Friday, March 24, 2006

Scientology Inc.

My girlfriend and I were on our way to see the Robert Rauschenberg exhibition at the Met the other day, because we're those kind of people. Unlike me, she was on a busy schedule, having to teach some people French later that afternoon. The sun was out, and we walked toward Central Park through the Upper East Side. I was getting mildly excited at all the perverse modern art I was to see, and then a sign, shimmering in the sunlight, distracted me:


And underneath the heading, more fantastic still:


Surely Tom Cruise had to be here. And John Travolta. Squinting in the sunlight, I lumbered around the front of the building, knowing the gates to this palace would forever be barred to me. But what note was tacked to a velvet board, propped by the front door. Yes,


I turned to my girlfriend. Her eyes already wore a look of resignation. I opened the door. She let herself be ushered in. The receptionist glanced up. The reception was a perculiar mix of the ornate and tacky, with marbles stairwells and numerous books that would resolve your life lining the walls, DVDs also. The receptionist appeared to wink. This was just like "Eyes Wide Shut": Tom couldn't be far. What does one say in such situations? The only thing one can:

"We would like a free personality test. Both of us."

The receptionist nodded. Phew! We had not disgraced ourselves or acted foolishly in a Scientology Center. We were bade sit down on the plush velvet couch, and five minutes later a woman wearing velvet and an intense stair glided down the stairwell. she beckoned us follow with supple gestures, and we were led into an expansive room with a full view of central park. On a table beside us was advertised a river cruise with added scientology, retailing at a cool ten thousand dollars for the full week. "Scriptwriters" would be there, to tell you how to get your life in order. Our helper lady fetched us two pink slips, on which were written many multiple choice questions. It would take half an hour, we were told, "and then we will feed the results into a computer, revealing all the details of your particular personality, and discovering how we can go forward from this point."

I looked at the sheet. Some questions tried to confuse you with the negatives. Like:

"Would you rarely attempt not to dissaude a small number of persons for sabotaging not your private space, but the private space of another?"

Yes, no or maybe?

Some were even trickier:

"Do you like to spend time with children."

Obviously here you want to come over a nice fellow, while somehow not a paedophile.

I jotted down my responses somewhat arbitrarily. My girlfriend had a furrowed expression. I was racing clear! This was just like school! I complete my pink slip in record time. "These questions are foolish, and ungrammatical", my girlfriend told me. I showed her how to finish them--that is, how to answer them arbitrarily. The helper lady returned just as we were finishing off, and looked cross, as if we were trying to cheat the system.

"She speaks French", I reassured her. This seemed to make the immediate situation better, but the larger one worse.

We were marched down backstairs, where we waited nervously while our answers were fed into a machine. I'm adopting a light tone here, but really I was very nervous to hear what the computer would say; there was a lot resting on it. My girlfriend was called to the evaluation suite first. Occasionally the sound of her laughter echoed down the corridoor. Was it her laughter?

A man came into the reception. "You deal with celebrities?" he asked. The receptionist nodded. "You help them stay underground." A nod again. "That's good" the man said. "That's useful to know."

"You know", he said after a moment's silence, "I used to be a Mormon missionary." the receptionist nodded. "I have my own Off-Broadway production. It's called Confessions of a Mormon Boy. It's all about my individuality breaking free from the restraints--fetters--of the church. Look at the internet. Just shoot up 'Mormon Boy Productions.'"

The receptionist seemed a bit more excited at this news. They exchanged advertising leaflets. "So this is all about diagenics?" said the Mormon boy. I knew the answer to this! I had been reading all about the foundation of scientology, and how the founder was able to divine a nuclear explosion in Russia, and all kinds of shit. But I kept my knowledge to myself. And then I was called into the room.

Even though I was expecting to learn some dire news that only an expensive Sceintology course could reverse, I was unprepared for the verdict that hit me. I still have the graph indicating my mental state. It rates me on several categories, such as balance, creativity, etc. It looks like the line on the heart-monitor at the sad point in the movies. My mental graph was awful. I was unstable and morbidly depressed. The only category I scored highly on was aggression. "Are you overly critical", the helper lady asked.

"I'm not overly critical", I shouted. "It's this graph. It's the method it uses."

"Ah-ha" said the woman, nodding her head sagely.

Apparently even though I was a basket-case things could still be improved to bring life to a tolerable pitch. All I needed to do was enroll on a course called "Personal Integrity", and purchase two books, "which didn't even require that much reading." I had learnt my lesson: I purchased one book for $5, and placed it in a shadowy corner of my apartment, concealing my graph of shame, while it accumulates dust until I am strong enough to face my demons and "score some wins." I can't afford the Personal Integrity, so if anyone could help out, I'd be much applied.

Later that night, I saw an advert for an Off-Broadway production, called "COnfessions of a Mormon Boy."

Shoot it up on the internet.