Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Can a black woman be a dumb blonde*? Can a grieving mother totally miss the point? And other pressing questions raised on Larry King.

"I don't care whether the earth is round or flat, I have a child to raise."
—Sherri Shepherd, talk-show cohost and newly minted self-help author, on Larry King Live, referring to her confusion on the point, which she voiced one day on The View.

Sherri, honey, you seem likable enough, but I'm sorry, somewhere in there among raising your child and doing The View and promoting this new book and launching that new Lifetime sitcom of your very own, you need to care about little things like whether the earth is round or flat. The shape of the earth is one of those bits of core knowledge that humankind depends on to ensure the continued survival (and, one hopes, progress) of the species.
And yet Shepherd says that when she first blurted the line in utter frustration during a segment of The View, she received tons of supportive feedback from other mothers. How sad. In fact, in discussing her book, she almost makes this self-absorbed, know-nothing approach to life sound like a form of feminism, i.e.: "Our plate is already full enough. Each of us has the right to do what works for us personally, and if I want to be ignorant, I'm entitled. I'm too busy to be expected to know stuff, too."** Shame on you, Sherri. Especially as parents, we need to uphold the importance (and, I dare say, the love) of knowledge, and we need to model that ethic for our children...not write books that imply that raising a child is somehow unrelated to questions of learning, even if we're being at least partly tongue-in-cheek. As it is, American students don't know a damned thing. Their performance in state-by-state competency testing, and especially international testing, where we face off against other industrialized nations, is appalling. If we knew more, maybe we could do more. Maybe we wouldn't make as many stupid mistakes. Which brings us to:

"I was impressed by the way he synthesized all these Western and Eastern concepts."
Virginia Brown, mother of sweat lodge victim Kirby Brown, also on Larry King Live, explaining her own prior participation in a James Ray "Harmonic Wealth" seminar.

No, Virginia, he doesn't "synthesize" anything. He pulls stuff out of his ass, making
it up as he goes along, saying anything and everything he can think of to project cosmic and karmic awareness so that suckers like you (and, tragically, your late daughter) will continue to hand him $9695. I hear lines like that from self-help victims and I think I am almost as angry at them as I am at the James Rays of the world. Brown's point appeared to be in part that Ray had always struck her as being so earnest and intelligent in the past that she was shocked, just shocked, at the recklessness and coldness of his actions (or inaction) out in Sedona. Keep in mind, this is no Sherri Shepherd here; the woman is a clinical psychologist. And so I am extra-angry at you, Virginia. I am angry at your gullibility (and, let's face it, the degree to which you probably encouraged or "enabled" similar gullibility in your daughter). I am angry at your ostensible willingness to trash the teachings and orthodoxies of your own craft in order to subscribe to this mumbo-jumbo. I am angry at your continuing need to alibi, at least somewhat, for alleged belief systems and personal-growth tactics that most of the rest of us would've recognized as asinine and potentially dangerous even before our children died in a sweat lodge.


And, in postscript, a thought for the day: If there's any substance at all to The Secret, is it possible that James Arthur Ray is indeed beginning to get back from the Universe what he projects into it?***

* No offense to blondes. Really. I just used the phrase for its headline appeal.
** She didn't say this specifically, but it's the gist of what she said, and, in a sense, the point of her book.
*** That is just a stab at mordant humor. Please don't think for a moment that, just because the "karma has turned," I'm suddenly subscribing to the insanity of it all.


RevRon's Rants said...

As one who has spent the greater portion of my life seeking the "common ground" between seemingly opposed belief systems and quantifiable physical existence, I can well understand the potential appeal of a huckster who offers even a minuscule amount of insight into that common ground. What is missing in Ray's (and many others') schtick, however, is a grounding in common sense. And unfortunately, there are many "followers" who are willing to dismiss that common sense as a core element of their "growth."

I don't feel anger toward those who fall under the spell of hucksters like Ray, because I know how deeply that hunger can affect us. I do get angry at the likes of Ray, Schirmer, and Vitale, however, because I believe that they KNOW that they are misleading people for their own profit, and seem to have no concern for the fact that they are distracting others from their earnest search.

While the deaths that have occurred are indeed tragic, I can't help but believe that the people who don't die, and follow these delusions for years might actually be suffering the greater harm. At least (in my own belief system)those who have died can move on to whatever the "next phase" might be, while the survivors might spend years - if not the rest of their lives - distracted by the illusions that these cynical hustledorks are marketing, and providing the snake-oil salesmen with both the motivation and resources to ensnare others. If there is such a thing as Karma, are these followers not acquiring a debt - albeit unwittingly - that they'll ultimately have to pay?

