I never meant to get caught up in the cult of personality, surrounding Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg or their collaboration in filming War of the Worlds in Bayonne.
Like most things in my life, the events carried me away and as I watched others get sucked up into the vortex of Spielberg's universe, I did not realize I was being sucked up, too.
Some years ago, I was inside a building upon which a tornado lighted briefly. I heard the storm and the rip of metal, but did not realize my building had been struck until after the event had ended and found the roof pealed back from one corner as if a sardine can.
In some senses the forces surrounding Spielberg's activities in Bayonne made a tornado seem tame, pushing and pulling at me, swirling around inside and outside my head in a way legendary Dorothy could not have imagined, yet leading me to a similar state where I could easily say: "This isn't Kansas or Bayonne anymore," but some strange ethereal world where special effects and superheroes dominated.
Although we in "The Liberal East," liked to think we have shed our dependency of gods (after all, wasn't that was the Presidential election was about?), we have not evolved so far as all that, and may actually have devolved into a more primitive belief system more typical to Homer's Age.
We have simply giving our gods new faces, and endowing them with strange new powers Homer never had time or inclination to give his own. But we like those in Homer's time, believe in their ability to elevate our lives. We follow the careers of movie stars and music performers from a distance, documenting their accomplishments, dreaming of a day when we might meet them - in the vain hope that such contact might endow us with some of their powers, giving grace to us by merely rubbing shoulders.
This is where the cult of personality emerges. The basic credo of this cult is that as with Gods of old, Spielberg and Cruise live in a universe so elevated from ours that in most cases they cannot possibly acknowledge our existence. We are so insignificant in the scheme of things that we might spend our lives invisible to them even if we walk the same streets as they do and breathe the same air.
If there is contact it is usually accidental. But there are some who would seek out that attention, doing something that would turn the eyes of these elevated beings downward so as to acknowledge us. Homer's heroes often offered sacrifices for this purpose. The followers of our modern gods have developed their own strategies, seeking any measure of attention such godly souls might issue in the way of grace.
In some ways, that's what this webpage was about, a kind of offering to the gods, or perhaps, more correctly, a defiant attempt to steal a little of their thunder. Perhaps I even saw myself as a modern day Prometheus stealing the secrets of the new gods the way he stole the secret of fire from the gods of his time. Even the most secure of us are not immune to the seductive nature of fame or the need to have our egos stroked by contact with those who have truly accomplished godly things.
But for the most part, godly contact with the masses is a dangerous business.
Chat rooms and news groups show as much hatred of modern gods as love, with followers perhaps embittered by their inability to draw attention in a more positive way.
Wiser souls than me have frequently pointed out the dubious thin line between love and hate, and how easily a disillusioned follower might slip over the edge. People like John Lennon and George Harrison have been victimized by such misguided love.
Man's relationship with his gods has always been balanced on this razor's edge because many of use feel dissatisfied with our own lives and seek out imaginary salvation in the arms of some superstar. Then, when our prayers fail, we turn to curses.
Yet for all the talent people like Spielberg and Cruse possess, they cannot magically transform our lives. The fact that in many cases, such people are just as human as we are, suffering the same doubts, seeking similar answers in religion or love, adds fuel to this weird faith we possess.
As often as the mob praises, it condemns, blaming gods like Spielberg and Cruise for not being the perfect beings we imagine them in our minds.
The closer the contact with the gods, the more this duality exists.
Maybe each of us needs to click our heals a few times and recite as Dorothy once did, "There is no place like home," then get back to the solid ground upon which we must build our own lives, be that Kansas or Bayonne.Contact Al Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org