“Why shouldn’t truth be stranger than fiction? Fiction, after all, has to make sense.” ~ Mark Twain
Have you seen “Wild, Wild Country”? I watched the whole documentary series with barely a bathroom break.
“Wild, Wild Country” is an exposé of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho) and the commune, Rajneeshpuram, built by his followers in some proximity to the tiny town of Antelope, Oregon.
Say what? I had clearly slept through the ’80s and hadn’t explored Osho’s life enough to know he had lived in America, never mind run into trouble with the law. So not only was I missing a piece of recent American history, but I was also completely oblivious to Osho’s bizarre escapades.
At a time when Osho had taken a vow of silence, Ma Anand Sheela, his private secretary, became the voice his sannyasins heard most convincingly. Sheela, as she was referred to in the documentary, oversaw the building of the commune (originally, Big Muddy Ranch) transforming raw cattle land into a self-sufficient community with a farm, airfield, banks, disco, hotel, and restaurants—even providing its own electrical and water supply.
I think that the magnitude of the project was what shocked me first. I was drawn subsequently into the cultural clash between farmers and their families who, by all accounts, were traditionalists with strict, Christian beliefs and free-thinking, free-loving rajneeshees. There could not have been a greater divide in spiritual beliefs, nor lifestyle.
I began contemplating what role the church should have in the politics of a country, dissecting how this whole fiasco could have been avoided had the commune been less invasive to a very (at first) unsuspecting community. I was literally talking to my television screen, asking Sheela if she was serious. Of all the surprising cast of characters in this series, I found her the most unbelievable.
What can I tell you without revealing too much?
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