sharon gans &quot;the work&quot;
Date: September 02, 2006 11:03PM
Year: 2000, or thereabouts
Cast of characters:
Beth - Redhead recruiter
Lisa - Brunette recruiter
Josh - my sustainer
Jerry - little unknown fat guy, leader when Robert was unavailable
Robert - big fat guy, leader
Act 1, Scene 1:
Exterior, Lexington, MA. near depot square.
I am walking along the sidewalk, and am approached by Beth and Lisa.
They ask me "we have a funny question for you."
I appear interested
They ask "what did you want to be as a child"
I say "a scientist" - without hesitation. I assume now that this is the quick test question.
Most people would appear suspicious. I appeared open to the question, and in fact answered it without hesitation.
The misinterpretation is that this means I am weak-willed. Maybe I am, but not weak enough for a cult.
They set up a meeting at Walden for the weekend, give me a phone number and go away.
Act 2, Scene 1:
Exterior, Walden pond, summer
We sit and chat about basic stuff, they are probing for personal information and I give some. It's less interesting than I had hoped.
I find out both women do something with art, one paints tiles, they both have kids, at least one is married. They gather information
from me about my job. They now know my income, so they set up another meeting.
Act 3, Scene 1:
Exterior, Walden, summer
Sit and chat, different questions, more probing, hints at "bigger things" in the world - they don't realize I've already gone beyond
all the people they know in my questioning, research and understanding of the world and the creatures that inhabit it.
They think my interest and wonder is from ignorance, but they sense my feeling of superiority and interpret it as
low self-esteem, so they suggest the idea of a school, and wouldn't it be interesting, etc. But they hold back so there's
something to talk about later, and they cut the meeting short (scarcity)
Act 4, scene 1:
Exterior, walden, summer
Sit and chat, more directed conversation, the school comes up early and they start suggesting I join. I'm a decisive person, and I've already
figured out that I have nothing to lose by checking out these weirdos, so I say OK. They suggest one more meeting to discuss it, we chat a
little more but I can sense they are moving on, since their goal is accomplished. I stall purposely now that I have something they want,
just to torture them a little. I do the same thing to Jehovah's witnesses and Mormons. I start enthusiastic and then waste as much of their
time as possible. We set up the last meeting.
Act 5, scene 1:
Interior, daytime, restaurant, brookline
Only the redhead is here. She is out of material, her purpose is accomplished, she has nothing to talk about because her mind is vacant except
for "the work" and she is exhausted from her recruiting. I can see it in her face, and I feel sorry for her because I know she's a helpless
victim. We eat, chat about the school, she give me some information but basically puts me off. Then we set up "the interview" with the teacher
(Robert). A little more chatting, then she has to pick up her (probably malnourished and neglected) child at day-care.
Act 6, scene 1:
Interior, Night, restaurant, cambridge
We have set up a dinnertime meeting. I arrive, the redhead is there but not the teacher - he is setting up the scene already, building the
anticipation. I sit with the redhead and talk a little, but she is distracted and uncomfortable like all salespeople who have an empty
head full of self-hatred. Robert arrives - about 6' tall, probably wearing lifts, black trench coat, black hair, dark complexion, beard. I could
be off in my description, but that's how I remember the guy. Dramatic. We sit in a corner booth, order some tea and bread or something.
He does a description of the school, how most people are asleep in life, etc. Then he tries to control the conversation - I don't remember
the exact content, but I'm a computer contractor, I've dealt with lots of recruiters, and I know when they're trying to get control of my
responses, so that's what this guy is doing, controlling the conversation. Then he pitches the experiment, and I say sure. We drink some
tea, then I waste some of his time just to piss him off (very passive-aggressive. those people hate that.) He gives me a phone number of
my "sustainer", tells me to give him a call and to come to the first class that Friday (it could be Saturday, whatever).
Act 6, scene 2:
Night, Interior, house
I get home, call the sustainer, have a little chat with him, he digs for information and gets some, I learn a little about the school and
he tells me about Pinnocchio. I make plans to get it and read it, there are some relaxation exercises to do and I try them out and find them
interesting. I don't know yeet that that is part of "milieu control" but I know there's something intrusive about them so I don't hold
myself to the recommended schedule.
Act 7, scene 1:
Day 1 of "school" - I'm actually thinking it would be interesting if this turns out to be a legitimate school. If it isn't, I think maybe I'll
make one that is. I do the silence thing for 30 minutes before the scheduled time, I don't listen to the radio, etc. I get to the place
in Belmont, park, go to the door, maybe it's locked? Someone shows up and opens it, there are a few people outside with me, we are all a little
embarassed but we go in. The rest of this is out of order - I think we go into a small room, all the newbies, and sit around a small table and
have a little introduction by the little fat guy, second-in-command. We do some 2-person interactive stuff, probably to warm up, and a little
public confession exercise. Then, the people in the big room have finished doing their "secret chat" and we get to go out. Typical pledge
indoctrination, if you've ever been in a fraternity - it's a big special privilege to be allowed in the big room. Luckily I have absolute
disdain for authority and find it absurd. Anyway, we sit around a big rectangle of tables around the edge of the room and listen to people
discuss vague pseudo-scientific bullshit, and then we give our first impressions. I say "interesting", in essence - basically because I
don't want to say anything because my thoughts are none of their business.
