The year is 1985 of The Christian Era. It is an hour before sunrise and, since I am wide awake, I dress. The full moon lights up the land and I walk to the outhouse without a flashlight. It isn't really an outhouse; just a box, placed over a pit, with a toilet seat on it. It sits six feet from the edge of the cliff and affords a complete view of the valley below. I drop my pants, sit down and reflect on how beautiful everything looks in the moonlight.
It is the beginning of October and, at this hour of the morning, there is a winter sky. My eye wanders from Orion up to Aldebaran and then over to the Pleiades. There, near the Pleiades, is Halley's comet. It might be seen with a powerful telescope. I imagine it, as a tailless dim star up there in the sky, speeding on its rendezvous with the sun. Yesterday, I read that in 1456, Halley's Comet appeared at same time that the Turks invaded Europe. Pope Calixtus III ordered the faithful to say a prayer every noon : "God save us from the Devil, the Turks, and the Comet." I wonder if things are really much different. Is there really anything new under the sun? What, with a fundamentalist Christian movement trying to stop the teaching of evolution in the public schools. I reflect on it, and come to the conclusion that it certainly is different. At least now you can't be imprisoned, as Galileo was, for claiming that the Earth revolves around the Sun; at least not in this country.
I feel a bit chilled, so I don't waste much time doing my "duty". As I walk back to the house, I reflect on what I have been thinking about for the last two weeks, almost to the exclusion of everything else: my youngest son Allen. Allen is my stepson, whom I raised from the age of four. Now he is twenty-three and I am sixty.
Sure, I thought, I've made mistakes in raising my children; but nothing major. My kids are all reasonable people. My wife and I have given them the tools that they will need to live in a complex world. They are all able to think, to reason, to work through a problem.
What I hadn't counted on is the fact that, while I have given them the tools, it was their choice as to whether they chose to use them or not; and Allen has chosen not to. As a consequence, my image of myself as a good parent, has not only been bent -it has been shattered.
What would induce a child of mine to join a cult; to completely abdicate his power of reason in favor of accepting verbatim what some mind-rapeing sonofabitch of a guru says?
At this point in my life I would have gladly abdicated the parental privilege -gladly given the responsibility for having reared him to his biological father, or to his mother. But it's far too late for that now. Forty years of scientific and psychological training taught me to recognize when I am reasoning and when I am rationalizing . Now it seems virtually impossible to wish this problem away. It's mine! Like it or not, I'm stuck with it and I will try to deal with it. It seems unsolvable -but then, most problems seem unsolvable at the beginning.
When I first found out that Allen had "given his soul to Jesus," I didn't considered it my problem -at least not until last week. His sudden conversion to Christian fundamentalism happened almost two years ago. Of course I was concerned; just as I am concerned with all of the problems that my children have. Yet, my children's problems are theirs, not mine. Didn't I deal with MY own problems, without MY parent's help, when I was their age? Now it's THEIR turn to deal with THEIR own problems.
Last month, John Davis,the cult deprogrammer, said, "We have a problem with Jewish parents because their culture mandates that they not interfere in the life of a child who has attained his majority." So, that was why I had left my kids to fend for themselves; not my own wisdom and judgment, but the doctrine of an ancient culture. I had thought that I understood Judaism and had come to terms with it. I believed, until now, that I had managed to retain the good and reject the nonsense in my culture. I think of myself as a rational man; yet, here I am with the illusion that I have been behaving as a reasoning human being, when, all along, I'd been blindly obeying the dictate of a four thousand year old culture.
Oh well, I've accepted the problem, and will try
to solve it; just as I've tried to solve problems for most of
my life. I'll get as much information as I can; concentrate on
the problem until I know what can be done and then I will do what
I can. It will either work or it won't. As usual, I myself, will
accept the responsibility for its success or failure.
Almost an hour has passed and my mind is still on Allen, much as I would like it to be elsewhere. The same thoughts revolve over and over in my head; going nowhere. I lie in bed, unable to sleep, and listen to the heavy breathing of my wife Laura.
The eastern sky is a brilliant orange in anticipation of sunrise. I lie in bed in this house, which I built with my own hands; this house, which was to provide security, comfort and peace in my remaining years -my golden years. I tackled the problem of building this house in the same way that I am now tackling this "Allen" problem. When building the house, I first read all that I could find. Then I talked to everyone I could find who knew anything about the subject. Then I thought about it; drew up plans and started building. All of my attention was concentrated on the task at hand. Building the house got my undivided attention until it was finished. It was not simply a matter of following the plans, because the plans changed as new information presented itself. For example, the angle of the greenhouse windows were to have been what the passive solar heating books said they should be for maximum heat gain. Then, when I read that insulating glass should not be inclined more than 20 degrees from the vertical, I modified the design, because window strength on a windy mountain top is more important than a small increment of gain in heating. The passive solar heating worked out better than I had planned. At other times my designs had not worked out.
And how would this Allen business work out? At best, I might regain a son; at worst, lose one.
"Not really," I say to myself. "I've already lost him. It couldn't be much worse. I really have nothing to lose."
Last month, in the depths of despair, I went to see John Davis; a man who had been "deprograming" Moonies and their ilk. After a long discussion of the problem, I asked him, "If Allen is deprogramed, what will I have? What will he be like?"
I expected Davis to say "A mindless zombie."
Instead, Davis replied, "You'll have just what you had before he was brainwashed; no more, no less. It will be as if he awakened from a dream."
An immense feeling of relief washed over me and, through my tears, I said "I was hoping that you would say that."
Strange, isn't it, that at that moment it was I, not Allen, who felt as if he had awakened from a dream -a bad dream.
But you really can't know what I'm talking about.
Let me go back and tell you the whole story about Allen and me.
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