Phil among the scientologists

Trip Start Apr 02, 2007
Trip End Jul 02, 2007

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Flag of United States  , Missouri
Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Sometimes i worry that I'm getting fat. it is difficult to fight past the fast food mentality of America. it is difficult to find the bakeries or to reach the supermarkets without a car. that often leaves fast food the only greasey option within my grasp.

in St Louis i was out and looking for a breakfast venue. Even in university city, STL, breakfast is monopolised by the chains. starbucks coffee, kayak coffee, the st louis bread co. - these are what's on the menu. identical coffee in different coloured disposable packaging. you cannot escape the brands here. they occupy pride of place, foremost position in the consciousness. the tip of the tongue.

so maybe it was a body image crisis or a breakfast bloating that caused what follows. or maybe i have stumbled upon the path to Truth.

at the gates of the university city shopping and franchise strip stand, on grand leafy blocks, the pillars of society; the town hall, an episcopal (?) church, two synagogues, a masonic temple, and the church of scientology. I was heading to the last of these anyway, but there was little choice in the matter; it was the only one that had its doors open and a welcome sign out the front.

i had come to learn what i could from these guys, to catch a glimpse of what goes on behind the madness and makeup of scientology's higher profile adherents. and, of course, i had hoped to do it for free. freeness extended to the cursory tour of the rather rich furnishings of the building, and there were free brochures on offer, but if you wanted to know the real inside story, you had to pay for some paperback L. Ron Hubbard literature.

there were two other free components. one was the bathroom, replete with extensive reading material and easy ten-step toxicity tests ('how toxic are you?'), beyond which lay the sauna room for the cleansing-off of said toxins. the other was the personality test. now, i thought, i was getting somewhere.

how many questions were there? if our country were to go to war, would i feel hostile towards those who conscientiously objected? thats a paraphrase.

the test done, and my results fed into a computer that created a very easy-to-follow graph of my personality. expressed as ten salient points.

i was relieved to find that i am both stable (as opposed to dispersed) and active - these are my highest scores. i am also certain, aggressive and a correct estimator. my communication level and responsibility score are ok, but could do with addressing.

but then the graph plummets into a sharp -34 trough. and what personality point is so grievously malnourished in me? happiness.

my happiness is catastrophically low.

now, to be fair, i had come to St Louis because it was the only way to get further south. and i hadn't heard from my contact in arkansas. and i was feeling a little fat. and my breakfast was bland and overpriced and slow to arrive. and i had cheered for the losing team in both baseball games i had managed to catch. and i was tired and it was hot.

but can a kid with the world at his feet, travelling across the states for virtually nothing, staying with friends and writing writing writing really blame watery coffee and rubbery eggs for a negative 34 (the minimum ideal, by the way, would be a 7-33, which is where my communication rating lies)?

and more to the point, could my happiness really lie 60 points lower than responsibility and 100 points lower than stability? my test supervisor advised that scientology could help with my happiness rating. and also that happiness is about attaining your goals.

i sat opposite him wondering if he was staring deeper into my soul than i had ever been able to peer myself. or whether everyone who takes the test gets a negative happiness rating.

i wondered whether i was happy.

the question now stands more lucid than ever; what exactly am i doing in the USofA? and is morbid curiosity and the visiting of friends really enough of a reason to be here? and the investigation of American religion and religiosity? the personality test was the partial satisfaction of that goal, i thought. it told me otherwise.

the test doesn't need to be true; that is not its function. it sets you thinking. and that is the introductory claim of the church; that they are knowledge seekers. it also sets you doubting.

or alternatively you can reject the whole thing outright and say that i am happy if i feel happy and the setting and attaining of goals is not the measure of happiness, and that happiness is not quantifiable, nor can it be expressed or determined on paper through a questionaire, and that for that matter, happiness is not necessarily a personality trait, and that it is in a constant state of flux.

and you can decide to have further tests in other cities to find out just how this happiness thing works.

and regardless of how happy you are not sure you are, you can nod your head with certainty and feel that you have gained an insight in the workings of scientology. and for less than the price of a boring breakfast.
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