Some awards are given out or something, someone does a presentation on sacred geometry or some bullshit, then we are assigned chapters in
the books we've bought. Oh yeah - we've been assigned to read a pamphlet about this russian guy that the website talks about, and we discuss
him a little. The whole sitting in a rectangle thing is infused with inappropriate public exposure, the first step in milieu control as I will
later discover. I'm not doing any research on cults right now because my only decent computer is in my office, but later I will do lots of
The meeting ends, we put away chairs and tables, I'm helpful, I find out there is a small blond lady who can't afford "tuition" so she helps by
doing labor. My first hint that there will actually be money asked for came in the beginning of the night in the small room, where it was
revealed that there would be "voluntary" tuition on a sliding scale. It's interesting that "sliding scale" means if you can't pay enough, you
have to work for free. These people suck.
I was just now (in 2006) reading a website about "the work" and remembered after reading it that the little fat guy used the word "asshole"
frequently. I remember thinking it was pretty fucked up.
Act 8, scene1:
My first class as a newbie, from the beginning. We "get to" participate in the whole thing tonight - total manipulation - we do "movement" as an
opener (more inappropriate public exposure). The group is directed to dance around and do weird movements in the big room. I do it because I
choose to see what happens next, but I can see myself being pressured into it if I had really cared about being in the school. It is embarassing,
and it's inappropriate. Not sexual, but intimate anyway. We finish, we get out tables and chairs and set them up. All in silence in a room
with 50 people you've never seen. Very weird. Milieu control. Refreshments come out, I grab cookies and some soda. Sit at the tables,
Robert at the front. Go around the room, give progress reports.
Robert begins criticizing, offering "help" - beginning the takeover of the thought process. People are assigned to "help" each other. The idea
that we "choose" to "work on" things is introduced. Reinforcement of this idea is ongoing. We work our way around the tables, there is a presentation
on some nutty subject or other. There is discussion of the relaxation exercises, which is an attempt to extend the milieu control into our homes.
I lie, because fuck them.
The night ends in silence, we put away tables and chairs and drive home in silence. It's interesting, the silence. I make a note that I will
use that tool for myself sometimes. I stop at a pizza place to eat and chat with the restaurant owner to help ensure I don't fall under the
spell. A week goes by, it is class time again.
Act 9, scene 1:
Similar to last time. Movement, inappropriate exposure, silence, chairs and tables, go around the room, milieu control, discussion of projects.
I have finished Pinnocchio, time is come to choose a "work" - the first step at activity control. I choose to do a headstand in Yoga. This is not
popular with Robert. I figured as much, because it involves an influence outside "the work". He tries to intimidate me out of it, I stick to
my choice, he retains control with passive-aggressive acquiescence followed by suggestion that I'll do something different next time. He can
sense my resistance, because his plan requires total obedience at all times and he is very sensitive to my unwillingness and rebellion.
They bullshit for a while, some pitiful stories are told, the meeting ends in silence, we clean up, we go home, I try silence.
Act 10, scene 1:
This time, Robert isn't here - the little fat guy runs the show, same old stuff. Movement, setup, refreshments, bullshit, thought control, cleanup, silence.
etc., etc., etc. - I come late to a meeting at this point because the movement is getting to me, they're boring me with this crap.
Week 8 - Act ? Scene 1.
Movement, setup, refreshments, this time all new people are taken aside one by one. Interesting they do this at the beginning and not the end. It must be to maintain
the sequence, plus put pressure on the newbies I'd like to read the studies on this. The pitch for cash, from Robert himself. I say no thanks. He tries
to manipulate with vague statements intended to induce guilt.
I remember this one: "What you're afraid of happening isn't going to happen". He was trying to impart the idea that somehow he knew what I was afraid of.
Of course he did know what I was afraid of, he just misunderstood my fear - I was afraid of people getting sucked into this, but I was much more afraid
of him taking my money when I knew he was just a nutty asshole. So I said "later" and took a hike, and went someplace really really noisy to get
all the silence out of my head. Then I went and told every single one of my friends about these kooks so they would hopefully never get sucked in by them.
Oh yeah - at some point, I was invited to a presentation, I think it was on Newbury Street, I remember columns in the foyer, I'm sure it's a famous building
but I can't quite remember where it was. It was that nutty harmonious circle stuff. Idiotic, but interesting in its effects on the attendees.
I guess I'll remember little tidbits here and there.
Every once in a while I think about calling Josh and seeing what he says. But then I don't.
That's my experience with "the work" - some details omitted or forgotten.
Glad to lay it out there in writing finally.