Monday, October 15, 2007

Ten Metres and the Moon

A couple of days before I met Emily and her friends Israel performed that raid you'll have heard about, the air raid that Israel at the time denied but has now admitted performing.

Some circles say Israel was attacking an emergent nuclear capacity imported via Tartous from North Korea. Whatever it was (obviously it was something), will no doubt come out in the wash.

From what I gather the Syrian people are increasingly worried about a war between the two countries. Personally I fail to understand how such would serve the self-interest of either nation. Syria is threatening vaguely to retaliate somehow in the indeterminate future. Israel, after owning up, eventually, to invading Syrian airspace declares that her defenses have been tested and proved resilient (whether that be a euphemism for a second Osirak or not).

It must be nice to say that, in any case, after last year's embarrassment at the hands of Hezbollah.

But the main feature of the whole scenario has been silence.

A weird thing about silence is that when it arises inappropriately, as it has now, it often tends to increase attention not decrease it, which is what you'd expect those being silent would prefer.

Can you believe that Syria and Israel came to within ten metres of land of finding peace in 2000? I can, but then I bear no illusions about the eccentricity of this particualr region of the blue planet. Syria wanted the beach. The beach of the Sea of Galilee. Israel said no. Syria said no to Israel's no and then both sides decided that, actually, on second thoughts we prefer being at war to losing or failing to gain ten metres of land. How stupid of us to forget.

This is but one of the myriad examples of the insanity of human posturing collecting around the fertile crescent. I could name many others. So, no doubt, could you. Well, as long as they like all this hatred and fear and histrionic pomposity - let them all get on with it is what I think; or at least am often tempted to.

Emily, if I might risk the perils of categorisation, is somewhat anti-Israeli in her stance. Beyond that vague brush I wouldn't want to delineate. It was very interesting to hear from her about how badly educated the American people are about the situation in the Middle East and of how grateful she feels to have learnt the other perspective and expereinced how things 'really are'. The Media and education system in America, so she said, strides a fairly uncontroversially pro-Israeli line, in the context of its broader loyalty to the line of the American military, industrial and political complex.

Of course, to be 'pro-Israeli' can mean any number of positions from extreme left (the Israeli Meretz party for example, which some might even call anti-zionist) to extreme right, where ideas of removing the Palestinians from Israel proper and extending Israel beyond its 1967 borders begin to emerge. I'm not exactly clear where America positions itself, but somewhere in the middle I would imagine. Well, except amongst the Christian fundamentalists who'd be somewhere however wackily to the right, despite their inherent theological and somewhat patronising prejudices against Judaism.

I was a little unsure how Emily rated my stance regarding Israel. I wasn't that clear in my statements mainly because my position is not clear or simplistic, just as the region isn't. But I reckon she gathered that I'm not anti-Israeli, in that I think such a polarisation of reality, in this field as in all, is childish and irresponsible and that both sides, or as it were all sides in the Middle Eastern dispute, are to blame and at fault and need to yield (so it is in all conflicts). If that makes me an anti-Palestinian in some person's mind on account of my being a 'status quo' supporting fence-sitter then an anti-Palestinian I am in the mind of that person, but not in mine. Nothing would please me more than for Palestinians to be as joyful and happy as their fellow Muslims in Turkey and Syria seem to be, and for them to benefit, as can we all, from friendly relations with the ancestors of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah. Are we sure that makes me anti-Palestinian? I suggest it does not.

It was enjoyable telling Emily about my experiences as a 19 year old with the organisation headed by the curious, Korean gentleman known as Sun Myung Moon. She was shocked at first when I told, as are many. Then, as usual, she became less so when I told her I was only 'with the Moonies' for three weeks, that I never gave them any money (ok, three pounds), never stayed with them, never prayed at any of their services, and never abandoned my questioning mind to them. I say that just to make things clear that 'I Was Never a Moonie'. And I say that because, so I later learnt, alot of people at university thought I had been a Moonie all the years that I was there, just because they had learnt, correctly, that I had spent some time with them. Even highly educated Oxbridge rejects, so it seems, will formulate their own projections in the absence of supporting facts. So I'm obviously a bit sensitive about that.

It's nonethless true, on the other hand, that the Moonies' ministrations left my cognitive faculties somewhat temporarily impaired. I hadn't asked them to warp my mind, mind you. No, they did that without my needing to ask. How kind. Actually, whether or not they used the sophisticated mind controlling techniques, learnt during the Korean War, that many say they use, I'm not sure. Certainly I could believe this. But no doubt much of the effect they wrought on me must be linked to my own susceptibility to them at the time. It's true, before I paid them a visit I was young, I was idealistic (actually I still am! Or at leat when I'm not depressed). I was also unhappy with my University studies and generally feeling pretty weird and dislocated. I was very glad, moreover, to talk to people who at least pretended to talk about God and life seriously, with passion, without being conventionally religious. With people, who to all appearences sake, seemed extremely friendly and welcoming and even, might it be ventured, 'loving'. All that swept me into their power temporarily, it is true.

Beyond that there's no doubt that my experiences with the Reverend had an enormous impact on my life on account of how I reacted to the experience. Materially it meant I dropped out of University. I’m not sure I really needed to but to my Mother and the Principal of my college it felt like a good enough reason to convalesce. I didn’t put up any resistance. In any case there was still that original dissatisfaction with studying Philosophy (too arid, too pedantic) that had lain behind my lunar expedition in the first place. In any case taking time out sounded like a good idea. This was also because….

Spiritually, internally, the effect on leaving the Moonies had been dramatic. Note I talk specifically about what happened after I disengaged from The Unification Church, not the effect of that Church itself, which had been to turn me into a paranoid zombie. As I emerged from its malign and tentacled snare, which had stretched itself throughout my teenage mind, I experienced a tremendous feeling of rebirth and liberation, and ensuing psychic states of peace, bliss and ecstasy of a kind I’d never known before. Without question I increasingly came to associate this liberating force (correctly or incorrectly, delusionally or accurately) with the specific transcendent person of Jesus Christ, who became a very real and mystical presence for me.

As a child I had, to be honest, always held an extremely soft spot for the Nazarene. This absolutely in spite of my bored lack of interest in and basic disrespect for the established Christian Churches. Overall, however, my affection and regard had been cerebral and idealistic, not existential as such. I thought Jesus was a great and tremendous person, as so many people do. It was only after my rejection of the Moonies that my sense of closeness to Jesus and the vividness of my spiritual experiences in general came to significant life. The practical effects of this period of near mystical trance were twofold. Firstly, I lost all interest in finding work or engaging much in externally directed activities, keen as I became to savour and luxuriate in my newfound sense of a discovered inner treasure. Luckily, due to a modest trust fund and a mother who didn’t mind me doing nothing very much, this was possible. Secondly, I decided to return to Durham University in the autumn of 1991, but to study Theology this time as a way of giving expression to my newfound, developing interest in the spiritual, and the Christian tradition in particular.

No comments: