On the Road Again

I am ripping music off CDs onto an SD card, so I will have new music in my ear buds during the JetBlue flight to Boston tonight. In less than an hour we will roll our bags and Claire over to the bus station for the ride to Denver International. From Logan early tomorrow morning we will go direct to Maine for a few days of beach and foliage watching. Then back to Cambridge for some family visiting. "Oh how she's grown!" will greet Claire everywhere, now that she is a strapping 3 pounds, according to the scale at the UPS store this evening.

My digital packing takes longer than the time required to stuff clothes, shoes and power adapters in my Tumi bag. I go through a laborious process of transferring all my Microsoft Outlook files to the Vaio, along with the Quicken accounts. This trip I had the added task of loading all five disks of the World of Warcraft software onto the Vaio, so I can continue my explorations of Lothar and Nathrezeim during the two weeks we will be away.

My cousin Jim and I had a long conversation at Starbucks in Writers Square the day after Rev. Moon's appearance in Denver. We went through my blog entry paragraph by paragraph, using it as a jumping off point for a deep exploration of big issues. Jim likes to think and talk about the meaning of life, but many of us in the family are wary of engaging him on the topic, because we are afraid we're going to get rigid Moon views stuffed down our throats, with no real chance for give and take. I'm not saying it's easy to engage someone whose beliefs are as strong and clear as Jim's, but I found it was worth the effort to find out what led to his involvement with the Unification Church when he was 19 years old. He was a young man aching for answers about life, and when he first encountered Moon's very long book, it made sense to him. Later, the first time he met Rev. Moon, it was in a large group. When Moon said, "Let us pray," Jim began crying, and was followed by everyone else in the room. Why? Because he seemed to literally have the weight of the world on his shoulders, Jim said. Anyway, it was a fascinating encounter. Jim e-mailed me today saying he had forwarded part of my blog entry "to the highest level of our US movement", along with Jim's own observations.

Oops. We're running late for the bus....

Friday, September 30, 2005

Full Moon Over Denver

The 86-year-old Rev. Sun Myung Moon came to Denver yesterday to address an audience of the faithful and the curious in the ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel. It was quite a show.

I had been invited to the event by my cousin Jim, a longtime member of the Unification Church. He and his Japanese wife, Kinuyo, were married by the Rev. Moon and have four wonderful kids. To be honest, I have never been able to square my admitedly negative impression of the Reverend with my admiration for Jim and his family. So I was eager to see the man in person. I joined a throng of nearly 1,000 people for a tasty buffet of salmon, chicken, and salad with apple pie for dessert. I sat alone at first, and then found Jim and his son Davis, a student at DU, and Jim's brother Bruce, an agnostic entrepeneur who makes avalanche survival gear in Boulder. We fiddled with our ear buds and radio transmitters during the warmup speeches, getting ready to switch to the English translator for Rev. Moon's address, which was in Korean.

Father Moon, as he was sometimes called, is looking good at 86. He spoke forcefully and moved athletically around the stage, chopping his hands and arms in the air. He wore a dark suit, white shirt, big red tie and a huge Christmassy corsage.

"Do I look ugly?" he asked. He mugged an ugly face and said, "I was labeled with all sorts of names." Among them, he said later, was "King of Brainwashers." Well, I guess I had heard that one, because one small part of me worried about going in a civilian and coming out a "Moonie." I purposefully put one of my AA annniversary coins in my right pocket to touch, in case I needed grounding from whatever charms might be cast. I wasn't the only one with such thoughts. When the MC invited us all to stand and drink the little containers of grape juice on the tables, I caught Bruce's eye and found a look of mock alarm. I knew it wasn't Kool-Aid, but I palmed my container anyway, hiding it later, undrunk, under a napkin.

Rev. Moon began by asking the audience if they wanted him to simply read his prepared text, which was distributed in English, or to depart from it. To each of these call-and-response bits, there seemed to be about 50 or maybe 100 firm voices giving the desired answer, which in this case was something like "Go long, Rev!" Which he did. After two hours, Rev. Moon still had nearly half of his written speech left. I saw Bruce rise and whisper in Jim's ear. It was 9:30 p.m. and I figured this would be my best shot at getting home before real late. I rose too and caught a ride back to LoDo with Bruce.

