There are two sides to every story. For the residents of Des Moines, city and state officials, and even the IRS, Alfred Lawson and his followers were solitary and strange. Des Moines University of Lawsonomy did not, in their opinion, meet the definition of collegian. Lawson’s followers for the most part just wanted to be left alone. This failure to communicate has resulted in suspicions over Lawson and his followers that still linger in the community sixty-four years after the property was sold to a developer for a shopping mall.
Manlife, a documentary of Merle Hayden, one of the last serving members of Lawson’s inner circle, does a fabulous job showing the ideals and philosophies not only of the organization but of the man himself. Merle has been on a mission since the 1930s to spread Lawson’s teachings. While I question Lawson’s beliefs and philosophies, its hard not to feel inspired by Merle’s tenacity and perseverance.
The documentary focuses on Merle, his personal life, and his opinions and what will happen to Lawson’s teachings once Merle dies. Adding Lawson scholars and Lawson’s own words helps round out a story that would have felt largely one-sided without them.
I would highly recommend this documentary to anyone interested in aviation history, political and social history of the 1930s, or someone that just wants to be inspired by someone who can devote their entire reason for being to a cause for which they believe.