A Study of Extremes

I met "D" when I still had braces on my teeth, back in 1974. It was during the time of the Hippy Counterculture with sex, drugs and rock and roll; and "cool" and "dyn-o-mite!" went hand in hand with hip hugger bellbottom jeans and throwing a Frisbee around for endless hours. I'd like to say it was at a party, but, back then, the party never ended. Blonde hair, full beard, blazing blue eyes and over six feet tall, he looked like a Greek god filling the doorway. It didn’t take long to realize his personality was as big as he was.

D cooked, did leather work, partied and made a few trips to Philadelphia to see friends. He had almost finished his Bachelor's degree before dropping out of college to work at a book publishing company. He lived alone on a farm his parents owned with two horses and a goat with twin kids. Even though his personality was "big," he was no different than any other 20-something man in that day and age. He had dreams of "living off the land" and didn't own a TV. One day he announced that his girlfriend from Philadelphia and her husband were moving into the farm with him. Not long after that, they all moved to Kansas.

The next time I saw D was in Aspen, Colorado in 1979. He had let his hair and beard grow wild, was doing freelance carpentry, and lived in an old school bus. He had put a piece of plywood over the backs of a few rows of seats for a bed and built a wood burning stove for heat. He said he owned 100 acres of land deep in the Rocky Mountains and gave me a P.O. box for his address.

Some time in the 1980's, he gave up writing letters and would call. He finally found a woman he loved enough to marry, though there was never a legal marriage license, and they had two children. She convinced him to get a vasectomy after the second child was born. They were members of some sort of New Age group that sounded like sun worship. 5 years into the marriage, his wife left him and the children, and that phone call was a particularly tearful one. He suddenly realized that I was the only person that has known him for so long, really knows him and asked me if I would come live with him, he couldn't bear to be alone.

The phone calls became more frequent and I began to learn much more about D. He would take his two small children with him to soak in a nudist hot springs. He was a vegetarian, and that became quite a problem for his son when he started school and learned of things like pizza and hot dogs and french fries. His kids were only allowed to wear cotton. He started bringing women home, some who would stay a few weeks, some for a few months. Then, his x-wife sued for custody of the kids and won. The phone calls to me decreased.

About this time, the Internet came into being, and though D would still call once in awhile, he would also email. One particular email was about Heaven's Gate (http://psychwww.com/psyrelig/hg/index.html - a professor copied and kept the original site to use in his Social Psychology courses.) and how he felt that the headless owl that had hit his windshield the other day was a sign to him that he was meant to go with the Hale-Bop comet too.

Adamantly against cigarette smoking, the next time I saw him, he lit up a Lucky Strike and insisted he was "offering up a gift to the gods." His hair was almost down to his waist, and so was his beard. His teeth, those once beautiful, perfect teeth, were rotting out of his head. Wild and uninhibited, still a very big personality, he seemed to have lost his physical size and looked scrawny. The last time I saw D in person was a few years later at his family's reunion that he invited me to. He had been in a bad car accident and fell in love with the nurse who cared for him while in the hospital. It was obvious that she didn't like his two children who were now teenagers and they were not at all happy to be around her either.

The last time I heard from D was an email telling me that he was now "born again" and "following in the path of Jesus Christ, our Lord and savior," etc., etc. The mass email addressed to many sounded false, hypocritical, irrational and illogical. I wrote him back to say that I didn't want to hear from him again until he got over this particular phase, the first time I'd ever rejected his behavior in all the years of knowing him. That was ten years ago.

Writing just the facts, so to speak, does not do D justice. He was an intelligent, warm, caring person who was not afraid to let loose completely. He loved life and he loved enjoying himself. But, somewhere along the line, he became eccentric and groundless - lost. I miss him.

At the heart of this story is the root of fundamentalism and extremism, the possible result of the longing for love and acceptance. There are several clues that you can point to as possible reasons, which I'll talk about in future posts. For now, think about it, and let me know what you think of D.

Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. The timestamp on the photo was in 2000, so it's after the time I saw him in person last.