The Caliph

About the time that I had my initial interaction with Karol, I woke up one night and felt for the first time that my personality was under assault. The sense was that my mind was surrounded and occupied. The feeling lasted for a few seconds, and then the sense of control suddenly inverted. I had the apprehension of seeing through another's eyes. I had a fuzzy apprehension of a peach-colored earthen ceiling, corners rounded as in rustic construction, and windows without glass. Immediately, the personality that had engaged me pushed me away. I was squeezed down to a point for five or ten seconds, then released. The personality was no longer perceptible.

Perhaps eighteen months later, I picked up Imperial Hubris. I was struck by the author's description of the Caliph. In public, he evokes a deep emotional cord with the people he believes he represents. Rather than fearing him, most of them find a deep tranquility and sense of validation in his presence.

I woke up one Saturday morning in Livermore, and felt that I was being shadowed. I went out to play tennis, and on the way back picked up Creed's With Arms Wide Open on the radio. I had a very powerful emotional resonance, and realized that someone was hearing the music with me. The Caliph wasn't aware that American music could express so powerfully the contradictions of manhood.

That night, I took him dancing. He had some deep conflicts with the experience, and spent much of the evening criticizing my choice of diversion. I had been trying to reach one of the ladies at the club for a number of months. She had some confusion regarding the direction I was taking, and tended to project sexual energy at me. Apprehending this skimpily clad and overly sexual lady, my guest became angry.

I responded that one could run away from immorality, or one could try to heal it. Women that acted the way she did didn't know what they were missing. I was trying to make her aware of her loss. I set to work with her, as I usually did, trying to tie her mind and heart together. While I couldn't make it stick, I was usually able to bring them together at least temporarily. The transformation was dramatic, and my guest recognized that he might better serve his community by wrestling with their personal weakness.

I later had the opportunity to point out that there were Muslim communities in America, and that his success in addressing these issues might have a major impact on the degree to which Americans adopted the tradition.

I took to using Human Clay to pass the time when I drove down the I-5. I frequently found myself thinking of the Caliph on those occasions, with a growing sense of closeness. A consensus was developing that the anger at the heart of Islam had to be healed. It just wasn't clear how to go about doing it. After reading a book on the politics of Islam, and learning to understand Saudi Wahabbism, the issues became clearer.

One morning last Autumn, I sat down next to my CD player at home, and had the apprehension that this was the time. I put on With Arms Wide Open, and opened myself to the spirit of intent. I had the sense of flowing across the Atlantic, and pausing over Mecca. I needed to reach Mohammed, and searched for a way into the monument. A system of protection was in place, and I was unable to enter. I gathered energy and tried again. Suddenly, I was called out and around. I circled slightly north and then East, circling around and then back, picking up an enormous gift of energy from Muslim Asia. Finally I returned, and gathering all of that power into my heart, drove down with all the will that I could focus.

It was an explosion of energy, running out from the monument along connections of faith. We overwhelmed the resistance of the Wahabbi clerics. What no political or military action had been able to achieve, we accomplished by dropping a love bomb on Mecca.

I realized a few days later that we had more help that I had apprehended. We were called again to our task, but this time the connections ran out to Europe and Russia, where the family of Christendom waited to receive and anchor the opening.

My connection with the Caliph continues. (Some have remarked upon our morphological similarities.) I feel his story is a great human tragedy. Every developing civilization has to come to terms with the disintegration of traditional communal bonds, and the wastefulness of violence. I believe that the Caliph has fought for the former. Having seen in other circumstances how Westernization corrodes the connective tissue of traditional cultures, I also understand why he felt motivated to fight so hard.

Fortunately, in my apprehension the Caliph embodies a transformation from aggression to constructive engagement in a single lifetime. When I reflect on the European transformations, I must recognize that thus far our contest with militant Islam has been far less destructive. The Caliph recognizes that 9/11 was a terrible error. He is without doubt the most influential personality in the Islamic world, and therefore his transformation is an opportunity. I hope that he is dealt with constructively by the powers of the West.

The message of Islam is a message of love. By holding out a hand from the West, and accepting the reality of our failings, we found that we had something to strive for together. Neither of our cultures has achieved a proper balance in human relations. Our diversity provides an opportunity for us to learn from each other.

The story had its culmination in an indirect exchange. A representative from the Afghan Women's Movement came to speak at the UU Fellowship late last Autumn. I found her characterization of Afghan men to be polarizing. After her speech, we had a brief moment while the worship associate closed out the service. The picture she had painted was dominated by the corrupting influence of the drug trade. I built an imagining of a young man in Afghanistan. I saw myself approaching the fields, and entering him as he reached out his hand to grasp a poppy bulb. I paused his motion, and our guest, aching with fear and disappointment, reached out and tenderly pulled his hand away. With his acquiescence, I felt hope spring into her heart.

I apprehend that the Caliph abhorred the destructive influence of the drug trade, and now accepts that dogmatism provides haven to hypocrites. I pray that the Afghan experiment in crop substitution is vigorously supported by the West, and succeeds in bringing the nation once again to self-sufficiency. Under the Taliban, the Caliph cultivated Afghanistan as the only true Islamic state. I believe that he has set his will to that task in a different way, and using methods both more powerful and more sustainable.