LMT Literati Challenge, Year 2000

From: Bob Minton <bobminton@lisatrust.net>
Subject: LMT Literati Contest Entry - Scientologist: Paul Martin
Date: Sun, 17 Dec 2000 19:21:17 -0500
Organization: Lisa McPherson Trust, a Scientology watchdog group
Message-ID: <t2mq3tk2n3auhrooge87c0t9kdi5ojjlhj@4ax.com>

Street address removed for privacy by LMT
City and State removed for privacy by LMT
Phone number removed for privacy by LMT

Topic: "Scientology: Control,Freedom & Responsibility."


Copyright © 2000 by Paul Martin

I have chosen the format of a first person story to show control, freedom and responsibility from the perspective of a single Scientologist.

Going to AOLA for a session first thing in the morning, after dropping off the kids at school and before going to work, is one of the better things about living in LA. It helps that it's not one of the busier times of the year in my work, and it also helps to coordinate the times and driving routes most efficiently to get everything into the day that you want. I'm getting auditing and one of the best things about it, for me, are the unexpected side benefits - those areas of living that weren't specifically addressed in a particular session, but change for the better the next time you notice. On the day before, I'd handled something that improved markedly, of all things, the daily frustration of driving in LA. The rest of the day, and so far this day, people had been going out of their way to be courteous to me, waving me ahead, not begrudging me moving over into their lane, no selfish moves cutting me off, etc. If it had occurred to me that this could be handled in session, by just auditing me, I would have brought it up years earlier.

This session had been less than an hour, but I knew that pretty much every aspect of my life would require less effort from here on out. What a thought. Any sane man, knowing what was available within, would break down the doors to get it. And I headed out the front door with a physical lightness and spring of step that 10 years of regular exercise had failed to accomplish.

Outside the org at the end of the block a couple of guys were carrying between them a few planks of wood, I guess to build a stage for an upcoming event of some sort. As I walked to my car, I remembered what I had seen at that corner about a month before. A thin, unhealthy-looking man had been pacing with a sign, quite obviously anxious to show it to anyone on the street or passing in a car who would look. He was clearly being very right about his efforts, and I stopped to watch him for a moment when I saw the frustrated look on his face. A couple of security guys were tracking with him, blunting his effort to march down LRH Way and "enlighten" as many of us "cult victims" as possible. As he noticed a new group of Scientologists crossing the street from one building to another, he started to look desperate to get at them and I wondered how miserable it must be to live one's life trying to create against the positive creations of others. Poor sod. How much time does he spend every day thinking about Scientology? Worrying about whether or not we'll succeed? Does he wake up thinking about Scientology? What action can he take today - any action - that might stop or at least impede it? "If I can "save" just ONE person... " But before I allowed myself to start feeling too sympathetic I took a good look. It wasn't hard at all to see the hatred seething in him, and the intent to destroy on his face. You have to be willing to just look. We must scare him to death.As people actually get better, brighter, more aware and able his little world becomes a more and more unsafe place.

Driving to the office, I thought about the hundreds of hours I'd spent as a new Scientologist nearly 20 years earlier "discussing" Scientology, the Orgs, Ethics, Policy and Tech, and even whether or not there was any real hope for a person to get better or achieve spiritual freedom. At work and in personal pursuits I'd talked with innumerable people who wanted to know about it, wanted to philosophize about it, wanted to somehow fit it into a frame of reference so they could classify it, or just complain about it or even offer some "constructive criticism." I'd learned long ago that those who just want to talk, talk, talk about it endlessly instead of studying a book or take a course will do just that, talk endlessly rather than confront action. More importantly, I learned for myself what's at the bottom of the apparently bottomless pit of criticism advanced by some and that wasting time "discussing" the latest shocking revelation about Scientology or Hubbard was exactly that. It never matters what the specifics are, because once they're remedied or shown to be false, they're replaced with others, just as vituperatively stated, and if possible, increasingly sensational. It's not the particulars, it's the intent to destroy. And I thought about how almost amusingly obvious were the more covert efforts to "establish a dialogue" about Scientology or merely "disagree" with the Church or it's management, or otherwise give voice (and credence) to it's "critics." For our own good, of course. I'm especially tickled by the recent tack of trying to salvage those of us who, unlike management, aren't necessarily evil and deserve the "help" of the critics in getting freed up from the abuse of the Church, etc.

