Vol. 47, Issue 2 ‣ editorial
Words of Wisdom
What do you do when you see injustice? Do you stand idly by?
Many people do. I think it’s because while empathy is easy, compassion requires courage. And it requires action.
That’s why Freedom tells the story of California’s farmworkers, who want their human value to put them at the head of the queue, at least ahead of fish, for access to what is becoming an ever more rare commodity: water.
That’s why we’re shining a light on the fact it seems nobody in this country reads anymore—unless it’s gossip or kitten quips on a screen, or something they have to. Reading is a way we as human beings discover ourselves, tap our well of potential. It’s how we connect with one another—reach out from the darkness. Empathy kicks-in in that remarkable moment when an inner fire alights at the sudden realization that, at the end of the day, the struggle is the same for all of us—rich or poor, man or woman, beggar or king. And that spark usually comes when we have our nose in a book.
I’m not a Scientologist, but given my job as the editor of Freedom, which reflects the values of the Church and the ideals it holds dear, I’m doing my best to parse the philosophy of its Founder L. Ron Hubbard. That’s a work in progress, but there’s one core tenet I get—the simple idea that what is true is what is true for you.
Stepping away from nitwitted logical quagmires around self-delusion, I can buy into that. And what’s true for me is that L. Ron Hubbard got this important distinction—what compassion really is, something that’s rooted in doing and requires being brave.
I also think Mr. Hubbard understood that, to use a phrase, the struggle is very real. That humanity will sink under the weight of its problems if left untended. That we have many “invitations to hate.”
“All are in the same trap,” he wrote, “subject to the same cruel pressures of this universe.”
Mr. Hubbard’s Big Idea, I think, was that while some succumb to these pressures—“rave and torture and strut” as he put it colorfully, it is possible to, despite the load, go on, go forward—to even prosper. And that it requires only two things—being true to oneself, one’s own decency, and a way.
Scientology, for those who practice the religion, is that way. Scientologists believe that in taking it they are being set free, and they want to share this help they’ve found. So, as you may have seen in a recent Freedom special edition, the Church is expanding the scope and reach of its ministry.
One of the newest additions is a Scientology information center in Hollywood, which opened in January down the street from Freedom. It’s there to introduce people to the religion, to tell those who care to know what Scientology is all about. I figured, what better way to report it than to send our newest staff writer, Michael Brennan, to learn for himself—and let his experience there tell the story. Hello Hollywood, and to Michael too.
Welcome also to Ajay Singh, another new Freedom staffer. His piece on issues of water, and the human cost it leaks, is—to my mind—a thing of beauty. As good as the writing is, I was knocked to my bottom when I first saw the stunning photographs that accompany Ajay’s story. They were taken by two photographers from the Scientology Sea Organization, its religious order, which also staffs many Church operations. Both trained on a New York Institute of Photography course, courtesy of the Church.
One of the biggest surprises I’ve had in this job, and in the peek I get behind the scenes of Scientology, is the remarkable pool of talent in its religious order, and how the Church goes to great pains to train and develop its people. I work alongside them every day, and let me tell you: As an organization, Scientology is profoundly enterprising. When it wants for a means to an end, it makes one—building out facilities and operations to support and further its religious and humanitarian missions. It also reaches out, to gain knowledge and experience in the many different disciplines it must master to carry out its work.
Take the case of Freedom’s art department. If you hadn’t noticed, the visuals in this magazine are extraordinary. That is the work of Sea Org staff—who are developing under the mentorship of a legendary talent in the magazine biz, Bob Ciano. Bob has been the art director of Life Magazine, The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, and Esquire, and is a much sought-after professor at the California College of the Arts.
How cool is that?
This is just an immediate example from the small corner of Scientology I inhabit. But I’ve seen glimpses of it everywhere in the corridors of this organization. It’s true for me.
There’s a lot about Scientology that circulates in the public sphere, but no one—conspicuously—is telling this story. No matter. In keeping with their theology, and with what L. Ron Hubbard would want, the religion and its highest order aren’t bowing to the pressures, always pushing back, making the best of it, and themselves—doing their jobs. They don’t always turn the other cheek—would you?—but they make sure to also turn toward those who need help, people who need a voice.
So does Freedom Magazine, and that’s why I’m proud to be here.