In my Twitter stream, I stumbled upon a link to an article comparing Cross Fit and Soul Cycle to religious cults. It was interesting. The need to belong, to become a part of a group or to be one among many like-minded people seems to be an essential human trait. We seek out the companionship of other humans with similar outlooks, aspirations, beliefs, and opinions.
A long while back, I delved into cults as a research subject. I’ve always been fascinated by the inclination to BELONG and the desire to meld the self into a larger whole. I devoured books about Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate—two cults that ended in mass suicide/homicides. My research resulted in a couple of terrible mystery manuscripts and a deep skepticism with regard to any and all groups with mandated doctrines.
Still, I’m left with the understanding that the desire to belong is human. On a personal level, I “belong” to loose associations of people with common interests—like Argentine Tango dancers. But I’d be hard-pressed to describe myself as belonging to a “cult of Tango” because Tango draws people from all walks of life, all points on the political spectrum, a wide range of religious beliefs, etc. And, to be frank, Tango dancers have a hard time agreeing on anything related to the Tango—with heated debates about every aspect of the dance from the embrace to the music. Maybe I can “belong” to a group of Tango dancers because there is no clear doctrine?
Many artist groups have had manifestos. I’m particularly fond of the artists associated with Dada and Die Brücke (The Bridge). I think the Dadaists might have been more like Tango dancers with their intragroup conflicts, but the artists of Die Brücke (Ernst Kirchner, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Erich Heckel, Fritz Bleyl, Emil Nolde, Otto Mueller and Max Pechstein) supported each other with publications of prints that were critical to the progress of each other’s careers.
The article that got me going this time, talked about gyms and workout programs as the new churches/community centers, where people check up on one another, support fitness goals, and discipline recalcitrant members who fail to achieve. Again, this is WAY too much outside interference for me. Yes, I’m happy to chat with other members of the local health club and it’s nice to know that I’ve been missed when I travel for a few weeks, but I don’t want the club manager, the locker room attendant or the Zumba teacher chastising me for being AWOL…
Guess I’m just not “cult” material.