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When in Doubt, Picket

On June 3, 2004, while Caroline and I were picketing the Scientology organization in Vancouver, B.C. to announce her then brand new web site, a man came up and spoke with us for a few minutes about what we were doing, and identified himself as Bruce Grierson, a Vancouver writer. I mentioned meeting him, or three writers actually, in our picket report of that date.

And there were some very engaging folks, like Anatoly here with Caroline, and three writers, with whom we chatted briefly and then scheduled future meetings.

Sometime later when Caroline and I were back to Chilliwack, Bruce got in touch and after a while we agreed to meet for an interview for a book he was working on. We met again that summer, the only time since, on August 13. I mentioned this encounter in a report I wrote of another anti-scientology picket I did the next day.

I was in Vancouver on Friday the 13th to see a writer about a story, and the way things worked out I had a bunch of time to do something else.

We met at his office, then walked to the Steamworks Brewing Company in Gastown and sat at a table on the patio for the next hour or so, talked and drank a couple of pints.

I don’t recall what I had, but it might have been their India Pale Ale. If I went back there tomorrow it’s what I’d order, so if they were serving their current Empress I.P.A. in August 2004, it’s a good bet I had it.

The Steamworks serves for semi-clandestine meetings for numberless libating writers and agents and their decreasingly dry subjects and clients, and had served me on earlier occasions for other intriguing meetings with different discreet characters. It’s only a couple of blocks from the org, so Scientology staffers or ops, all of whom know who I am and what I look like, could stumble onto me if some other reason, maybe beer, lured them into the pub. On the other hand, I don’t know who hardly any Scientology staff or ops are or what they look like, and they have followed and even stalked me a number of times. Plus, I actually didn’t know by this time if Bruce wasn’t working for the cult, his book wasn’t a ruse, and the interview wasn’t a setup. Nevertheless, while keeping my eyes peeled for spies, I proceeded in good faith and told him whatever I told him as if whatever he’d told me was what he was telling everyone else.

He said he was writing a book about u-turns that some people make in their lives, changes of mind that suddenly set them on radically different paths. My about-face, or what I mainly talked about, was from devout Scientologist doing the research for L. Ron Hubbard’s authorized biography in 1981 to Hubbard debunker and devoted Scientology opponent and target in 1982. The book really has nothing to do with Scientology except that my epiphany and deconversion happened to occur while I was in its bizarre inner core, in Hubbard’s personal office in the pseudo-military Sea Org, in possession of an archive of his secret and devastating documents, and what has happened as a result of that instant when I jumped ship or skipped from Hubbard’s and the organization’s path.

I googled Bruce’s name recently and see that his book U-turn: What If You Woke Up One Morning and Realized You Were Living the Wrong Life? will be published by Bloomsbury USA in April. I see that mine is one of three hundred u-turn stories he tells; so Scientology head David Miscavige and his regime don’t have much to get their shorts in a twist over and no half way sane reason to mobilize their litigation machine to try to stop publication. It just reminded me though of what Miscavige did and sent Scientologists to do in 1987 in an effort to prevent the publication of Russell Miller’s Hubbard biography Bare-Faced Messiah. See my CSC v. Russell Miller section. Now that I think about it, Russell only gives my u-turn four or five pages, hidden away in the preface, and as I said, look what happened to him.

From Bloomsbury USA:

Po Bronson meets Malcolm Gladwell in this fascinating look at the science and psychology behind major midlife U-turns.

Every day, in almost every field, someone perceives themselves to be on the wrong side of a psychic divide. The “second brain” in their gut tells them their life must change. And in many cases, people make the change as quickly as they discover the need for it. Under the right circumstances, any one of us could be ready for a major U-turn in the direction of our lives.

Drawing on over three hundred stories of U-turners, and using a variety of approaches—scientific, philosophical, literary, and psychological—Bruce Grierson answers the burning questions we all have about what it would take to change our lives. When do U-turns happen? Who do they happen to? And are you better off if you make one?

Grierson cites famous U-turners such as Gandhi and Gauguin, as well as introducing us to a host of other courageous people who have risked everything to answer life’s wake-up call: people who change political parties and careers, people who give up their jobs as doctors to become poets, men who become women, professional athletes who quit to spend more time with their families, mothers who quit their families to pursue careers, people who suddenly become revolutionaries for a cause they didn’t care about the day before. In chapters that address everything from the neuroscience behind epiphanies to the possibility of “forcing” a U-turn, Grierson brilliantly describes and elucidates this powerful, mysterious phenomenon, and in doing so illuminates all or our continual struggles with life choices and identity.

I have no idea how Bruce deals with my story, although he did confirm that it’s still in the book. He’s a friendly guy and a good listener, and we’ve stayed in touch a bit, so I think he’ll be fair and understanding. It’s kind of funny, little old Gerry in the same book by Grierson with Gandhi and Gauguin.

I remember thinking, when Bruce and I talked about my 1981 u-turn experience, and probably even mentioned to him, that I’d also taken a u-turn when I re-entered the war with Scientology in the 1989-90 period. I was going along in life after the December 1986 settlement having as little to do with Scientology as possible, and suddenly events conspired to have me change my mind and rejoin the fight. Maybe my part in his book includes that u-turn, or even my philosophizing at the time about u-turns generally, which I wondered might be what we face every day of our lives. The classic u-turn I suppose would be the prodigal son’s, or maybe Saul’s wake-up call on the Damascus road, and the theological term I guess would be repentance. Right now I’m plotting how many prostitutes u-turned into priests versus how many priests became prostitutes. My working theory is that aging tends to turn a guy toward priestliness more than it drives him into prostitution.

Whatever it says, my little piece of Bruce’s book in truth is a testament to the joys of picketing, and yes to all things synchronicitous and serendipitous. If Scientology had treated Caroline honorably, she would never have built her great site, and we would not have picketed in June 2004 to announce it. If we had not picketed back then, Bruce wouldn’t have talked to us and he wouldn’t now be telling my story in his book. If I had not walked around Vancouver the day we decided to get together for the Steamworks interview, I would never have come upon Scientology’s anti-psychiatry exhibit at the public library. And if, because of all the good reasons why I shouldn’t, I had not u-turned in Chilliwack that night and come right back to Vancouver the next day to picket the exhibit, Scientology staffer Brian Beaumont would not have assaulted me and I would not have escaped with a minor injury and lived to tell the tale. Picketing works. Check out U-turn in bookstores in April.


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