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.


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!