Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Idle Time

Hello again, idle time!

God, how I've missed you.

For the past two weeks, I've been mired. A couple weekends back, Friend Jason and I made a daytrip to the Maharishi University in Fairfield, IA.

Why? To perform my sworn duty as a journalist, of course, and cover the important, groundbreaking, and world-peace-creating endeavors of the Transcendental Meditation movement.

Okay, I lied. We went out there to meet David Lynch.

Mission freakin' accomplished. It was a high point in life, even if all the guy wanted to talk about was TM. I'm a shallow guy and I just wanted to shake the hand of the guy who made Twin Peaks, the second most devastatingly brilliant TV show of all time (Lost has stolen the crowd, I'm afraid.)

But in order to share the same air as greatness, I DID have a job to do. Not just anyone gets an audience with David Lynch. You've got to either be extremely cool (nnnnope) or a journalist willing to hear out the wonders of the TM movement (yep.)

So I talked to the powers that be at Castle Dispatch/Argus and they were down with the idea of a story on Fairfield, Lynch, and the Maharishi University of Management.

For the past two weeks, I've been trying nightly to piecemeal that story together. For a guy who usually gets paid to write snarky comments about stupidity, this was an epic task of proper journalism.

See, Fairfield is a crazy place. Some of it is crazy cool. Some of it is just plain crazy. And I came home with a day's worth of interviews and countless questions about the practice, the validity, and the truth of the TM movement.

The folks from Fairfield believe that Transcendental Meditation is the key to world peace. The folks at trancenet.net and a host of other websites believe that Transcendental Meditation is a dangerous and money-hungry cult.

This becomes tough to balance in an article. There's great things going on at Fairfield -- the Ecovillage in particular, where a whole neighborhood exists entirely off-grid (wind and solar power, coop farming, recycled rainwater, the whole 9 yards -- the director of the place drives a car that runs on - I kid you not - recycled massage oil.) The new theatre in town is spectacular. The culture and diversity is mind-blowing.

At the heart of it all is the University and their belief that meditating touches the very fabric of the universe. Is it hocum-pocum? A realist like me has serious reservations. Their "science" seems sketchy at best.

Yet these are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet. Everyone at the university seems to be an optimist with a world view of helping society. It's not a cult - people are free-willed & come and go as they please.

At the end of the day, NO, I don't believe that some dude meditating in the middle of Iowa can help bring about world peace. BUT, that said, if a person feels that meditation helps them reach their creative and cognitive zenith, I'm all for it. It hurts no one (except maybe your pocketbook - learning TM ain't cheap.)

So for the past couple weeks, I've had to balance the good with the weird and attempt to do my best to put a nice feature story together. I've been able to interview everyone from Lynch to the Fairfield mayor to a national expert on cults -- and hopefully what I've come up is a fair representation of the whole deal, pointing out the good bits AND the controversial bits.

At its base, transcendental meditation is an intangible, spiritual concept based deeply on personal experience and unprovable yet undeniable theories. So who are ANY of us to judge whether its right or wrong? It's simply a case of Believe It Or Not. Hopefully that's the angle my story presents.

Keep your fingers crossed - I turned it in today, and if all goes well, it'll publish this Sunday.

In the meantime, I'm SO happy to have idle time back where I'm NOT researching quantum physics and/or cult leaders until the wee hours.

Two simple weeks and I'm already out of the pop culture loop -- Mariah got married?? To Nick Cannon?? How's Lindsay doing? Has Miley shown any more skin????

Thank God I can get back to serious work again. :)

3 comments:

Radi Grund said...

Shane writes:

"Yet these are some of the nicest people you'll ever meet."

Yes at first...but try enrolling as a student and then expressing some skepticism, and show an interest in alternative ideas and MUM behaves like NAZIS.

Once day in the Golden Dome, during mediation session, I observed a male student, forcefully picked up and carried out of the building.

This was because he was known to practice an alternative form of meditation inside... HIS OWN MIND.

MUM has a high school and elementary school. What happens when some student shows an interest in Tibetan Buddhism and starts practicing it?

MUM is devoted to an ideology not to helping people. They are the worst kind of pathetic fascists.

-shane- said...

Intriguing, Radi. I'd love to hear more about your experiences in Dometown.

The whole time we were there, we were shepherded about campus by a liaison -- and it looked like each team of journalists had their own liaison as well. Made me wonder just why they were so concerned about making sure all the journalists were monitored...

I was there 3 years for Lynch's first visit, too -- and it seemed a lot less Big Brother-esque that time, we were free to come and go, students talked to us, etc.

This time we didn't hear a peep out of one single student.

I'm not trying to gloss over TM or paint it in flowery prose... I'm definitely NOT on board with a lot of their basic tenets & beliefs. But at the same time I'm open-minded enough to hear them out without pointing a finger and yelling "CULT!," y'know? So yeah, I'd love to hear more about your experiences at MUM and what it's really like to go to school there.

Radi Grund said...

Shane writes:

"Made me wonder just why they were so concerned about making sure all the journalists were monitored..."

In the years before the fall of the Soviet Union, visiting Western journalists were also escorted around by KGB agents, thus minimizing contact with the locals...MUM does the same thing. It's all about thought control.

To understand MUM just pick up a copy of Orwell's 1984; you'll get the whole picture in that book.

MUM is unfit to be trusted with the education and intellectual development of young adults and children.

History has shown that an atmosphere of freedom of inquiry is the requisite condition for moral, intellectual and spiritual growth.