I will admit that I was creeped out by all the Messiah talk, as in "He is the one, and we need not look for another," a statement in the introduction by an archbishop listed as co-president of the American Clergy Leadership Conference. And Moon himself was not shy about making shocking claims for his authority. Some samples from quotes written down from the translator: "I declare these [points] because I absolutely know God's will." "I searched the entire spirit world and saw Jesus and Buddha, and I challenged God, which is when I received the annointment as True Parent." "I have the title of Savior, and Messiah...and the Lord of the Second Advent."

What made such claims more tolerable was a sort of wink, wink that came with some of them. After "Messiah" in the previous quote, he noted that "Messiah in Japanese means restaurant owner." And he then said, "I don't want to be called the Savior." So he's kind of an aw shucks savior, and he also compared himself to a Grandpa, asking if there was anyone in the room older than 86. There being none, he said he was free to talk to us like a Grandpa.

The other way I end up cutting Moon some slack for his Messianic tone is to admire the breathless scope of his aspirations. He is literally working for world peace as if it's an attainable goal. Along the way, he is promoting the creation of a new, spiritually based United Nations and the construction of a tunnel that would link Alaska and Russia. ("You will be able to drive from Denver to Moscow--it will be a long drive, yes.") He is working on the unification of the Koreas, the end to the North Korean nuclear threat, and the ending of the conflict between the body and the mind. I found myself achingly uplifted by the world peace bit, to hear someone actually dare to offer this as a doable goal. It made me realize how I have somewhere along the line simply accepted that we are headed for doom and no one can stop it. Is there really any hope of the nations coming together? What sort of person would actually take on a mission of such scale?

Well, probably an unusual person, and one with a fairly large sense of himself. As in a Messianic sense of himself. So if that's what it takes for this survivor of Communist gulag camps to get up each morning of his 87th year and fly to another city (he's scheduled to speak in 100 cities all over the world on this tour), I can go with that. We all create a story of ourselves that motivates us through our lives. Father Moon's is a bigger story than most.

I don't want to leave without noting that Rev. Moon's frequent reminders of how much he has been persecuted struck me as a poor fit with a truly spiritual leader. Those are the ones who simply seem to have forgotten themselves in the service of God and humanity. The electrifying humility of such leaders seemed to be less evident in the Rev. Moon than I might have expected if he is who he says he is. Instead, he wanted to remind us of how the CIA and the KGB have tried to do him in, but he's still here. The CIA even sent a woman to try and seduce him in San Francisco. Well, maybe. This is not to take away from the real persecution he has been through, especially in the prison camps. He just might have used his time more effectively by talking about his message more and about himself less.

So I'm still a coin-carrying member of AA and a true believer in the complexity of life. But I'm glad I had a chance to see this remarkable personage in the flesh.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Hi. My Name is...

My two World of Warcraft characters are Herculesroot, left, a Level 2 Night Elf Rogue for the Alliance in the realm of Lothar, and Hr, right, a Level 3 Orc Hunter for the Hoard in the realm of Nathrezim. Right. I've lost my mind. I'm also having a terrific time learning my way around. I enjoy fighting for both sides. It's a metaphor for my radical Center politics in the "real" realm.

I've been encouraged in my explorations by young friends who are way further into the cult that I am. Joel and Lindsey here in Denver are Horde-sters. Lindsey, aka ditchwitch, a troll shaman, e-mailed me, "Joel and I would suggest that you play a Horde race on the Nathrezim server, so we can play together. We can also help you out and create lower level alts to level with you." This is like learning French. I think she was saying they can somehow dumb down their characters' advanced powers in order to advance from level to level with my rookie creations. "To level" means "to advance a level." I predict that one day this phrase will be in common usage among civilians, as ordinary as "to e-mail."

More encouragement came from La Conner, Washington, where my friend Kes reports that his son Eli, who first introduced me to WoW, is delighted at my immersion into the game. Kes added, "He's worried about you, though, trying to make your way through that world alone. He wants to know what realm and what server you're on." This delighted me no end. As with Joel and Lindsey's e-mail, it felt like an interfusion of real and virtual worlds, with friendship and even compassion moving through the portals. But I am still wondering where I will find the time to level in either Lothar or Nathrezim, given that today I took on two new "real" quests, a joint poetry reading with my sister Oct. 10th in Cambridge, and a fund-raising project on behalf of Arts for Colorado.

No worries. At the Phoenix Concept this morning one of the regulars shared how he always asks God for help in his daily challenges for this simple reason: "God don't lose no battles."

Monday, September 26, 2005

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?