One Thing I Learned Watching Netflix’s “Wild Wild Country”
And I am better for it.
The universe will speak to you, if you’re willing to listen. I had the fortune of hearing a message from the cosmos just the other day as I watched television. The universe is constantly finding new ways to reach mortals who, at least these days, spend so much of their time connected to the world via technology.
This is an essay about letting go. Wait, that’s not entirely right. This essay is also about what you shouldn’t take with you if you’re trying to flee justice. I suppose this is me reading too much into a show I just watched. I’m also second-guessing whether or not the universe actually cares about me or is even capable of caring about anyone, or anything, because it’s nothing. Nothing at all.
This would mean I’m nothing. But that can’t be. I am something. A person. I have multiple streaming service accounts and I made turkey chili for dinner.
I just finished the new six-episode Netflix documentary series “Wild Wild Country” which tells the true story of a cult that terrorized a small Oregon town in the 80s, and I feel I have a responsibility to warns readers that I will be writing about a certain plot point shortly.
I resent having to write such a disclaimer but I suppose it is worth it if I can save myself the time it takes reading someone’s complaint that I have “spoiled” a show they’re watching.
“Wild Wild Country” follows controversial Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, also know as Osho, and his followers from India to the rural Pacific Northwest and their attempt to build a free-love hippie utopia next to a handful of All-American retirees. This doesn’t work out very well. The story of the “Rajneeshpuram” commune is the story of hope and belief and greed and attempted murder plots.
Their attempt at building their own society didn’t end in horror like Jonestown did in the late 70s, nor did it end with an ill-advised law enforcement raid that likewise ended in horror. It just ended. I, mean, there was a mass poisoning that was awful, but didn’t kill anyone. A few of the fanatics did time, like Sheela, the charismatic second-in-command whose insane plots and power grabs got out of hand. But, mostly, the demented flower children danced down Main Street, tried to destroy a community and upend democracy, and then danced back out the way they came.
These grinning New Age supplicants tried their best to create heaven on earth and then, predictably, fucked it right up. They were mostly young kids who blindly worshipped the bland feel-good platitudes of a self-styled guru who owned fifteen Rolls Royces. If you haven’t watched “Wild Wild Country,” you should do so.
There was one detail in the series that has really stuck with me for some reason and it has to do with Osho, the cult leader. He is, oddly, not really the focus of this series. I don’t really have anything against the beatific conman who named an entire religion after himself. He was just a loser who lucked out big selling enlightenment to Western burnouts.
The only real difference between him and, say, Tony Robbins is a jumbotron.
But at one point during the slow-motion fall of his holy empire he decides to escape arrest in the dead of night. And If you’re trying to run from the police don’t waste time taking your throne with you. Even if you have the resources to charter a pair of private jets to do it. Leave the throne. Bhagwan had a really nice throne, don’t get me wrong.
This is my point. My main point. If this rambling essay has a thesis it is thus: at the first sign of trouble dump the throne. You don’t need it. If you have the resources to charter a pair of private jets at the last minute you can buy a new throne. Even if you don’t, replacing a throne is easier than gaining your freedom.
Once more: if you’re on the lam from the law — which is not something I’d recommend — then you should only pack essentials, like some clothes and money and important papers. It is not important to have your henchman stow away your giant throne in the cargo area of one of two Lear jets. Who knows, maybe Bhagwan could have saved fifteen important minutes by not directing his underlings to haul his throne along. Ultimately, his foolish plan was foiled only by the invention of radar and the entire U.S. government.
A throne is a chair that is not useful. For instance, you cannot pull a throne up to a table. A throne is also a chair that is not comfortable. Thrones are not designed to be comfortable. A throne is meant to make the person sitting in it look powerful. Like a cape. But true power does not come from possessions or inanimate objects. Yes, bullets have power. Yes, so do tanks. True power, though, comes from being a chill person who isn’t a jackass to other people. Ditch the throne. It’s, like, a metaphor? Take a moment to meditate on what your “throne” is, and then, prepare yourself to leave it behind in a hurry.
In a way, aren’t we all on the run from the inevitable?