Meredith Carroll: Meredith Pro Tem
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado
The best-selling author of “Conversations with God” admitted last week that he passed off another writer’s work as his own. Neale Donald Walsch fraudulently recalled on a recent post on the spirituality website Beliefnet.com one of his son’s holiday concerts in which the children were supposed to hold up letters spelling “Christmas Love,” except one of the kids accidentally held the “m” upside down, thereby spelling “Christwas Love” instead.
However, it was actually author Candy Chand who first published the story of her son’s kindergarten pageant in 1999. When confronted by Chand, Walsch claimed to be “truly mystified” by his “unwitting” plagiarism, saying he must have “internalized” the story as his “own experience” at some point after recounting it for years.
Despite having committed a cardinal writer’s sin, though, you have to feel for Walsch. After all, a guy whose head is chock full of enough monumental details about his tête-à-têtes with the Lord that he filled an entire book (plus more than a dozen subsequent volumes) could easily be forgiven for misremembering whether it was his child or someone else’s who participated in a holiday performance featuring a prominently misspelled word.
Of course I can’t really relate to that kind of memory loss. I, after all, have a mind like a steel trap. Which is why I’ll never forget a single detail of the time when God asked me to sacrifice my son Isaac on Mount Moriah. As I dragged him to the top, Isaac kept begging me to explain what we were doing. I lied and said we were going to McDonald’s for some Apple Dippers so he wouldn’t run away before I had the opportunity to offer him up to the Almighty.
But just as I was about to take his life in God’s name, an angel appeared out of nowhere and stopped me. Luckily I noticed a ram caught in a nearby bush and slaughtered it in God’s name so at least I had some sort of consolation prize to propose in Isaac’s place. (I figured our Creator probably doesn’t appreciate being left empty-handed.)
Which reminds me of the totally unforgettable time that I boarded a steamship on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City. I was 17 and betrothed to a fellow named Cal Hockley who, despite lavishing me with high-priced gifts, was always bossing me around. So I found comfort instead in the arms of a young drifter name Jack who had snuck onboard.
When the captain failed to avoid an encounter with a considerable iceberg, I let Cal believe that I went down with the ship even though I managed to stay afloat on a piece of carved oak ” all the while holding onto an absurdly valuable blue diamond heart-shaped necklace that Cal had given me as an engagement gift. Years later a team of treasure hunters determined to uncover the necklace believed to have sunk with the ship asked me to accompany them on their journey. Once at sea I threw the necklace overboard, leaving not just them empty-handed, but me with an empty bank account and no serious prospects.
But that wasn’t nearly as bad, or as memorable, as the time that I was left exposed ” literally ” in front of tens of millions of people around the world when I performed during the halftime show at the Super Bowl. I had just finished a medley of my greatest hits when former boy-bander Justin Timberlake ripped off a section of my costume, revealing part of my right breast for 9/16ths of a second. The FCC received over half a million complaints about my wardrobe malfunction, and my album promptly tanked upon its release a few weeks later.
Fortunately it hasn’t been all doom and gloom. I’ll always cherish the memory of the time when I thought I wanted to be a nun but was ordered by the Mother Abbess to first work as a governess for the seven children of a widower to ensure that my commitment to the monastic life was firm.
As it turns out, it wasn’t. I sang, made the children (and myself) clothing out of curtains and fell in love with their father, whom I married. But when the Nazis tried to force him into the German navy, we took the kids, performed at a festival concert, hid in the abbey and then climbed (what felt like) every mountain until we reached Switzerland, where we were able to begin our happily every after.
So while I pity Walsch for his “unwitting” plagiarism, he simply should have drawn from his own experiences instead of stealing from others. Too bad he and God never discussed not coveting another’s story as thine own.
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