Privilege 1: Food & Beverage Prep and Service

Not Living up to the Standard

“Third line” encompasses a veritable potpourri of service, but I will stick to the privileges I witnessed or participated in. “School” chooses some students to prepare snacks for the plebes and serve the royalty their special, homemade, pre-class soup and beverages of choice on class nights — all the more opportunity to “work on oneself” and struggle to create “fineness” in life.   The chosen must give special care to preparing Robert’s coffee.    It must be made in a French press using an exact measurement of Starbucks Decaf, which is kept aside for him alone.  Allow it to brew for four minutes with the press in place. Very important! Don’t leave the press resting to the side!

During “class”, selected “students” — mostly women — serve teachers their preferred snacks and drinks. I vaguely remember hearing Robert ream out one of these women for not meeting the standard.  He reminded her that her servitude was a privilege.  Some part of me woke up to the intentional and unnecessary public humiliation.   Another part of me wondered if this was somehow helpful to her in a way I couldn’t yet understand.  Then, of course, the fear of speaking up and calling Robert out on anything prevented me from questioning his method.  With highly effective behavior-controlling techniques in full swing, no one else questioned it either in a class of more than thirty “students”.  Even so, to this day, I still regret my silence.

Apparently Sharon’s public humiliations are far crueler and her demands exponentially more ridiculous.  Former students tell of a woman who—during “school retreats”– abandons particular students of whom she’s grown tired in a remote woods, leaving them for days to fend for food and shelter. They tell of a woman who orders her minions to count the calories in her meals and the numbers of ice cubes in her drinks.  These are more absurd examples. Stories of her painful and heartless treatment of “students” over the years would fill a dark and hefty book.

Privilege 2: “Making New Friends” i.e. Recruitment

10 thoughts on “Privilege 1: Food & Beverage Prep and Service

  1. There and Back Again says:

    I remember this: In several sessions of the youngest class, one of the women from the older class would bring Robert his beverage, and explain to him what it contained. Earlier, I thought this was out of respect, but the third time around or so, his reaction — as if he was entitled to this kind of babysitting — irritated me.

    Shortly after, I argued against one of the many propositions that he floated around — something along the lines of “As you are, you don’t really know what you want” — which I thought was both patronizing and wrong. Robert said that I should listen properly before arguing. Funnily enough, he left us alone to discuss freely for a while, and I bluntly told the others that, in this instance, there was no point in listening because one almost knew what way he would steer the argument. There was an uncomfortable silence, and then we all went to join the larger group. That was one more nail in the coffin of my discontent. I should have left that night, and feel awful for staying a few more classes.

    In that argument, I told him that I didn’t agree and that I knew quite well what I wanted. I can’t elaborate but one of things on my list had something to do with relationships with family and loved ones. In retrospect, knowing what the cult does to relationships and marriages, and how casually it disposes of (and distances its members from) the complex and beautiful tapestry of real-life human relationships, this chills me to the bone.

    • Hi There and Back Again –

      This is a really important point. As humans, who have inhabited our own skins, we do know some things about ourselves that “school” could simply never know — like what we want. I remember struggling with this proposition myself. I’ve struggled with many things in life — but not the question of “what do I want”. In “school”, though, I started to question my ability to know. What do I want is a pretty fundamental question that can only be answered by learning to listen to and trust your internal responses. In “school” I learned how to distrust my internal responses. That’s what happens and over time it can lead to many years of “unnecessary suffering”. Thanks, school.

      Thank God you are out now and can pursue your desire for family unencumbered by “help”.

  2. I’ve been enjoying your posts.

    I was in school a number of years before what you describe- I left in 2001 right after the terrorist attacks. I had one of those Omigod, I’m in a cult moments. Plus, I was getting divorced from someone else in school, and Josh (Lisa’s husband) was getting tired of our comedy act. It was at the point that I decided that my 13 year experiment in school had come to an end.

    There were some other issues. Right now, however, I prefer to look back without going into them.

    Lisa and I started the same month back in 1988. So, I saw her evolution over the years. And, Josh and I had been working on comedy for a number of years. And, I saw his evolution. I would certainly enjoy meeting up with them once again, and some other folks as well. Tai Chi Michael and Neil come to mind for instance. We all went on a trip to Egypt that to this day leaves with a big smile on my face.

