Disclaimer: Once again, I’ll be using this blog for class assignments. I know I lost a couple hundred of you wonderful followers the last time I did this—tedium is a wonderful way to cull the herd—but if you stick with me, I promise to go back to posting random nonsense once my 4.0 is safe and secure.
And if you’d like to follow along just for the hell of it, my assignment this week was to apply a couple of these questions to a book of serious nonfiction that I’ll start writing (and maybe even finish) this semester.
1.) It doesn’t matter how austere or benevolent or socially mature you are—if you pass by a car-crash, you’re going to slow down ever so slightly, and you’re going to stare. Subconsciously, we use these little moments of schadenfreude to buttress our mental wellbeing. We look at the poor fools marooned on the side of the road and we tell ourselves that it could always be worse: “hey, at least that isn’t me standing next to that crumpled Honda Civic. Man, I hope everyone is okay… just like I am, right now.”
And there are plenty of authors out there who do the same thing for their readers: they put together a few thousand words that serve collectively to reassure their readers that “it could always be worse.” And the great ones do this on a grandiose scale: they don’t write about short moments of misery in the lives of others, but rather, they write about entire lives wasted. They write about blind devotion to fallacy; they write about profound regret; they write about misplaced devotion to cults in books like these.
So, I’m going to do the same thing. The book of serious nonfiction that I’ll start to write this semester is inspired by a documentary I watched recently (Holy Hell) about Buddhafield. And yes, as I watched that documentary, I stood back figuratively and I looked at my life… damn; compared to some, I have it great. I watched that crazy, glorified nut-job warp the minds of all his followers and coerce them into unspeakable acts: abortion, rape, misplaced zealous piety. And as I did, a warm feeling of security bubbled up inside of me. I may have made some mistakes in my life, but at least I wasn’t so empty inside, so lost, that I turned my soul over to a cult. Frankly, everyone wants this reassuring feeling of security, even if it’s garnered from a look at the lives of others, and it’s this need that I’ll capitalize on through my book.
3.) Of course this book will be unique and necessary. My sample chapter will be “necessary” if I want to pass this class, but the exigence of my subject matter will also make the hypothetical book as a whole necessary within the constraints of existing publications for the same reason that it’ll be unique: I’m going to take a meta approach to the subject matter and state blatantly that my work exists to make people feel better about their lives. I’m going to come right out and say the thing that’s omitted from other cult-based books. This book won’t be “an interesting look” at cults. This book won’t be an educational foray into the mind of a cult leader. This book will unashamedly tell its readers “hey, your life isn’t that bad. At least you didn’t spend a quarter century of your life following an idiot from South Africa who only wore Speedos.”