Monday, May 11, 2009

An Informal Introduction

For those of you keeping score, first I freaked out because my longtime friend discovered and was enthusiastic about Landmark Forums. Then I thought well, hey, maybe he's getting over it. But he didn't really. He periodically calls me as part of finishing another seminar or invites me to attend one. At one point, he told me he didn't want me to do it just for him, only if I wanted to, at which point I said, well, I don't. And I thought that was the end. But it wasn't.

He offered two sessions at his home of an "informal introduction" to Landmark. He offered food. He offered child care. He offered two different dates. So I said, sure, I'll come to one. And I did. I still have no interest in Landmark, but I thought if I finally actually attended a Landmark event, he'd stop asking me. And this one was free, so I'd never have a better opportunity.

I was nervous, because I had no idea what to expect. Would there or would there not be a professional "facilitator?" Would I be the only one to show up?

I went early, for lunch. He grilled squash from his garden and burgers not from his livestock. We chatted. He's added two emus and a beehive to his little farm. The emus are supposed to be protective, driving coyotes and other predators off from the chickens, sheep, and goats. He borrowed a donkey for awhile for that same purpose, but it was noisy and under-appreciated by his neighbors.

Then two guys showed up. They turned out to be the volunteer facilitator and the volunteer assistant to the facilitator, who didn't say much but was there to keep the facilitator "on script" and on time. Hmm. And then, thank God, another of BFF's friends showed up, someone I'd never met before but who turned out to be friendly, outgoing, and talkative. I wouldn't be the only one in the probing glare of the bright Landmark lights!

So how did it go, and what was said? Oh, I don't know. Before I went, I thought I was going to do this whole big blog entry about it, but I don't know if it's worth the energy. I don't feel like it's quite as culty as I originally did. It's certainly big business, though. What's most amazing about it is the fervor it creates in its (members? followers? attendees?). The facilitator and his assistant insisted that they were there on a volunteer basis, receiving no compensation or incentives for being there. The facilitator was passionate, as was BFF. Even the nearly-silent assistant to the facilitator opened up at the end with an extremely impassioned speech about the power of Landmark and how it has changed his life.

So what's the gyst of it?

"In this giant pie chart, this little sliver is what you know you know. This little sliver is what you know you don't know. And THIS giant chunk is what you don't know that you don't know."

"Your past has nothing to do with who you are. Your past has nothing to do with your future.... If your past has nothing to do with your future, then why does your future look exactly like your past? Because you are living your past into your future."

"You are hearing and seeing everything through filters that you have installed over a lifetime of experiences."

"On day three, we teach you a technique for completing your past and taking it out of your future and putting it back into your past."

"Create a possibility for yourself. Become that possibility."

etc., etc. Essentially harmless pop-psych aphorisms that under a three-day intensive pseudo-group-therapy experience that's guided by a strong and doubt-free personality, with lots of shared stories of pain and humiliation, personal epiphanies start popping around the room like flash bulbs and many people begin to believe that they've lived through a powerful experience.

Since my first exposure to Landmark two years ago, I can't helping thinking of Sybok whenever I think of Landmark. Of course, you know who Sybok is, right? Of course you do. He's Spock's half-brother, the one who hijacked the Enterprise in Star Trek V in order to fly it to go meet God. He builds an army of followers by freeing them of their pain. If you're an impatient sort, jump to about 2:10.

Even Dr. McCoy becomes a devotee after being forced to share his memory of being unable to cure his father and subsequently euthanizing him. By sharing his pain with Sybok, he becomes free of it. But Kirk won't give in. He insists that his pain is his own, part of what defines him, and he doesn't want to be free of it.

Or something like that. I'm going on my memory of a movie I saw 20 years ago. Anyway, that's Landmark. I participated in the shortened version of the Forum that was the "informal introduction." I was honest in sharing something personal. I explored it through their worksheets and discussions just as they wanted. And then I didn't register. I told them that Landmark's heavy focus on recruitment made it suspect in my eyes. I told them that to me, that kind of personal exploration and discovery was part of a lifetime's journey and couldn't be achieved over a weekend. I told them I didn't think there was a magic pill for freeing oneself from one's less-pleasant memories. I told them I quit my job and don't have hundreds of dollars to blow on a self-help seminar.

They told me that yes, the recruitment aspect puts a lot of people off. They told me it wasn't a magic pill, it was a set of tools. The assistant facilitator told me, and yes those quotes are intentional, it was "the quickest and easiest path to spiritual evolution." I did not tell him that to me, "quick and easy" and "spiritual evolution" aren't compatible concepts.

So there you go. With this technique, I am completing my experience with Landmark and putting it into my past.


anniemcq said...

Wow. You are a stronger man than I. Not that I would have fallen under the spell, but I think I would have ditched the friendship just to be free of the annoyance of being asked to sit through a few hours I knew wouldn't convince me of anything. A few hours I'd never get back. I hope your friend appreciates you.

My older sister was into Scientology for a time, when I was in high school. I remember going to a meeting with her, and being nice to people, but thinking the whole time "this is bullshit. but I'll give them something to play with".

anne said...

Good job here also!

I have a friend who has invited me to attend similar meetings with her, and I have gone, out of curiosity. She seems to be happy with what she is learning / becoming, but it is not the place for me.

ataraxy said...

My best friend did Landmark maybe ten years ago, and I was pretty freaked out. But the one seminar/session/whatever was enough, and she's never really spoken about it since then. Then again, she's never been someone I could see in a cult-like organization or one that has so much selling to friends. To be honest, your friend who's into it, I can see in such an organization.

I, Rodius said...

Strong enough to attend, but too weak to just say no flat out in the first place. Tomato, tomato, I guess. It's definitely not the place for me, either. It is definitely his, and ataraxy, I can see it for him, too. He's always been fully into whatever he's into and fully into recruiting people into it!

She Said said...

Yikes. Thanks for the heads up on Landmark Forums. I had never heard of them, and I probably would have thought it was some sort of real estate something or other.

Generally speaking these kinds of groups and people stay away from me. It's probably the "Go the F*** Away" sign engraved in my forehead. *Shrug*

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