    If I were to speak to them now I would say that we had some really good times together. I would also say that I understand they are unable to look at Sharon’s role in a critical way, but she has really hurt a lot of people. And, they should consider the possibility that what’s going on in Boston and New York is a substantial deviation from the idea of our possible evolution.

    I hope you keep up the blogging.

  3. Odysseus says:

    Your description of the service rendered to Robert has both similarities and differences from my experience in the “older group.” The differences point to a shift in the direction of greater subservience as well as a greater particularity in what Robert and the teachers want. Everything has to be “just so.” I recall the discussion of Robert’s chair from a previous post. It has much the same flavor.

    Robert didn’t need his coffee made by French Press in Billerica, but it was made separately from that provided for the students, from better grounds and in small batches rather than the big urns used for the plebs’ coffee. On the other hand, when he arrived at Billerica after leaving Belmont, he sat down to a meal prepared for him, with a lot of attention to detail and meeting specific dietary requirements which varied according to which dietary plan he was on that week.

    But your description of the manner of service seems designed both to appeal to a sense of superiority on his part and to emphasize the vast gulf between his level and that of the server.

    One of the absurdities I observed involved coffee purchased to be served to the teachers at the Christmas party. Several varieties of “special” coffee would be brought in for this purchase, with only a small portion actually used. Obviously, the unused grounds could not then be saved for use at the next Christmas party. But heaven forbid you might use it up in any other fashion! It was as if those pounds of Starbucks coffee had somehow been transformed into something which would have been sacrilegious for anyone else to ingest. So, it went to waste. I doubt this was actually mandated by the teachers, I think it was rather that the people running service had so bought into the idea of levels that they could no longer use their common sense.

    The people chosen to perform “Set-up” as we called it changed over the years, but it seemed that it was usually accidental, amounting to those people who were able to get to the space early and who were willing to do this work. Rotation of people occurred only when someone left school or became unavailable for other reasons. At a recent gathering of escapees, I spoke with someone with whom I had shared set-up duties with for many years, up until my escape. He related to me that a significant part of his decision to leave had come by way of realizing that he just couldn’t face doing set-up any more. I can well understand that.

    Bullfrog – I am glad to see you here! I recognize you from your post. We overlapped for a bunch of years and I have wondered how you are doing. Hope everything is great for you!

    • Hi Odysseus! I’m alive and well and living in the nation’s capital. A lot has happened since my school days, that being some 10+ years ago. Am I the only one who still has 3rd line or CR-related night mares?

      Hi to you, Not Groucho. I really wish I could speak to all of the people I knew way back when in Billerica. Oh, and I was the one who introduced the Hot&Sour soup recipe. Unfortunately, I don’t have a copy of it anymore myself.

  4. Not Groucho says:

    Hi Bullfrog! I think I know who you are, too, and that would not be “A Special A–h—.” (Wasn’t that a monologue or skit at one time? 🙂 I started a while after you, and left before you. Actually, I think Josh and I started around the same time…

    I don’t miss set-up, set-up related panic, clean-up, Christmas party hysteria, but wish I copied the recipe for hot and sour soup before I left.

    I did learn about going beyond myself in some ways, and stepping out of my comfort zone, and love the idea of aim. But the “help” I got on so many personal issues was so off, and actually kept me from growing and evolving in ways that I am still healing to this day. I suppose you could say that “school” kept me from jumping off a bridge, but never helped me cross it.

    (Okay, now this part is supposed to be funny.) I remember being DEVASTATED when I saw Robert come out of the bathroom once during my first months at school, and he was zipping his pants. OH NO, I thought. (Sometimes I think in all caps). HE PEED. ROBERT JUST WENT TO THE BATHROOM. You see, I really, really had him pegged as some TRANSCENDENT BEING, who was so dang EVOLVED he was ABOVE AND BEYOND bodily functions. (But really, I was just so young and gullible and wanting to believe.)

    It was all downhill from there.

  5. Not Groucho says:

    Tried to send an email to you a couple of times, GSR, but they bounced back…

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