I called my office manager, Marie, on my cell phone to let her know I was enroute and get informed of the morning "pop-ups". Most days, despite any and all planning, unpredicted matters "pop up", whether it be a staff member, a client or an outside agency bringing it forth. And they're usually brought forth first thing in the morning, interestingly. That this happens with regularity is known and understood, is allowed for and quickly put under control, so as not to divert us from our jobs. Where necessary, they are incorporated into the day's Battle Plan, or that of a following day. Where applicable, they are spotted for the developed unnecessary traffic they are and dispatched accordingly.

Today's only "pop-up" was my young business manager, Lucy, 2 years out of UCLA, working on her Masters in Economics, and trying desperately to balance her work and career ambition with a social life. Unfortunately the social life was dominated by certain former classmates who were determined to explore Young Affluent Los Angeleno Decadence. Lucy had gone with them to a concert the night before, had been drinking socially and absorbing second-hand marijuana smoke, then was pulled along through a tour of various after hours spots, and slept less than needed. She had felt pressured to go to the concert (and subsequent tour of must-go places) even though it was mid-week and now was not prepared for her business school class this evening and felt less than properly prepared for the client meeting she and I were to conduct this morning shortly after I was to arrive at the office. On top of this, she was afraid she might be in trouble with me because of it.

As I arrived at the office I was handed a half-dozen phone messages and after greeting the staff and getting a wave from each of my partners, went to my office, bringing Marie and Lucy with me. I had Lucy also bring the monthly reports we were to review with the clients this morning. They looked fine. I reviewed what Marie had told me over the phone on the way in and then spoke with Lucy in private. I let her know that the reports were fine and the client meeting was well in hand. But we should definitely talk about this.

It didn't take long to distill her troubles to one person - Christie, an attractive, popular, rich kid and aspiring actress who hadn't worked since graduating but was the opinion leader of the group, and held that position mostly through invalidation and being the one to please. Many of Lucy's choices in life in the last few years, including those of wardrobe and even automobile had been those that Christie had approved of, or at least that Lucy felt she wouldn't criticize. Lucy had been aware that this was the situation for some time but had failed to handle it for fear that Christie would gossip behind her back and "slander" her to the other friends. I mostly listened while Lucy reviewed this, but pointed out here that she had been aware of the danger of this situation, but failing to do anything about it, had stopped living her life the way SHE wanted (non-existence) and now become a liability to herself (and others). I was pleased and impressed to see that, despite not being a Scientologist and probably having never even seen a conditions formula, she natively started working on the formula steps. She declared that Christie wasn't really her friend as she couldn't really trust her or count on her for anything, and then stated who her friends really were. She was sick of those who were too-hip-for-words and stylishly hyper-critical socially. She wanted to consolidate her friendship with those who were also working toward accomplishing something positive, and getting on with life. I was pleased to know that I and the others in the firm were included. I told her that after the meeting, she should take off and do whatever preparation she could for her evening class.

I called Phil B. first, a producer who wanted to know, at 8:00 AM apparently, if I'd seen the latest price on a stock I'll call "XYZ corp", which was now at it's lowest since the initial offering. I'd gotten him out of it near it's peak based simply on it's violation of the conditions formulas, specifically Affluence. The company's earnings had risen steadily for 9 quarters, the last one being a huge jump at which point the company, already carrying sizable debt, decided to borrow a large chunk more in the name of "expansion." Much of the market had apparently found that reasonable and the price continued to rise slightly. Older, more established companies had been able to get away with such a thing, but not two-year old "XYZ." I showed Phil the Affluence formula and some data on the conditions and their formulas, and he took off with it, spotting how some past investments went south for lack of use of the correct formula on the part of the companies involved. Now Phil was using words like brilliant to describe our move out of XYZ and he wanted to get together to review all his holdings. Phil came to the firm as a client only a few months back, and was relishing the personal attention, having been pretty much lost in the crowd at a nationally-known accounting firm.

