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Photograph by Autumn deWilde

Da Doo L. Ron Hubbard: Yet another celebrity blinded by Scientology.


Is it possible to love Beck and despise Scientology?

By Sara Bir

Dear Beck,
I'm breaking up with you. It's come to the point where it's no longer possible to ignore. So many things—little things—added up, but they, even collectively, could be ignored. This cannot.

I can't believe you are a Scientologist. After all these years together, how could I not have known? It's like finding out Santa Claus is a member of the Bohemian Grove, or that Jello Biafra is a born-again Christian or that Morrissey is a womanizer. Sure, every few years when you'd release an album and some journalist would bring up the subject in an interview, you would either reply in the most oblique manner possible or promptly change the subject.

Really, I can't blame you. If you want to be a Scientologist, that should be your own business. In fact, I'm more than delighted for you to keep it that way. As we've never actually met before, I suspect you don't know my feelings about Scientology, how it is a gigantic crock of dog poopie for weak-minded nincompoops. Perhaps I was slightly aware of these allusions to Scientology, but I blocked them out, willing myself to believe that you'd never involve yourself in such malarkey. But this time, in the press rounds for Guero (an album I'm so disappointed in—it sounds like a bunch of B-sides from Odelay!), you've been more forthcoming on the topic, confirming and even expounding on it. It's no longer possible for me to lapse into denial.

I feel like there's no going back, at least not to my previous blissful, sunbeam-tinted daze of blatant Beck worship. You've been my longest-running imaginary boyfriend, from the moment I saw you throw your sneaker at Thurston Moore on MTV's 120 Minutes back in 1994. The very next day, I lied to Mom, saying I needed the car to go to a special crew team practice, and drove an hour to the mall just to buy a copy of Mellow Gold. I was so happy to have the CD (it was as close to you as I could possibly get) that I brought it to school with me the next day and carried it around from class to class under my textbooks.

You had a nonconformist, junkyard approach to music, words, style. "This guy," I thought, seeing photos of you wearing outfits similar to what kids pick out when they are first allowed to dress themselves, "he does what he feels like doing. Even if it does not make sense—especially if it does not make sense."

As far as I can tell, Scientology is all about making sense, at least in artifice. Most of what I know about Scientology I learned from seeing the off-Broadway musical A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant, which was performed entirely by children between the ages of seven and 12. Similar to how a Christmas pageant acts out the story of Christ's birth, the Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant acted out the birth of L. Ron Hubbard and his subsequent founding of Scientology—but in song. ("Now the sun will shine / And we'll be just fine / We have got the science of the mind!")

Those seven- to 12-year-olds taught me a lot—like that L. Ron Hubbard was involved in tons of fraud lawsuits, and that he was a science-fiction writer before creating his own religion and that his version of the creation of the universe has a lot to do with aliens and volcanoes.

The latter in particular I found exciting—aliens! But I found no mention of them in The Scientology Handbook, a 1,000-plus-page volume that came to me, still shrink-wrapped, via a rendezvous with a dumpster. Mostly, I kept the book so I could cut out the funny pictures of blazer-clad Scientologists, looking oddly like real estate agents, interacting with listless drug addicts. But I recently returned to it again (last use: pressing a block of tofu), just to understand a little more of what might draw you to this indecipherable institution.

A huge part of Scientology has to do with expelling the "reactive mind" (that is, our feelings) and allowing the thinking, reasoning part of our mind to take over the empty void. (My favorite exchange in A Very Merry Unauthorized Children's Scientology Pageant: Girl: "But aren't emotions what make us human?" L. Ron: "No! Emotions are what make us weak!") This is aided by the use of an electropsychometer, or e-meter, a "religious artifact" that closely resembles a game of Electronic Battleship.

This is the part that I really don't get. You, Beck, are a musician. Music makes you feel things. Music is about emotion, about being human and having emotions and navigating through them. "Lazy Flies," "Satan Gave Me a Taco," "Little One"—how could such wonderful things have come from the brain of a Scientologist? The image of you—or of anyone, for that matter—clutching an e-meter is especially distressing. How can anyone believe that crap?

It should not matter at all. I don't know you. You and the wife and kid are never going to pop over for a dinner party and drink lots of cheap red wine. We're never going to exchange e-mails in the middle of the work day talking about how bored we are, we're never going to burn mix CDs for each other and we are certainly not going to leaf through my Scientology Handbook and point, laughing condescendingly, at all of the stupid people in the stupid pictures.

Being a fan, however, has nothing to do with reality. It has to do with fantasy, and when fantasy and reality intersect, it can get ugly. You produce a commodity; I consume. I have no right to feel betrayed. I was going to give up on listening to Guero, but didn't, and then I started liking it, and then I started liking it a lot.

But the old magic is gone. At least we have our memories. From now on, Beck, you're my ex-imaginary boyfriend. According to my e-meter, this is the end.

Send a letter to the editor about this story to letters@metronews.com.

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From the April 13-19, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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