lesser degree the teachings that there was no forest. The trees, myself included, believed the forest was a myth. We wanted to believe that, because if there really was a forest out there, our lives were meaningless. All the years we had wasted, all the sacrifices we made on a daily basis – meant nothing. So we wanted to believe, and we clung to the taller trees who assured us it was true – there was no forest.
But the forest was there, right where everyone had said it would be. All the pundits, all the dissidents, all the “worldly” critics (e.g. Mike Wallace) – had pointed straight at the forest and said “Look! A forest!”
But we denied it. Our self-worth depended on the forest being a myth. There was no forest, there could not be a forest, and why was everyone persecuting us by insisting that there was?
By August of 1992 I could see the forest plainly, even without my glasses. It was there, and the further I got away from the trees, the bigger the forest became. I was shocked at how truly extensive the forest was. Once I had become willing to see it, and once I got away from those fucking trees, it was there. And it was huge!
(Side note: I always loved it when Joe Tcrotch, Sr. used to say that “There is none so blind as he who will not look!”)
Today, nearly ten years later, the forest has changed. Now there are many forests. Not just one, but dozens of smaller woods have splintered off from the big forest in Pasadena. And those who live in them are completely unaware of them. Too many trees.
Those in each small forest can see the other forests, but not their own. Some jump from forest to forest, looking for whatever it is that will feed the holes in their heads. When they pass from one forest to another, they can see the forest they left, but not the one they have joined.
Too many trees.
But from where I stand, I can see woodlands everywhere. Each splinter is the Only True Splinter, and each one denies that it has a forest. It’s clear to everyone around them, but not to those on the inside. How sad. How unbearably, heartbreakingly pitiful. People are still raising their children the way I was raised, in gut-wrenching fear of events that are not ever going to happen, wasting their lives and their essence on rituals that have no meaning. Lives are being wasted day by day, hour by hour. Children will hate their parents for doing that to them, and if they break free on their own their parents will disown them. Either way, families are destroyed.
Because of the forest.
Now some of you reading this may be living so deep in the dark woods that you cannot see what I’m saying. Or, to put it in biblical terms: “For Lo, he spake a parable unto them, so that only his companions could discern the meaning of it; and the wise men round about the city, when they had heard it repeated, looked askance and said one unto the other, “What the fuck meaneth these words?”
If this describes you, then here is the key to this parable:
Tree = A poor dumb Worldwider or offshoot member.
Splinter = An offshoot of the Worldwide Church of God.
Forest = An oppressive cult that sucks the life out of its members.
If you use this key, you can discern the meaning of this article. If you use it wisely, you might even find your way out of the woods.
But first you’ve got to get away from the trees.
There’s a forest, all right. You can find it.
But you gotta have gump.
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