Had a late morning meeting with Betty and Marvin A., a founding member and now "of counsel" to one of the top entertainment law firms in the country. Now in their 60's, both are very supportive; she's teaching me Yiddish. You've got to love her, as a character and as a hard-nosed money handler. Money tucked away in every imaginable corner. I went to a fund raiser for several Israeli causes at her Brentwood home last year and won (thankfully) an informal pool tournament to the tune of $9000 for the cause. She introduced me around as "my Business Manager, the Scientologist," as if she were saying, "my son, the Dentist." Which was received by almost each person with an "Ah... " and a look of strong interest as if I possessed a certain acumen that suited me to my job. Doctor Michael, introduced back to me as a Psychiatrist, got a little red-faced but made the effort to engage in some good roads/fair weather talk with me after I tried to put him at ease. He soon found someone he absolutely HAD to talk to and I told him I'd like to talk more later, but I didn't see him again the entire evening. One lady said her nephew had become a Scientologist and now "has such good manners." A dark-haired, well-tanned guy with a very attractive young woman on each arm gave me a knowing nod when Betty introduced me as a Scientologist, and he said "so you know how the Israelis feel," a comment I still think about often. Our monthly meeting was brief; we reviewed the reports we had prepared and looked over the plan for the coming month, with nothing major needing attention other than a single real estate partnership liquidation which was going just as anticipated. We would liaise with all concerned and keep them informed. At this stage in their lives, Marvin and Betty have already made their small fortune and are mostly interested in shepherding it wisely with an eye to estate planning. Their affairs are stable and this makes our meetings rather easy.

I had nearly half an hour before my lunch meeting with another client, David M., an entertainment attorney considered by many "the Negotiator's Negotiator", and a major friend of the firm. He's responsible, more than any other client, for bringing us new business. Just informing people that we handle his financial affairs tells them how good we are, and has more that once gotten an industry executive interested in becoming a client. Our very personalized approach is critical to him, and he occasionally has to be reassured that bringing us a new client won't dilute the attention we pay to his affairs. Lately he and I have been meeting to help him sort out his own goals and purposes with regard to accepting the job as head of a major studio's film division. All he has to do is say he'll do it and the job is his; but it would mean severing nearly all ties with his own firm, which he started with two others and of which he's a senior partner. He feels it might actually be a step down in terms of his "power" in the industry, but it's a position he's long coveted and is, as for most in his business, the ultimate goal. I have been going over the Admin Scale with David, which has helped him to see clearly through the glitter and (in his words) the "ego-stroke" of the job, and come to a sane decision with all aspects of his career and future considered.

I used the time to return calls from several firms who are in the midst of preparing insurance, retirement, and tax-planning vehicles for several of our clients, in that order. Minor nursing needed on each.

I returned the call from my brother Steven, firming up arrangements to send our girls to Grandma's for the week prior to Thanksgiving, at which time the entire family arrives. Steven is the oldest, spent well over a decade getting his Doctorate while teaching, and works in Special Education, as well as teaching in a public high school. He has been a well-indoctrinated pupil of Ed Psych most of his life. He has also had a growing alcohol problem that has led him into a number of 12-step programs and other "approved" but ineffective efforts to come to grips with it, all the while maintaining and improving his career. He is a born salesman, who even started an approved 12-step program in his state and drew dozens of people needing help into it. Just last year, he finally broke down and admitted the complete failure of each of these approaches and even abandoned the pretense of spouting the latest Psychobabble in response to every aspect of life around him. He has always had a brilliant mind and wit, and at times over the last twenty years or so has been openly antagonistic to Scientology. It took me many years and many discussions to realize that he had very pettily resented losing his spot as my opinion leader to Ron Hubbard (or so he thought), and in one heated discussion he admitted as much. Now he has gotten involved in Buddhism and is finally blossoming as a being. When he first told me this six months ago, it surprisingly brought tears to my eyes, as it had been a terrible thing to see such a large spirit going through life without spiritual awareness and values. It never made sense to me how someone so aware of his own personality could subscribe to the silly idea that he is a piece of meat and a measure of chemicals. I was pretty excited to tell him that I had just met the Dalai Lama at a fund raiser at the home of one of our clients, a Scientologist. When I was introduced to him - no handshake, but a half bow - he said something to me about baseball of all things. Whatever it was he said in that difficult-to-understand accent, it was complimentary and full of ARC, and I enjoyed receiving it. Perhaps because the place was packed wall-to-wall with major celebrities, he thought I was some ball player. My brother and I both found that hilarious, and he's still quite jealous. He's having trouble getting an audience with his much less elevated spiritual leader, and here I jumped to the front of the spiritual line so to speak and met the Dalai. I promised to take him to the next one which may happen next year, and he holds me to that each time we speak.

