Monday, January 28, 2013

Cowboys and aliens and spies

Spent the weekend on the couch reading Lawrence Wright’s new book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief, a fluidly-written, extensively-researched masterpiece of synthesis and even-handedness. But there is just so much weirdness and wrongness to process that half-way through, I realized I was developing an odd immunity. Sailing to Italy to find treasures buried in former lifetimes? Uh huh. Universe four quadrillion years old? Uh huh. Writing so revelatory it will cause the uninitiated to jump out windows or die of pneumonia? Sure, why not.

The Church of Scientology infiltrated government offices around the world? Uh huh. Harassed the IRS into granting it tax-exempt status? OK. Woman with legal complaint against the Church found with slit wrists, two suicide notes, three bullets in chest and one in head, and it’s still not declared a homicide? Hmm. Next?

Defections and disappearances and secret bases? Cowboys and aliens and spies? Yeah. Uh huh. All of it.

Humankind cannot bear very much reality, T.S. Eliot wrote. And some humankind, it would seem, can’t bear any at all.

This book is not for sale in Canada or the U.K. Apparently we have libel laws that would only make it easier for the notoriously litigious Church of Scientology to win a lawsuit against the publisher. But I am full of admiration for Lawrence Wright for having the courage and the skillfulness (in the ordinary and the Buddhist sense) to take this on. I hope he gets another Pulitzer. (And makes a gazillion dollars, in case he has to fight lawyers on billion-year retainers.)