A few days ago a friend of Vinny invited us to stay at a place south of Knoxville, TN called “Sweetwater Sustainability Institute,” and so we headed off for another adventure. :-) For some reason before going there I was under the impression that it was once operating and thriving, but now abandoned. On the way I even found a website showing it off in it’s ‘glory days,’ with pictures of lush gardens, a pool, tennis courts, etc., and links (albeit dead links) to things like events, classes, and community life. I wondered what could have possibly happened to a “Sustainability Institute” that it actually didn’t sustain itself! :)
When we got there however, or shortly before, I learned my information was a little messed up. The Institute is not a reality yet! Vinny’s friend is associated with someone who acquired the property and a group that has a dream for it. Someone did a website to communicate what they imagine it to be, not what it currently is.
But interestingly, the property is the old Tennessee Military Training Institute! Originally built in 1902, there is now a compound of 13 brick buildings that look like a massive fortress housing hundreds of dormitories, classrooms, halls, gyms, an indoor pool, etc., all located on 155 acres with a baseball and track field, tennis courts, etc. Sadly everything is now abandoned and deteriorating. We found out, too, that it has been studied by paranormal groups for being haunted! :)
I have to admit that when we first pulled up to the locked and gated entrance and I saw what looked like a “Fort Knox” castle on the hill, I became giddy with excitement. Many times in life I’ve had a strange reoccurring dream of exploring spooky buildings (abandoned hospitals or schools) with lots of empty rooms and halls. But I’ve never actually done it. In fact just last week I first told Vinny about my fantasy when we stopped in Virginia near an abandoned insane asylum. I asked a caretaker about exploring it, but the door was shut on that one. :)
Anyway, to make a short story longer, my dream came true this weekend! We were given permission by our gracious hosts to explore the buildings to our heart’s content, and even though Vinny was less enthused than I was (apparently breaking into abandoned buildings is not entirely new to him, LOL), he graciously agreed to be my escort. I had a blast…and we didn’t even have to break any laws to do it! :-)
Some thoughts from being here
Later as I walked the cracked and deteriotating blacktop of the track field I couldn’t help but think of the hundreds of young men who ran and walked this same circle. Most of them are now passed away. Even this very school was once a dream of someone and now is no more. What is it that actually endures about humans and all their causes, pursuits and dreams? Everything seems to pass away. Or does it?
One thing I am convinced of, and the evidence is undeniable, is that there is a hope built into every heart that we are more than a passing thought or a random accident of nature. We are intentional. Every single person has intristic value to a loving Creator and is made to manifest and house His very spirit – which is Love. My spiritual papa used to emphasize that our greatest desire is relational intimacy. Not power, influence, peace, safety, wealth, etc., but love. It is for this reason it seems that the things that we remember and hold the most dear with all those loved ones who have died are the memories and enjoyment of loving and being loved. As the bible says so aptly, “Love endures forever.”
With that being said, we are camping with some sweet people who know something of this love, and who have a dream for this property and are moving forward on it despite the obstacles to it coming to pass. Even Vinny and I have a dream that we are out traveling to explore, and still getting more pieces to. But every day we are finding that we don’t have to wait for a future day to see dreams come true, and to invest in those things that will last forever. The time is now for heaven to break forth onto earth.
Love one another. You’ll never be dissapointed.