We talked about his daughter Carly and the parents' so far successful effort to keep her off Ritalin. She'd been diagnosed a few months back as being hyperactive with "Attention Deficit Disorder", which I think is where my brother really started to "lose his religion", since he (and the rest of the family) had only ever admired how "bright and alive" she is. And for years he's dealt with kids who have been put on drugs for ADD and has yet to see even one that he considers is in good shape or is as bright as before the drug. But he went along with the program and never raised his voice until it came this close to home. He and his wife have entered a protracted battle with counselors and school officials to resist the drug; meanwhile his wife and mine, both of whom know quite a bit about health and nutrition, have put their heads together and have gotten young Carly much of the way through their own program of improved nutrition and vitamins, no sugar and no TV during the school week, daily exercise, and interestingly, daily jobs that must be done around the house. This latter has had surprising effect on her responsibility level, which has been noticed by everyone who knows her, teachers included, some of whom have begun to support his effort to have the "diagnosis" discarded.

Today's news is that he has narrowed down the problem to one teacher and the school counselor who between them have decided to "catch such kids early" before they enter high school, as their part in "stemming school violence." And that it is better to mis-diagnose one hundred kids than allow just one more "Columbine."

We also discussed the idea, put forth by our sister Maryann that we siblings all pitch in and build a small swimming pool in the side lot at our parents' house, mainly for the grandkids, but "I bet Mom and Pop will use it if we put it there." We could have it ready by next summer vacation when the place becomes Grandkid Central. And we discussed the idea of putting brother Kevin in charge of making it happen, overseeing the construction, etc. The real obstacle would be to get Pop, a lifelong union tradesman, to stand back and let Kevin run the show without interference.

My father, who had thought Scientology was bogus in the earlier years, had changed his view years ago in seeing that his two sons who were in Scientology were the ones who were married with kids and not using drugs or alcohol, living stable lives and making decent livings. He'd even finally asked if we could get our middle brother, Kevin, onto a course or auditing. This was no minor change. My father, 20 years earlier, could have easily been mistaken for Archie Bunker, down to his looks. In fact we often called him "Archie" for years after the TV show. His opinions on race, religion, politics were much the same, to the point where he himself would sometimes laugh at what came out of his mouth once the TV show had begun to show how laughable and absurd such prejudiced views were.

Kevin had fallen from his mid-level corporate management job at the age of 22 due to alcohol and drug use and had even been arrested with a sufficient quantity of cocaine to be charged with felony intent to distribute. After nearly 10 years of 12- step programs, rehab programs, halfway house programs and endless alcoholics and narcotics anonymous meetings, he had only gotten lower and lower. He had studied how others in these groups had gotten themselves officially diagnosed as manic-depressives and managed to sufficiently convince a counselor that he was now being given a monthly sum - for life apparently - from the state's disability fund. But he likes his cage, is a ward of the state, and goes to narcotics anonymous meetings two or three times a week, where he meets his fellow wards and goes out afterwards to get slightly drunk on beer and mildly stoned on grass, rather than heavily stoned on coke or heroin. Now that his two young teenage sons, who live with and are supported by their mother, have started to engage in drug use he's alarmed and has started talking to me about himself doing the Purification rundown and helping to change his kids' direction. Kevin's now living back with the folks, has little money, and it would do him a lot of good to know we still are confident that he can handle such responsibility, regardless of whether or not he's given up on himself. Steven has doubts, I don't. Kevin was, and still is, beneath it all, one of the most naturally able people I've ever known.

We were sure we could talk Pop into letting Kevin handle the pool and ended the phone call on that.

David M. called to beg off lunch due to an emergency, but the "good kind." Knowing him, I anticipated that he's arranged real or imagined competitive interest from a second studio, just to spice up the problem the way he likes it. He promised to call me later to keep me updated. Based on past performance, I knew I should probably expect the call at 10 or 11 PM.