Anonymous said...

Do you not see how the first half of this post is bigoted in so many ways? Race, gender, etc. I'm stunned.

I agree with everything you say in the second half but I'm still trying to get past the first half.

Cosmic Connie said...

I have to admit I haven't yet taken the time to watch last night's entire Larry King Live show but hope to watch it online today. Or at least I will find and read a transcript, which may be the better option, given the iffy download capabilities of our satellite Internet. (I couldn't watch it on TV b/c we don't have cable or satellite TV.)

However, I did watch a small segment to which one of my Twittermates provided a link last night. This was the bit where Kirby's mom talked about the 'generous' $5,000 donation James Ray made to a charity in Kirby's memory (he also sent a sympathy card with $5,000 to her family, supposedly to help out with expenses and such).

Mrs. Brown also spoke about her concern for the survivors of the sweat lodge disaster, and the "survivor's guilt" they must be feeling.

So, obviously, I didn't hear the other bits about how Kirby's mom had been impressed with James Ray's "synthesis" of East and West, nor of her own past participation in James Ray events. Given that aspect, I can well imagine that when she talks about "survivor guilt," Mrs. Brown is processing no small measure of her own sense of guilt. So even in light of her own acceptance of New-Wage nonsense, I am still willing to cut her some slack. And my overriding impression when listening to the small segment I heard last night was that so far, Mrs. Brown has displayed a lot more concern for the survivors than James Ray has.

And so, while I agree with your larger points here, Steve, I can't be angry at Virginia Brown. I think this is a case where it's best to err on the side of compassion.

Martha said...

Uh oh...I have a feeling that I'm going to be a regular here. I've already become a regular reader. Just this past week, I finally pulled SHAM from my shelves and read it (I've had it for a couple of years now, but was afraid it would piss me off too much. Not that I would resist the knowledge but I wanted to learn what I could about positive psychology -- the legitimate kind -- first, for my own mental health).

So first of all, hello, I'm your new neighbor. I'll be visiting often. (Like every day.)

Secondly, I went back and reread the first half of today's posting after seeing Anonymous's beef about perceived bigotry. I don't see it. Other than the use of "honey," which I don't think is part of your natural vernacular -- especially in this context -- I thought your points were absolutely right on and gender and race neutral. That hyper-sensitivity to anything critical of anyone who happens to be African American is just another mind-fk that this world would be better off without.

I do agree with Cosmic Connie, in that anger toward Virginia Brown might be a little over the top. Compassion is the name of the game. Thanks to Connie's heads up yesterday, I did watch Larry King last night and found the interview to be about as balanced and restrained as could be expected, given the circumstances. Amazingly, though, I totally missed the part about the $5,000 donation.

So glad to have finally pulled SHAM from the shelves, Steve. You're probably preaching to the choir, but it's a start. I'll just take my place right here in the soprano section.

Debbie said...

Thank you, Steve, for the first part of this post.

As a mother and a science degree holder, one of the things I hope to pass on and teach to my children is the importance of knowledge and continual learning. They know that every Monday night I go to school to learn new things.

There are basic things that not only are a truth in themselves, but are a basis for understanding so much more.

We once went to an open house at a school where the director commented she didn't care if the children knew the roots of the metric measuring system nomenclature (i.e. milli, deci, centi, etc.), just that they knew how to measure and do the math. What???!!! Those terms are such a core knowledge for so many other things in life. Even just the concept of Latin roots! I couldn't believe what I heard that evening.

Even my 4-year old knows the world is round. And can point to where on that world all his relatives live.

Steve Salerno said...

Martha: Somehow I think the obvious rejoinder on my part--about your being the human refutation of that old line about blondes--is a bit too obvious, and patronizing, and even somehow offensive in this context, so maybe I should shut up, stop trying to think of something clever to say, and just fall back on the heartfelt "welcome to the neighborhood" that I offer to all newcomers who identify themselves by name.

Anonymous said...

Mmmm... I like it when you get all snarky, Steve. ;)

But (LOL) ignorance has nothing to do with feminism (just to point out the obvious, yanno. :)) On the contrary.

Sherri is funny and likable, but (sorry) not very bright, bless her heart.

BTW, I too consider the insane popularity of self-help scams in the US a proof (or one of them) of the failure of the American educational system.

As to clinical psychologists and mental health professionals in general, nothing surprises me anymore. From seemingly reputable psychologists assisting in state-sanctioned torture, through psych experts stating, on the record, that anger against the rich is a symptom of paranoia, to a garden variety of quacks "synthesizing" this and that without much knowledge or sometimes sense, the field is responsible for many questionable phenomena (and that's just recently!) and has to be viewed with suspicion. IMHO.

