My computer continues to be all medieval with me; the slave rodents must have lobbied for better working conditions, leaving me postless. I had intended to write a simple piece looking back ten years to the Heaven’s Gate suicides, some light reading, but was continuously denied. I discovered, painfully last week, that if the compose/html buttons are missing, everything I write will disappear as soon as I hit publish. So, today I am sending this word document to my sister and I will log in and post it from there.
Yes, I am pathetic.
Let me see if I can collect my thoughts from yesterday…
When Greg and I lived in southern Oregon, he made friends, at the comic bookstore, with a friend I will refer to as M. Because that’s what white and nerdy people do. At first glance, he appeared homeless. He walked everywhere with a backpack, elaborate walking stick and a hat covered in pins, most of which referred to UFOs and alien life. But M was employed and had a home – he just didn’t care about fitting in and lived how he saw fit. He reminded me of an (even more) eccentric Agent Mulder. (Fine, I’ll admit it. I love the X-files too. Don’t jeer.)
In March of 1997, the news announced the suicide deaths of 39 members of the UFO/religious cult, Heaven’s Gate. I guess Greg and I reacted like a lot of people – their deaths were sad and meaningless. They had family and jobs they left behind. Didn’t they see that their leader was a nutcase? It was heartbreaking.
Imagine our surprise when Greg found out that M had belonged to this cult, years before, when they were on the Oregon Coast. He knew some of the people that died. I was shocked when I heard this. How did he escape? I mean, cult leaders just don’t let you take off, right? As M described his years with the group, it became clear that he had always been free to leave. All the members had that choice.
Which led me to a difficult conclusion.
Free will doesn’t always lead to greener pastures and grand adventures. Somehow their deaths were easier to swallow when I imagined that they committed suicide because they were coerced. More like murder, less like delusional religious martyrdom.
May their troubled souls rest in peace.