This actually worked out well as I was able to resurrect the lunch date that I had put off with Ted K. It would take us each less than twenty minutes to get to the seafood place half way between us. Ted is my archery guru, but doesn't fully realize it. He keeps forgetting that I've only been at it for a year and a half. He's an old vet and is also a nationally ranked high-power rifle competitor who travels as far as Ohio for competitions.

I took up archery after doing the Key To Life course, just as a matter of indulging new interests. Although I've now got several compound bows (the high-tech bows you see with wheels) I tend to favor the traditional bows as it's more fun for me, and more closely mirrors what I'd always thought archery should be. This may change as I get better, but Ted thinks I'm good enough now to compete. I didn't take up archery to compete, but that's where the real sport is, so I'm willing. In fact this was what was on Ted's mind at lunch - there's a competition in Riverside at the end of the month which he wants me to enter; he'll be competing in the higher classes. I'm talked into it, which is only fair considering that I've gotten him sucked into what I can only describe, this season in particular, as the heartache of 49ers fanhood. My brother had gotten me involved years ago, with weekend trips to San Francisco for games and I did the same for Ted. But now Ted has taken the reins and keeps me informed and involved. At the lunch, we arrange attending next Sunday's game at a bar in the South Bay where the "Niners club" meets to watch games, drink beer, and armchair general every move of our team and the others. Unsuspecting Raider fans are invited by someone at virtually every meeting as the main sideshow.

Ted is also the master of all things mechanical and helped me find an engine for my pet project, also started since completing Key To Life, reconstructing a Toyota Land Cruiser, 70's vintage. The engine he located for me has less than 20,000 original miles, and he's helping me discover what's to be known in the whole subject. And I've helped him with setting up a retirement plan, and tax preparation and planning. We re-filed three years of returns a year ago and got him refunds totaling over $4000, which boosted the kids' college fund. We firmed up the arrangements to enter me in the Riverside tournament and went back to work.

After lunch, back at work. Brief meeting with partner A, Sally, a fellow Scn and partner B, Chuck, a non-Scn. Division of duties is such that Sally handles Audits for the firm and clients, SEC and other government requirements and filings and detailed accounts handling for clients. She's great at it, attractive and pregnant. Highly charismatic. She could run for office. Chuck is younger, an attorney and CPA who shares my love of good wines and the outdoors, and is a superb financial planner with expertise in retirement plans, insurance instruments, and all things high-tech. He arrives at 6:00 AM every morning to monitor stock market activity for the clients. Between the three of us, all areas of business and financial management are well covered generally and specifically.

The meeting is a thrice weekly (or as needed) coordination of clients' activities, client by client. We each bring our assistant to make any and all Battle Plan revisions necessary, and make sure nothing falls through the cracks (and indeed any cracks found are patched up). We review current major recommendations about to be made to any client. Client A will be recommended this type of retirement plan to be drawn up by that law firm. Client C will be recommended not to incorporate at this time; the cost/benefit analysis doesn't warrant it. Client F can and should go ahead and buy a bigger home, based on cash and tax projections and current career developments. Near the end of the meeting I sit back not really listening, but observing the other five people in the room, grateful to be working with them, and admiring of their expertise and professionalism. And the fact that each actually cares about the clients' affairs as if they were their own. Not one of them has allowed anything to disaffect them with any client, and there have been plenty of times when we sometimes felt we had reason to and felt like telling a client to move his affairs to another firm and/or hire a whipping boy he could blame for real or imagined financial shortcomings. This has been the case with nearly a quarter of all clients and almost uniformly occurs at the stage where we work to implement budgetary discipline and actual cash flow and tax planning not long after a client becomes one. That quarter of the clientele represents mostly those rising in the industry, now making much more money than they used to and thinking they've now become part of "the rich get richer" elite, and that we have some secret recipe that will accomplish it for them, while they live an increasingly wasteful life financially. At the end of that first year, when they have ignored our usually quite specific programs to spend less, invest more and tax plan accordingly, and see so little of their elevated income left, is when the blame is sometimes directed at us. One client, who very specifically ignored our written urging to not invest in a certain venture and acknowledged in writing that he was acting counter to our recommendation, still blamed us when he lost the bulk of his investment for "not forcing" him to avoid it in the first place. But we get through this with each client with whom it comes up, and carry on as if they were our own finances we were handling, always with an improved sense of responsibility on the client's part for his own life and future.