Anonymous said...

clinical psychologists can be some of the most gullible persons out there.

many professionals are targeted by financial scam artists, as they can be book smart, but not too smart in other ways, and are classic targets for con-artists.

these people are too naive in the ways of the world and trust strangers too easily.

like people who get scammed at a car dealership or car repair shop. it doesn't cross their minds that some people will lie to your face to get your money.

of course the scammers bend over backwards to find those who will buy their pitch hook line and sinker.

Cosmic Connie said...

Martha, I join Steve in welcoming you to the party.

Here's the link to the segment where Kirby Brown's mom talks about the $5,000 donations and survivor's guilt:

(I am assuming that it is from last night's show; I still haven't watched the whole thing.)

As for Sherri Shepherd and The View... Amen to what Steve said. I see nothing racist or sexist about it.

I normally like The View (and all of the co-hosts, including Sherri, ditziness and all), but I got a bit annoyed at them last week when they talked about the sweat-lodge disaster during their "Hot Topics" session. I was particularly aggravated at Whoopi Goldberg, because she kept asking why the heck the participants didn't just get up and leave once they sensed they might be in trouble. Several of the ladies also expressed puzzlement about why people follow gurus anyway, speculating that maybe such devotion stems from a need to find a parent figure.

Of course, Whoopi’s advice to just get up and leave is imminently sensible. But the truth is that it’s rarely so easy for many to do that during these marathon retreats and workshops, for reasons discussed at length on this blog and elsewhere. The sweat lodge participants had been on a 36-hour fast, were sleep-deprived, & were on the last day of a grueling week of activities. They weren't exactly in the best frame of mind to make rational decisions.

What really irked me about The View's hosts being so judgmental of the victims was that they seemed to be overlooking a few pertinent points -- most notably, that James Ray was part of "The Secret," for which Oprah, Larry King, Ellen and many of the View ladies' other buddies in the mainstream media gave such glowing endorsements. Many other self-help gurus such as Deepak Chopra are routinely given a pass as well. Moreover, most of the people who go to these marathon retreats, and, for that matter, most consumers of self-help literature and products, are well-educated, middle-class or affluent folks (mostly female) -- The View's target demographic, in other words. How could they be so out of touch with their audience?

I haven't really had a chance to watch The View since that segment last week, so I don't know if they did any follow-up discussions on the James Ray story. But I am sure they heard from many people about this. I tried to write to them myself but couldn't get the online contact form to work.

OMT: I agree with Elizabeth that the psychology profession is extremely susceptible to new-agey ideas. It's not really surprising that Virginia Brown would be into some of that stuff herself. But I still can't bring myself to be p.o.'d at her.

Noadi said...

Sherri Shepard frequently makes me cringe. I think every time I've come across her in an interview or on a talk show (I don't watch the View so it's not that frequent) she's said somethign appallingly stupid. Now it appears she's proud of the fact that she's ignorant.

That's not feminist. That's willful ignorance and it makes you look like an idiot. Unfortunately she isn't just hurting herself, she's also hurting her children and in a small way she's also hurting other women, especially black women, by reinforcing negative stereotypes.

Martha said...

bravo Noadi! You hit the nail on the head!

Anonymous said...

Steve, I've been traveling abroad. Have you missed me? I have a feeling some of your contributors were thinking "good riddance".

What an unbelievable story this is, and you seem to have a great handle on it. The Journal piece was spot-on. What I can't get past now that we see some of these people in media is that as you point out, these aren't dummies. Many of them seem quite educated and have obvious resources. But they turn to this garbage. What's wrong with people these days that they have to go to such depths to feel good about life and themselves?

Steve Salerno said...

Roger, if I knew the answer to that question--and I was absolutely certain that my solution would actually work for the vast majority of people--I just might write my own self-help book.

Anonymous said...

Roger, of course we missed you! SHAMblog just isn't the same without you (and I mean it, though we pretty much always disagree, LOL). Hope you had a good time traveling.

Belated "welcome!" to Martha, of course (if that's not too presumptuous to say on Steve's blog).

Connie, I am one of those "judgmental" types here, if only because I cannot fathom spending such obscene amounts of money on, well, almost anything, much less dubious "spiritual" advice or something that passes for it. Especially when people pay these unthinkable sums to learn about wealth, "harmonic" or not. It defies common sense.

So while I do feel sorry for Ray's victims and certainly do not believe they deserved their awful fate, part of me wants to scream, "What were you thinking?!"

But you know that already, of course.

