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Messiah Complex

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Walking through the ancient streets of Jerusalem one summer’s day in 2011. I crossed paths with a man who was hastily meandering through the crowded market, appearing to hold an insect by its wings, clamped with delicate precision between index finger and thumb. He had a disheveled look as though perhaps homeless and wore a tattered t-shirt , combat trousers, thick rimmed glasses taped together at the bridge, greasy grey locks and a shock of grey beard; which was about large enough to hide a gerbil in. What’s more, he had a look in his eye like that of a mad scientist or religious fanatic. Someone who had perhaps discovered a great truth that has remained concealed from the rest of mankind for centuries. My curiosity was piqued by this chance encounter. He seemed on a mission of sorts and stood out from the crowd not only due to his shabby appearance and hallowed demeanor, but because he was obviously aloof from the chaotic surroundings of the busy market. I followed him until the crowds subsided. Here I approached him to ask why he was carrying a bee by the wing tips. Speaking with an American intonation, he began describing the daily ritual of stinging himself with bees to reach a higher state of consciousness. Clearly passionate about this practice, he explained in great detail how this act of self-flagellation via the poisonous barbed appendage of a bee’s abdomen not only induced a state of transcendence and enlightenment, but also made him impervious to illness. His dialogue was interspersed with verses from the old testament and he even threw in occasional references to chemistry. Following a brief discussion about his religion or cult (although I failed to establish whether he acted alone, had a following or was a follower) he then demonstrated the procedure which formed the foundation of his belief system. The bee by this time was agitated to the point where it was continuously attempting to sting anything within reach of its rear end. The messianic hopeful then placed the bee to his forehead and instantly felt the bee sting pierce; the acid venom seeped subcutaneously between his eyes. At this point I noticed he already had several bee stings protruding from his face, but they were expired, whereas the fresh sting was pulsating, more venom entering the wound with each pulse. He let out a roaring yell. Some passers-by stopped to view the spectacle. “Crazy American!” one observer shouted. “Crazy American, crazy American.” He mimicked in response. The pain of routinely stinging himself with bees somehow brought him closer to God. As we parted ways, he handed me a piece of paper upon which was written some of his philosophies. To the casual observer he was perhaps just another case of messiah complex.

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