Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Secret!

So, a while ago (I realize fully that I am always at least a week, if not a month or more, behind on pop-culturey things...but I knew the same day when Ahmadinejad came to the US, dammit, and I know that the Dalai Lama is coming to the US next week, because I'm going to be seeing him...basically this is an attempt to defend myself and assert that I am not utterly utterly clueless about what goes on in the world) Oprah ran a show about a movie/book called "The Secret." Here's what the Oprah website had to say about it; I'm sure there was something in the magazine, too, and perhaps she even beamed press releases into people's brains while they were sleeping. After all, Oprah is everywhere, and Oprah knows all. In essence, The Secret is that you can create the life you want by being intentional about it and wanting it really badly. It's what Rhonda, the author, calls "the law of attraction." Like attracts like (which is true, except--y'know--in physics, one of the fundamental building blocks of the physical world. What with negative ions attractign positive ions, and positive poles of magnets attracting negative poles of magnets, and what not). When I first heard of this, my bullshit detector began blaring at a volume I usually associate with late-night psychic commercials and emails about herbal "male enhancement" pills.

As she says on the website, "What we do is attract into our lives the things we want, and that is based on what we're thinking and feeling. We create our own circumstances in life." Um. I agree that there's something to be said for setting goals, for deciding what you want and going for it rather than drifting aimlessly through life like a rudderless ship cut from its anchor. I have used visualization when training for races, when practicing speeches, when preparing for interviews. Affirmations can be positive, if cheesy, additions to someone's coping repertoire: "I am competent and charismatic." "I will get the job that's right for me." "I am fast and strong." However. Saying that we attract ALL the things that happen to us, while not demonstrably false (that's the interesting thing--this claim is impossible to prove or disprove) is also not demonstrably true. And how could it be? The scientist in me says, "The Earth is not a closed system. Too many variables. I don't have time to be calculating chi-squared and p values (it's a statistical analysis thing) for the whole universe. Do I look like a supercomputer? Screw this, I'm going to have lunch." So, is Rhonda Byrnes saying that the people in the Twin Towers weren't thinking positively enough? Was it some guy on the eightieth floor who'd been having bad thoughts, therefore had bad stuff coming his way, and just happened to carry three thousand other people down with him? Did Paris Hilton somehow choose to "manifest" wealth in her life? In addition, by the way, to what I think may be herpes encephalitis, which gives rise to erratic behavior and is what happens when herpes somehow gets into someone's brain? I'm not trying to be mean; I'm actually trying to give her the benefit of the doubt by saying that she's sick rather than mind-blowingly stupid.
Never mind that The Secret focuses a lot on acquiring THINGS--abundance, which is a watchword for "money and material possessions;" a job with greater prestige or better pay, etc. Furthermore, the emphasis is solely on the individual. In fact, in one of the Secret videos, a self-help guru proclaims, "It's not your job to change the world; it's your job to go with the flow of the Universe." In other words, you have official permission to stop stressing about the AIDS epidemic in Africa, the 40 million uninsured American citizens, the global warming crisis, or on a smaller scale, the fact that your next door neighbor just lost her job and is going to be having a hard time buying Christmas presents for her kids this year. She wasn't thinking positively, and it's not your job to help her out. The universe helps those who help themselves; leave those other losers in the dust and focus on getting yourself a corner office and a new car. It's the height of self-centeredness and lack of empathy.

It's a Trump-esque philosophy--take what you can from the Universe, get ahead as you're able--wrapped in the trappings of a "genuine" spirituality. What about the primary tenet of ALL major religions (to my knowledge), which is that the most important things in life aren't things, but people? That love will beat covetousness any day of the week? That relationships, whether with other people or with the Spirit, are the supreme good? So, yeah, I know The Secret, and I think it's bullshit.

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