Some of my outraged disbelief has had to do with the victims' families allowing their infatuation with Ray & Co. to continue. Now I hear from you about a parent -- who is a psychologist -- bringing her kid into it... Eh.

Cosmic Connie said...

I hear you, Elizabeth. Generally speaking, I am, in my own way, as disdainful of the New-Wage gurus' followers as well as the gurus; I snark about both all the time on my blog. So, yeah, I'm "judgmental" too. But I think your type of "judgmentalism" -- and mine -- are different from what I am talking about re the hosts of The View.

As I indicated earlier, it's not that I think Whoopi Goldberg was wrong when she said the sweat lodge participants should have just left when things started getting bad, even though I think she may not have realized how difficult it was for many of them to exercise common sense once they had gone past a certain point. What I was trying to say about her and her co-hosts (though admittedly I may not have expressed it very clearly) was that their apparent puzzlement over this whole event seemed more than a bit ironic, in light of the fact that several of them (and their buddies, such as Oprah) have given hustlers such as James Ray so much air time over the past few years. In a sense, then, they have all been "enablers" for these jokers, giving the gurus a level of legitimacy they wouldn't have had otherwise.

That's why, Eliz, I don't put our "judgmentalism" in the same category at all as I do that of some of the media stars who gave the hustledorks a forum for so long. We, after all, didn't host TV "specials" that were in essence extended infomercials for The Secret. And I agree with you that of COURSE it is ridiculous for anyone to spend ten grand to get "enlightened." A part of me also wants to shake all of those participants and scream at them, "What the F--K were you thinking?" Further, if I had the means right now, I'd take a few friends and we'd go to every one of those freebie introductory James Ray events, which are still going on as if nothing happened, and we'd confront the Death Ray, Duff McDuffee style.

Moreover, I think we are in total agreement that after all of this stuff has been in the news, anyone who is still infatuated with James Ray is more than a little messed up. And anyone who is still willing to shell out big bucks for any of his retreats...well, I hate to say it, but maybe they deserve whatever they get. Yeah, even my compassion has limits.

But my heart still hurts for the families of the people who died.

Steve Salerno said...

anyone who is still infatuated with James Ray is more than a little messed up...

I honestly think some of us give people too much credit. Ray's defenders will say he's "misunderstood," or they'll even see him as a martyr, arguing that he had a "terrible misfortune." Because--again--their whole sense of Self and Human Purpose is so tied up in these exercises that to admit that Ray is a charlatan is, in their minds, to admit that they are fools. How many of us--especially those of us who are established in our lives and careers and see ourselves as people of substance--are going to do that?

Anonymous said...

I missed you too Roger.....


RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, the willingness to pursue a given course, despite incontrovertible proof that the course was ill-advised isn't that rare. As a matter of fact, I'd say that the majority of us have done essentially the same thing in different areas of our lives.

I have friends who steadfastly insist upon buying a certain make of automobile, despite the fact that the car maker's offerings are of substandard quality. They repeatedly buy a new Chevy/Ford/BMW et al, convinced that ownership of their chosen brand identifies them as either a patriot or a member of some elite (read: wealthy) group. Never mind that they would be better - and more economically - served by another brand. Here in Texas, driving a truck is, in most cases, a matter of identity, rather than utility, since the vast majority of trucks on the road here are virtually never put to the kind of use for which trucks were actually designed. These people are willing to spend twice as much on fuel and maintenance, just to be perceived a certain way.

Another good example of people making foolish choices is found in our political process. Look how many people have voted to maintain policy objectives that have nearly brought this country to ruin. The far right wants to be perceived (or perceive themselves) as powerful and independent, despite the fact that their ideologies have plundered the economy, cost thousands of lives, and alienated most of the world, including our one-time allies. "Conservatism" today bears little resemblance to conservative principles, yet is blindly supported by those who yearn to number themselves among the movers and shakers.

The far left, on the other hand, strives to sustain a self-image as being compassionate toward others, while building a virtual fiefdom which ensures that those who lack the motivation to succeed will always be given the opportunity to languish at a willing tit. "Liberalism" has deteriorated from being the fount of compassion to the mantle of do-gooders.

The suffering caused by folks like Death Ray is actually pretty benign in scale when compared to that caused in the name of political ideologies. I'd even go so far as to say that the body count racked up by poorly-designed and built vehicles would far surpass anything that the SHAMsters have caused.

Vonnegut was right. The homicidal beggars are riding in hordes.

The Lazy Vegan said...