After the meeting, I spoke with my office manager Marie briefly about preparations for the firms internal Financial Planning for the week, to be finalized Thursday afternoon. Everything mostly routine with the exception of some new software costs to be discussed Thursday. Before leaving I made a call my wife to let her know I can pick up both kids today; I'll take our daughter Julie and her friends to dance class and drop the son off at band practice. This gives her extra time at work, which comes in handy today. She'll pick up Julie and take her down to the org before dinner to arrange starting the Art course, which she has been dying to do, the delay being waiting for her twin to finish the other course she was doing. The twin finished a few days ago and Julie is pushing to get started. I volunteer my son Ben and I to whip up dinner; this makes everything work out better for the evening. I figure we can have it ready by the time they get home.

It took a little over twenty minutes to drive to the kids' school and again I'm noticing the increased ease of the commute. It has long been my view that much of the aggravation experienced on the freeways is needless, and artificially created by selfishness. It is far too easy to get caught up in an "every driver for himself" mentality, continually switching lanes to gain a real or imagined advantage of a few yards or feet, closing gaps to keep others from "getting ahead of you", jumping lines on and off the freeway, cutting people off dangerously, and more. In fact I take a little guilty pleasure when traffic all of a sudden slows almost to a halt, and the aggressive hot dog that a moment before took his advantages and thought he was escaping the rest of us forever is now stopped and must look around and realize he's part of the entire group of people who are there with him. Once a few years back, I was able to pull up beside one such guy on the San Diego Freeway a moment after I'd seen him nearly cause an accident in gaining a single car length. I said to him, through the open passenger window, "You know, if we just cooperate we'll all be off this freeway sooner. And safer". It was the first thing I could think of on the spur of the moment. He didn't say anything in return, but looked at me as if he had no particular defense; he drove then, for as long as I was able to see him, like he now knew we were all on that road together. Again now, on this commute, I was seeing almost complete cooperation, even though traffic was thick and everyone as usual had to get wherever they were going immediately. I spent the drive thinking of how I would impart some of this to my son, Ben, who is about to start driving.

I picked up the kids in front of the school, after a brief introduction to Julie's new friend, Mike, who looks like a good kid although a little self-conscious of what may be his first actual pimple, square on his chin. We're off in a moment and I get a brief rundown of how their days went. Julie got an A on her math test, though she dislikes it and has to spend extra time on it to do well. Ben is moving well through his studies, especially since KTL, but makes it sound like even more of a breeze than it actually is for him.

I let Ben know we're doing the dinner for the girls tonight .The meal that was planned will be put off until tomorrow. Mom was going to make fish, which he's not all that fond of, and which would have been twice for me today anyway. So we get to pick. He suggests grandma's chicken cordon bleu recipe. Much quicker and easier than it sounds. Great. I'll pick up the stuff at the grocery. We stop at Julie's friend's house to pick up two other girls for the thrice-weekly dance class. On the way, we hear tales of school activity and endless 12-year-old-girl giggles, mostly about cute boys. Ben is way too cool to even take note, and the girls look at him as though he knows the answers to all of life's questions. I notice my daughter's make up. She can't grow up too fast for her own liking. I want to hold onto every moment of her as a little girl, and I know every dad has to go through this. My wife is of course handling this transition she's going through with a lot more understanding and a lot less loss. It seems every day we talk about it and she's helping ease me through it. I think she's actually getting a kick out of my concern. It was different with our son. I knew better what he was (and is) going through and she's somewhat dismayed at his less-talkative/more macho stage. We drop girls off at dance. Mom will pick you up and drop off your friends, after the obligatory frozen yogurt stop. I drop off Ben at the house of their drummer, Danny, who has a "sound proofed" garage for which I'm grateful.

