Monday, March 19, 2007

I Try Not To Be Glib About Some Extremely Stupid New Age Fad Bullshit

Oprah, who Mom loves and I despise, is busy plugging this new hyper-produced self-help tripe called The Secret. Enigmatic, huh? The vagueness hooks you and the shame of mingling among the uninitiated sucks you in. You might be willing to shell out your hard-earned money just to satiate your curiosity. Would it help if I told you D'ohprah (sorry, couldn't resist) swears by it?

I'll spill for free. The Secret is available in book, DVD, or unauthorized YouTube form, and it promises three easy steps to incredible upper-middle class happiness: cars and houses, relationships, perfect health, and wealth. Surprisingly, none of those steps involves selling spurious new age advice to gullible morons. The guiding principle of The Secret is the Great Law of the Universe: "Like attracts like." I thought the Great Law of the Universe was Fg = Gm1m2/r2, but at least now I know why I got a C+ in physics class. Through some ill-defined physical process that might or might not include messenger monkeys, the universe receives your positive thoughts and good vibes, then returns them to you in a more tangible form, generally piles and piles of currency.

Here's the secret:

Step 1: Ask.The canonical example off the DVD is a kid who wants a new bike. He cuts a picture of the bike out of an ad, then later we see him drawing a picture of the bike, sleeping with the picture under his pillow, dreaming of the bike... and one day his grandpa arrives on his doorstep with a brand new bike! Rhonda Byrne, the Australian reality-TV producer turned Secret creator (and who better to be giving life advice than someone who makes reality TV) puts it this way to USA Today: "People should start with little things like deciding a cup of coffee will come to you or that you'll see a feather. There's no difference between attracting a feather and anything else you want. It's as easy to attract one dollar as it is $10,000."

A cup of coffee? Really, aren't there easier ways to get coffee than calling upon the spirits of the universe? More to the point, I don't even know what that means, deciding that you'll see a feather. Let's say I decide that I'll see a feather today, and three days later I see a feather... so what, I was bound to see a feather sooner or later. A better example, Rhonda, would be the test I'm about to perform — I hereby decide that a six-legged smoke-breathing unicorn playing the harmonica will come to me. I have no doubt I'll be hearing hoofbeats and zydeco music shortly.

Step 2: Believe.

Real hard. Never lose faith. Clap your hands and sprinkle pixie dust if you have any. Rhonda doesn't really explain how the universe knows your thoughts aside from some quantum mechanics mumbo-jumbo, to weakly ground The Secret in an area of physics no one — even physicists — fully understand.

Some critics, those who look at The Secret from a social science standpoint, complain that this idea fosters a "blame the victim" attitude among True Believers. D'ohprah, if she's not disingenuous, should be distributing copies of The Secret to all the soldiers recovering in cockroach-infested Walter Reed Memorial Hospital, then telling them that they're paralyzed, limbless, blinding, and receiving mediocre treatment because they just weren't thinking positively enough.

Step 3: Receive.

Arguably the best step of The Secret, when, without leaving your comfy chair, the universe showers you with riches. Or, I suppose, if you asked for an end to the war, the universe has the Sunnis and Shi'ites lay down their weapons and start an orgy of hugging. But it looks like no one's asked for that yet.
The best part, though, is that you, True Believer, didn't have to lift a finger to improve your life. You got yourself a brand new bike without going through the trouble of, you know, a job. You lost thirty pounds without going to the gym, and there's one guy in the video who asks to date three women at once, and the universe brings three floozies right to his doorstep. So basically, The Secret makes your total douchebag fantasies come true (I just assume that he's dating three women at once because he's an asshole, and women love assholes) but it's not powerful enough to end the genocide in Darfur. Which is okay, though, since Darfur is far away, and I have magically appearing coffee.