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A Course in Miracles is all about forgiveness and joining, so now and then I like to share a story that exemplifies these values. Recently, I came across the remarkable story of Unabomber victim Gary Wright and the Unabomber's brother, David Kaczynski. You would think that Wright would want to keep at arm's length the brother of a man who tried to bomb him to oblivion. Why have anything to do with another member of that crazy family? Yet against all odds, Wright and Kaczynski have forged a friendship so deep that they now regard each other as brothers.
Both were wounded in their own ways by the actions of Ted Kaczynski, the infamous "Unabomber," who in the course of a twenty year vendetta against technology killed three people and injured numerous others with homemade mail bombs. Wright was his eleventh victim. One day in 1987, he bent down and picked up what he thought was a piece of lumber outside his office. It was a bomb made by Ted Kaczynski. Wright said he felt like someone had shot him with a shotgun; the bomb sent him flying, embedded over two hundred pieces of shrapnel in his body, and severed nerves in his left arm.
David Kaczynski had his own wounds to deal with: not physical, but psychological. He was instrumental in helping authorities discover that his brother was the Unabomber and he turned him in. He struggled with the pain of having to turn in his own brother and realizing how many lives his brother had shattered. He wrote letters to all the victims' families. Most did not respond, and those who did were not friendly. So it was with some trepidation that he called Gary Wright. When he finally got a hold of Wright, he apologized and nervously awaited the barrage of anger he was sure was coming.
Instead, to Kaczynski's surprise, Wright said, "It's not your fault. You really don't have to carry that [burden]." Kaczynski was flooded with relief, and thus their unlikely friendship began.
After that first phone call, they started calling more frequently. Soon they and their families met. Wright met Kaczynski's mother and they looked at old family photo albums; he saw childhood pictures and heard family stories about the man who tried to kill him. All the while, Wright and Kaczynski's friendship deepened. They started taking trips together, going to the Baseball Hall of Fame and canoeing in the Adirondacks. Eventually, they started touring the country, telling their story and speaking about pain and reconciliation. Their lives are now inextricably intertwined, and their bond has grown stronger than ever.
Each of them has benefited in his own way from their unique relationship. For Wright, getting to know Kaczynski and his family has given him a larger perspective on the man who tried to kill him, a glimpse of the humanity of Ted Kaczynski and the family who loves him. He says:
I have learned things that no other victim of these set of crimes will ever know, and it's because of that relationship [with David]. There's more knowing you have a good family that raised this person [Ted] and that one person inside the family doesn't define the whole family. I've been able to see things, see photos that were outside of the norm. See a family that was a family unit before something went wrong.
For Kaczynski, joining with Wright has helped him deal with the guilt, pain, and sense of isolation that came from being the brother of one of the most notorious criminals in US history. "[Gary] helped me see that I could reconnect. There was hope that things would get better and not worse. Gary was, in some sense, my psychological lifeline through this terrible ordeal."
Both men say that their joining enabled them to endure the pain of their shared tragedy and heal in a way that neither could have alone. Wright says, "I liken it to like World War II vets. They went through something so traumatic that they're bonded for life." Kaczynski agrees, saying, "I know that this friendship is for life. We'll be there for each other for as long as we're alive." But perhaps "friendship" is too weak a word. Both of them have come to regard each other not just as friends, but as brothers. Kaczynski says, "There is a lot of pain for me with the word 'brother,' a lot of emotion. But I see Gary as my brother." Wright adds, "I don't take that lightly, either. I don't use that word, 'brother,' lightly."
I find the joining of Gary Wright and David Kaczynski truly astounding. It would have been uplifting enough if they had gone no further than that first phone call, where Kaczynski apologized and Wright absolved him of his burden of guilt. That would have been what the Course calls a holy encounter. But it didn't end there. Instead, both of them have joined in what looks to me like what the Course calls a holy relationship. In Course terminology, a holy relationship begins when two people join in a common purpose. Once they have joined, they go through a process in which they forgive each other, recognize their oneness, and embark on a joint special function together, a function in which they extend the holiness of their relationship to others.
This is what Wright and Kaczynski appear to have done: They have joined in a common purpose (the healing of their wounds stemming from Ted Kaczynski's actions), extended forgiveness (especially Wright), recognized their oneness with each other more and more, and finally have embarked on a joint special function of sharing their healing with others. Out of tragedy they have found brotherhood, and now they are spreading the message of brotherhood everywhere.
A Course in Miracles teaches that in the Holy Spirit's eyes, we have only one true purpose for being here: "that you learn you love your brother with a brother's love" (T-31.II.10:5). Thank you, Gary Wright and David Kaczynski, for teaching us this lesson. All of us — Gary, David, Ted, and all the rest of God's children — are brothers.