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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Near Heaven's Gate

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.

2 comments:

scribbit said...

I'd totally forgotten about that happening. Ten years goes so quickly.

Shai said...

I have had the lost posts happen one too many times myself lately. Thanks for the tip. Usually now, I just email them to my blog, and that takes care of that!