At the grocery store I run into my neighbor Jeff, a kitchen renovations contractor who looks nothing like what you would expect him to, but more like an aging surfer, and plays classical piano pieces for recreation every Monday, Wednesday and Friday after dinner, about 6:30, to the growing appreciation of the rest of the neighborhood. We're actually not sure if he knows we can hear it, but none of us mention it to him. The rest of his life appears equally well-ordered, down to his 2 cars and an off-road vehicle, which I have never seen him wash, but which are never dirty. We usually meet once a week or so in front of our homes when he's taking out the garbage and I'm trimming a tree or some such thing and spend a good half hour discussing the families, fishing trips, politics, or most often, the NFL and NBA, particularly the Lakers. Today we meet near the produce section and instead of a hurried exchange of last weeks football games and next Sunday's, he excitedly asks me if I've signed the petition about the dogs. I wasn't aware of the petition, but no one can escape the dogs. A man up the street about eight houses has a one year old dog and a new puppy which he keeps most hours out in his yard and the noise is disturbing everyone else's life, particularly around bedtime and through the night. All the other neighbors had been complaining about it among themselves, but no one had done anything about it, so I had gone up about a week ago and asked him to keep his dogs indoors at night because of the noise that was keeping others awake. He gave me a "yeah, sure" and quiet ensued for a few nights, although you could hear the occasional muffled barks from inside the house. But the dogs are being left outside again barking almost continually as if to be let inside or fed, and another neighbor and his wife have done the research and put together a petition to the city, which considers such a thing animal abuse and/or neglect and will confiscate the dogs unless they are more well attended to. I told Jeff I would love to see the petition; he'll arrange for it to be brought over to my house. He told me he's going with his family for a long weekend to Lake Powell next week, would I take in his newspapers and put out his garbage and recycling containers for him. Not a problem; we regularly do this for each other. I told him about my son and I making the chicken Cordon Bleu, how easy it is but looks much harder, and really impresses the girls, and he wanted a quick rundown of the recipe, which I gave him.

At home I prep the chicken and it's nearly done when Ben gets home. He's in charge of the veggies; everybody seems to like a different one, but we've got it down to a slick routine. While we cook, we discuss the piercing he wants to get, and while I'm a bit apprehensive about the final look, it's his body and he gets to decide. Besides, it'll be much better than a tattoo when, not if, he tires of it. I'm still glad he's opted for the near-white blonde dye job with his hair; Danny the drummer is pitch black on the sides and green on top.

The girls arrive and are duly impressed with our meal. Over dinner and afterwards for a while we talk about our days and plans and various happenings. Julie is still astounded that Ben is being allowed to get a piercing, and is wise enough to not alarm me with a similar idea for herself. My wife Jan's business is doing well enough that she is considering teaming up with a friend to buy another - a boutique-like bakery/cafe that we frequent locally and know has a large customer base, and that they just discovered might be up for sale.

The kids move off to do homework, after the nightly haggling over what TV shows they can watch when that's done, and my wife comes with me to the garage where we can talk while I tinker around with my Land Cruiser, and try to figure out what I can afford to do next on it. She's fairly excited about the Bakery, and wants to get involved in it somehow, though neither of us can figure how she would have the time to invest in making it work. Of course I and my firm will do a thorough analysis and "looking into" for her and her partner.

I pointed out to her how smoothly our life is going right now, and has been for some time. Everything went well today, money is good, as are our jobs and the kids' schooling, and just as we speak we're looking real Ozzie and Harriet, me with a torque wrench (I'm trying to impress her with) and her looking on with a cup of tea. Most of the days in our twenty-one years together have been far from smooth. We have had the same struggles in life that most others have. And we both know, usually without saying it, that our lives would be quite a mess without Scientology. We would be about as "dysfunctional" as a family can get.

As a couple, we simply would have NOT survived the 4 times in our twenty-one years together we came just inches from divorce. Both of our businesses have gone through make/break points we almost certainly would not have made it through without using what we knew of Scientology to make it. Six years ago our son was so painfully shy and quiet that he was diagnosed with a learning disorder, and likely to be held back. Now, after some basic auditing, study course, and Key To Life course, he gets up on stage with his band and plays and sings to increasingly large groups of other kids. And he's doing so well at school that he can't understand why we would show any concern whatsoever over how well he's doing. Both of our kids have recently had to be helped through situations (by my wife and I, using Scientology) where choice of friends to associate with almost got them in trouble with the police. We live, day by day, in the real world, and our lives have gotten better year by year and we have gotten through difficulties and difficult times because we have stayed on the Bridge, or have gotten back on and gotten moving, when off it.

