Volume 35, Number 1

Of the Spirit

In Berkeley I met, if not Patient Zero
then early victims of emerging plagues:
Rajneesh, the Moonies, Asatru,
Maitreya, est, “The Two”
who built the suicidal Heaven’s Gate.
(Our language and assumptions in those days—
could almost say our ideology—
were communal.) But some gurus
failed. Tried to invent
the details of their vision on the fly.
Didn’t take into account
the proclivities of runaways and druggies.
Messiahs need a balance
between zeal and scam-intelligence;
if one too glaringly predominates

you fail. And failure is the real
other world. Everyone there is equal.
You dare not listen, you’ll only hear
excuses like your own. Can’t look around—
all directions are the same,
and you see out but nobody looks in.
How blessed is everything that happened since!
No call for unctuous talk of peace;
the return of individualism,
the old rugged cross
of hatred and a proper gun
to preach it with. I see each day’s
mass shooter as a spiritual heir
of those old masters and disciples;
no faith is real till it’s the faith of one.

—Frederick Pollack