Forty Years a Scientologist: A Comment on Friendship
A few months ago I reconnected with an old, incredibly close friend of mine from my long-gone youth, a friend who had a major impact on my teenage life. Our reconnection conversation was a satisfying look back that gave me a renewed appreciation of my life looking forward.
We only had an hour to talk, which isn’t much when you haven’t talked to someone for nearly 40 years. So, in a rush, I gave him a few highlights of my last four decades and he gave me highlights of his. I talked about my kids, their kids and my friends and as I talked I realized what a remarkable four decades it had been, much of it associated with, related to or helped by my active involvement in Scientology. I realized what a stellar group of friends and colleagues I’ve enjoyed.
A couple of days after talking with him, still basking somewhat in the glow of our saunter down memory lane, my wife and I attended a conference of Scientologists in New York City over a three-day weekend. I think my reconnection conversation primed me to take particular notice of the friends with whom I spent that weekend and on the flight home I made some quick notes about a few of them:
A long-term, close friend who’s defied the odds that force so many artists to either give up their art or face a life of poverty. In contrast to the tired-starving-artist tale of woe, he’s made a living for the last 25 years creating fine art originals and commissioned works. He began his career training at an invitation-only school in France and later developed a group of painter friends associated with another well-known school stateside. Today, he’s the only one of that group who still paints, let alone the only one who managed to make a living sufficient to support a wife and two sons with just brush, palette and talent.
Another long-term friend was the driving force behind a sustained, massive effort to support the 9/11 first responders in New York City. While most people were fleeing the city or hunkering down hours after the towers collapsed, she organized a dedicated army to support those on the front line. Her team became part of the essential crew manning Ground Zero. When she talks about that time, she downplays it, claiming she did what anyone else would have done. But her lead not only stood out and helped in New York but grew into a movement that to this day inspires thousands to volunteer hundreds of thousands of hours bringing relief in the wake of disasters around the globe.
By any standard, quite the stellar group, but what’s most interesting is that these people—while anything but ordinary—are not completely out of the ordinary for the legions of Scientologists I have come to know over the last four decades.
I met a soft-spoken couple who now live in the U.S. but who grew up under communist suppression. With a little bit of prodding, they talked about the obstacles they faced living under an oppressive and uncaring social elite, the barriers they’d overcome and the amazing life they’d fashioned. It was a remarkable story. They’d built multiple companies, raised four sons and now pay forward their success by quietly donating vital funds to nonprofits tackling drug abuse and illiteracy. They’re not flashy. They’re not ostentatious. But they are obviously effective and remarkably generous.
I got to know better a photographer and world traveler I’d seen work before. He’s unassuming even though he honed his art working under one of the most famous photographers in the world. Today, demand for his talents flies him around the world, yet he takes time off to lend his skill to nonprofit efforts when needed. He’s approachable, hardworking and interested. And he makes capturing great photographs look effortless and does it with an undeniable lightness and spirit of play.
An explorer and researcher who has earned the significant honor of being a member of the esteemed Explorers Club. That’s the club whose members have walked on the moon, scaled the highest mountains in the world and made important contributions to a range of sciences. (L. Ron Hubbard, the Founder of the Scientology religion, was also a long-time Club member and carried the prestigious Explorers Club flag on three separate expeditions.)
Those were just a couple of the friends and colleagues with whom I had the pleasure of spending a few days in New York. Every single one of them approachable, without a hint of vanity or selfishness, obviously interested in life and what they could do to lend a helping hand. Every one of them a Scientologist living out their faith by making life better for themselves and others, each in their own way.
By any standard, quite the stellar group, but what’s most interesting is that these people—while anything but ordinary—are not completely out of the ordinary for the legions of Scientologists I have come to know over the last four decades. Each has a unique story, of course. And if you can get them to slow down long enough to say a few words about themselves, you routinely find extraordinary real-life tales. And to a person, they credit the lessons they learned in Scientology and its emphasis on helping one’s fellows as key factors in their success and happiness in life.
Sometimes in the course of living, we don’t have the time to look around, notice and appreciate the uniqueness around us. For me, it took a brief memory stroll covering the last 40 years to see with new eyes the remarkableness of the group of Scientologists with whom I’ve had the pleasure to share my life and who I have the privilege to call my friends.
David is a software engineer, father of two sons and grandfather to six grandchildren. He has worked in and written about high tech for more 25 years and currently lives and works in Clearwater, Florida where he volunteers time to various community programs.