Jan, on this note, tells me about the LMT essay contest she found out about today. I ask her to get me a print-out, which she does. What strikes us first are the ideas that family relations consist of "disconnection" and PTS handlings instead of greater communication with family members who are not Scientologists. We are astounded at how this is the near opposite of our relations with both our families for over twenty years. My wife and her brother, and I and my brother, the Scientologists in both families, are the ones who have made communication go well in both families over the years. As Scientologists we have been the ones to help handle upsets cropping up between (non-Scn) family members; my mother and sister at one point went nearly a YEAR without speaking to each other, until my brother and I, the Scientologists in the family, flew out to them and got them through the upsets, using Scientology. Now they are as close as ever. We are usually the ones who arrange for family members to spend time together, and most often the originators of regular phone contact. It is simple and obvious. As one's ARC increases across the Dynamics, this includes the FAMILY. And communication rises as part of that ARC rising. And communication improves as one gets training and auditing on the very subject of communication itself.

If you are not "seeing greater communication with family members who are not Scientologists," you are just not looking. Greater communication with family, and all aspects of life, has been a constant in my life since I first entered Scientology. My communication with all of life has continually gotten greater, every year, every month for decades. It is what makes life enjoyable. Few things are more fun, more interesting and more gratifying than time spent, in person or over the phone, with family members, whether or not they're Scientologists. All of my Scientologist friends are in good communication with their families, and that includes non-Scientologists. Your premise is so baldly not the case in my own experience and in the lives of other Scientologists I've know for decades that I wonder just which "Scientologists" you ARE looking at when you see what you do. Are they a troubled few who gravitate to you because you are fellow "critics"?

"... We find "disconnection" and PTS handling... " In my third decade as a Scientologist, I can recall exactly ONE case of "disconnection", and frankly I agreed with it. The Scientologist acquaintance involved had tried everything else she could think of first with someone who was rabidly antagonistic to most everything positive she did in life. Most of the rest of her family, all non-Scientologists, had informally "disconnected" from the man in question as well, and several expressed envy as to how well she handled him and was blossoming afterwards. Her "disconnection" only improved communication with the rest of a very suppressed family.

My wife and I tried to think of family members who have NOT benefited, at least indirectly, from Scientology by way of those of us in our families who are Scientologists. We had trouble thinking of one. Even my wife's former sister-in-law who left staff in a Scientology org, and later "resigned" from the Church and became quite antagonistic, gladly accepted and was grateful for the assists offered by Scientologists when she ended up in a hospital quite ill a few years ago. And she has at least ceased her active antagonism, because she was legitimately helped, and knows it.

As I sat down to write this essay, I thought first of the above premise regarding families and communication, and it's clearly prejudiced and erroneous slant. But it was one of the more subtle slants included in the announcement and rules, because anyone who had ever needed to do a PTS handling might think it legitimate. Far less subtle are the suggestions like "in fact they are under complete control of the organization," and "they feel they must withdraw from interaction with those who disagree with them." I wondered how I could possibly get through my day, much less live my life, if these things were true. Yet I tried to fit these things into my life to see how they play.

The "control" being referred to is bad control, not the positive, effective control that each of us uses daily, Scientologist or not, in living our lives successfully. Whether it be getting to the store to buy milk and returning home with it, or using one's computer at work to get one's job done, or buying a new house. Am I under this bad control postulated in the topic? Or do I use positive control to shape my life the way I like it, and wherever possible, help others? Do I enforce MY ideas of how others should live their lives on them? No, that would just be another use of bad control. Do I show others what I have learned that works well in a given situation and let them choose or not to use it themselves? Yes, daily.

Because they are free to. And I am free to. And it is my responsibility to myself to preserve and increase my own freedom and that of all my dynamics.

And this is an "issue" the "practical resolution" to which is to accord others the freedom to make their own choices, and grant them the spine to make up their own minds and be responsible for their own lives, without interference.