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The Secret?

Monday, Mar. 12, 2007 2:27 AM


A few real-world tidbits off the top:

It says a lot when the priests of the local religion plan a cleansing ritual after President Bush pays a visit to a holy site. And this isn't the first time someone's felt the need to purge the miasma of corruption and dishonesty that trails in Bush's wake. A previous trip to India drew both outrage and a cleansing ritual because the Secret Service had brought bomb-sniffing dogs onto the property, despite humans having already checked the area and come up clean.

There are murmurs in Washington, D.C. that Alberto Gonzales should be polishing up his resume. Between gems like dismissing the Geneva Conventions as 'quaint,' and testifying that the Constitution doesn't grant habeas corpus, Gonzales has also presided over the firings of federal attorneys – now becoming clear as political chicanery – and an FBI that wantonly abused its authority under the USA PATRIOT Act.

If Gonzales has to pack his bags, FBI Director Bob Mueller better be on the same bus. Those National Security Letters didn't write themselves.

FOX News gets another tick in the fundamental dishonesty column for their graphic that stated, 'Libby Found Not Guilty of Lying To FBI' – as blatant a half-truth as anything that passes muster in that sewer masquerading as a tropical oasis. Ol' Scooter was found not guilty on only one count; the jury returned a guilty verdict on four other counts including obstruction of justice and perjury (lying under oath).


Some people I know are gushing over, "The Secret," a film garnering a fair bit of attention from Oprah and enjoying as much hype at major booksellers as the upcoming Harry Potter finale.

In it, producer Rhonda Byrne weaves an inspiring story about this ancient secret that has traveled through the centuries to reach you. Yes, you. Over there in the third row, eighth one over. Yes, the one with the hat and glasses. You, Sir.

Beyond the basic premise of positive thinking influencing our ability to achieve various goals, the film suggests that Important Historical Figures knew about this mysterious, 'Law of Attraction,' that there are important people, professionals, and even scientists who are utilizing, investigating, and teaching said secret to Folks Like You.

The only proof that these Important People knew The Secret are selected quotes from their writings and speeches, none of which specifically attest to a specific principle, nor indicate that they practiced a specific visualization-manifestation technique.

The film goes so far as to suggest there is even a conspiracy to keep The Secret from the common folk.

In short, this is bullshit. It's the Prayer of Jabez ("Oh, Lord, gimme cool things!") and substitutes materialism for spirituality, wish fulfillment for wisdom.

It's the Celestine Prophecy, revised with snappy references to string theory and talk of 'frequencies' (i.e., if you radiate the frequency for wealth, then money, which theoretically radiates the same frequency, will find its way to you.) Except … is that candy apple red Lamborghini radiating the frequency for speed, wealth, metal, oil, air pollution, or a fiery death wrapped around a lamppost? And if you radiate the frequency for wealth, why is it that you expect to attract money and the outward indicators of wealth, rather than con artists and panhandlers?

Even more telling, Byrne has been said to say that The Secret allows one to achieve a perfect physique by refusing to acknowledge fat people – don't look at them, don't think of them … and they'll go away. Or you'll get thinner. Or something.

Unfortunately, despite a strong desire to not see stupid people on my part, they remain steadfastly and abundantly in evidence. Despite George W. Bush surrounding himself with positive, favorable audiences, his approval ratings are still in the tank. And regardless of all the pundits waxing enthusiastic about staying the course or adapting to win or surging … Iraq is still riven by sectarian violence.

I suppose we should be thankful it doesn't work. Who knows what this Powerful and Amazing Secret, this Life-Changing Knowledge could do in the hands of Osama bin Laden. Or Saddam Hussein. Or Kim Jung-Il. Or Jerry Falwell. Or Pat Robertson.

(Actually, it's unfair to include Falwell and Robertson – clearly, they wouldn't be counting on radiating mystical frequencies, they'd just be praying to God Almighty.)

Now, I'm all for maintaining a positive outlook and believing that the right attitude can make a difference. But that goes hand in hand with doing the work – your ideal physique requires diet and exercise. Your financial prosperity is coupled with fiscal responsibility. Success at an endeavor requires that you commit 100% to it, but also accept that failure is part of learning and growing.

The standard saying is, 'be careful what you wish for.' The folks preaching 'The Secret' tell you it's simple as wanting things to be. The Universe will answer you and fulfill your dreams. Oddly enough, the Universe is being treated like a tame genie offering unlimited wishes.

No consequences? Not even unintended ones? None?

Right. The folks selling this load of horseshit will tell you it's about deliberate intent, perfectly honed and focused desire. Okay, so close your eyes and use that deliberate intent to fill a measuring cup precisely with one and a third cups of milk. I'll help you by putting the milk carton in your hand, but you'll have to ask the Universe to tell you where the measuring cup is.

Oh, sorry, I lied. There's no measuring cup. How'd you do? Did the Universe make a measuring cup appear? No? Ah. That's right – you didn't really need to complete the task, as it was an artificial test that has nothing to do with The Secret. I'm a baaaaaad person.

But did your framing even include the possibility of failure or deception? Why not? If I'm pitching a game of baseball and envisioning a no-hitter, how can my willpower alone negate the actions of seventeen-plus other individuals (a no-hitter also involves the rest of the infield/outfield, as well as any pinch hitters or runners that may be brought up). What is the deciding factor when facing a hitter who is focusing his will on beating the single-season home run record, with this being the last game of the season? Both of us can't have our way, so someone's going home disappointed. Who wins? Pitcher Hal Jordan or the batter, Kyle Rayner?

So we see the failings of The Secret. Both men can't win at the same time; therefore, is it a failing of individual will, thus disproving the basic concept of 'by my will it shall be so', or did the Universe take sides, thus disproving the concept of the Universe as a benign and servile entity?

This isn't the old, "Can God create a rock so heavy that He can't lift it?" routine; in evaluating the promises of The Secret, we are talking about everyday men and women, not God; about wish fulfillment through willpower, not religious concepts of omnipotence; about a dynamic Universe, not a gumball machine.

As we don't walk through this world alone and isolated, it's far more likely that our 'focused intent' will involve interactions with other human beings. And we must understand that the Universe is not a tame entity here to entertain/amuse/gratify us; it is a dynamic force that encompasses humans, animals, plants, machines, physical forces, forces of nature, and laws that cannot be broached simply by wishing it so.



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