My Uncle Ron typifies the cool nerd. His appearance is stunningly average: glasses, tacky tucked-in shirt, digital wristwatch with calculator. He exercises, eats healthy, and looks blandly handsome. He works with computers and develops gadgets for different companies. Once in awhile, he’ll bust out his oboe and play a tune.
Out of my entire extended family, I enjoy hanging out with Ron the most. When I visited him in New York during the holidays, we went for hikes. I told him about the happenings in my life, he shared some random scientific factoids. When we returned, he tried to feed me some sort of unique organic recipe. One time, he showed me how he used shavings from a ginger root to make his own ginger ale.
It was unfortunate for me when I found out my uncle was a Scientologist. This shouldn’t have been a problem; I loved and admired Ron since I was two years old. But I wasn’t fond of Scientology. I never considered it a religion, not even a cult. It seemed more like a product, like you had to literally buy into every part of the organization. Plus there was all the space-age nonsense.
For awhile, I was able to pretend Ron wasn’t really a Scientologist. But then one day, I couldn’t avoid it. We were out on the road before we stopped at a building.
“I just need to take care of some work. You can come in if you want,” he told me.
After 15 seconds or so inside, I noticed it was a Dianetics center, the Vatican City of Scientology. L. Ron Hubbard penned books and pamphlets lined the room like a large newsstand.
“Do you want to watch a DVD?” Ron asked.
Oh man, I thought, he’s trying to recruit me.
“Nah, thanks,” I answered.
He walked into one of the rooms to take care of some stuff for the facility. I sat in an ergonomic, rolling computer chair, waiting to escape. I spotted a poster that listed Scientology commandments. Instead of instructions from Lord Xenu, it said things to the effect of “be polite to others.”
“It’s good stuff,” Ron said while I peeked at the list. “I try to think of these things when I go about my day. It’s all about learning how to act right, stuff like that.”
“Cool,” I said.
And that was it. We left. He didn’t force the thing any longer.
I still think that Scientology is a pseudo-religion. But if it helps make people’s lives better without causing any harm, why stress? Ron didn’t try to ‘take me over’ like a body snatcher. He’s just a Scientologist. I may not believe in the group’s legitimacy, but I believe good people can still follow it. Just because it’s not the thing for me doesn’t mean it’s not for him. As long as it doesn’t prevent us from going camping, we’re good.