>And, in postscript, a thought for the day: If there's any substance at all to The Secret, is it possible that James Arthur Ray is indeed beginning to get back from the Universe what he projects into it?***

Hi, Steve:

I posted something similar on Connie's "Whirled Musings" blog yesterday, and just want to reiterate here. Do NOT take the sham that is James Ray and assume that that makes what he's adulterated and prostituted (The Law of Attraction) a sham as well. That's about like saying that all those so-called "Christian" cults that practice similar control over their members (and with consequences as or even more dire than Ray's) are true representations of the Christian faith (which I understand you were involved in as well). Neither is true, of course.

I have been an informal student of the Law of Attraction for many years. It *is* a means to self-empowerment, but it does *not* seek control over others; IMO, that's where Ray went SO wrong (the ego, in fact, is something to keep an eye on and in check). It also teaches that above all, you respect yourself as much as you respect others, something that the victims of Ray most definitely did *not* do, if they ignored their own suffering and let him control them to the point of death or serious injury.

The people who turned over their authority to Ray wanted quick fixes to problems, and they fell for a charlatan who promised them he had them. That doesn't mean they deserved to pay for their gullibility with their lives. Any true teacher in this context would have recognized this (erroneous) transfer of authority to them and would have reminded attendees that above all, their focus was to respect themselves enough to do what was right for them -- even if that meant disregarding the teacher's "authority."

>is it possible that James Arthur Ray is indeed beginning to get back from the Universe what he projects into it?

Of course; to borrow from another tradition, he will most certainly "reap what he has sown." ;-)

Cosmic Connie said...

Steve, you're right about the rationalizations employed by James Ray's remaining followers. These are the people I really want to take by the shoulders and scream at.

As for martyrdom, that is a pretty popular path with modern-day hucksters once they're busted. Kevin Trudeau (to name but one oft-discussed example) has consistently painted himself as a martyr to the big bad US government, and he gains followers partly by convincing them that the government is out to get them too. (And these days, since he's a "health expert," he's also ragging on the medical profession and "Big Pharma.") He went to prison for fraud, got out again, and has continued to peddle his crap, occasionally getting busted again and simply paying huge fines, and then it's back to business as usual, as he continues collecting money from gullible people. He truly seems unstoppable, and has bragged about his invincibility on more than one occasion. So he is both a "hero" and a martyr, providing a powerful emotional hook for those who are susceptible.

Another example: David Schirmer, the beleaguered Aussie star of The Secret, who has been accused of numerous fraudulent business practices, has played the martyr as well, claiming that he's been persecuted by "gutter journalism," a disgruntled ex-employee/lover, and Satan. He has now attached himself to one of those wealthy "prosperity-Christianity" churches, which has given him a whole new platform. But he is still not above exploiting the martyr angle as it suits him, and has even come out publicly in support of James Ray, saying he sympathizes with Ray because he, Schirmer, knows from experience how awful the media can be to an accused person.

Hucksters who haven't yet been accused of any major wrongdoing, but have often been criticized, occasionally play the martyr role too, albeit a little more subtly. (Joe Vitale's main defense, for instance, is generally to turn the accusations back on the accusers, saying that they're just looking at things all wrong because of their own inner limitations. When all else fails, he'll just delete, or refuse to publish, critical remarks. His handling of the James Ray issue on his own blog so far is a case in point.)

What is so bitterly ironic about James Ray is that people are dead because they were, for whatever reason, afraid to stand up for themselves against Ray's manipulation and outright bullying. The irony is apparent when you read the promotional copy on Ray's web site for the Spiritual Warrior retreat:

Let's face it, in our culture (no matter what people say), uniqueness is not rewarded.

When you were in kindergarten, you were taught to color inside the lines. When it was time to snack, you snacked, and when it was time to take a nap, you took a nap.

Conformity was a highly-rewarded virtue.

In elementary school, it became even more important to be just like everyone else. If you dressed a little differently, you were laughed at. If you spoke funny, you were ridiculed. And God forbid you had your own ideas and opinions...

In high school and college, it became absolutely critical to fit in... But by this time, you were good at it. You knew what was expected of you, and if there was any way you could, you delivered.

Well boys and girls, it's time for a wake-up call...

That's every bit as snarkworthy as his frequently cited piece on HuffPost a few months ago, admonishing people about "personal responsibility."

But back to those wretched followers. Given the stubborn need so many people have to cling to their delusions, I wouldn't be at all surprised if James Ray continued to run his empire quite successfully from prison, should it come to that, gaining new followers (and not just his burly cellmates). Thar's gold in that thar martyrdom.

Steve Salerno said...

Renee: I think you make an excellent point--and I really like the way you wrote it. (I hope that doesn't sound patronizing; I don't mean it to be.) Just consider that "SHAM" was a book--a static, one-sided rant--whereas I intend this blog more as a dynamic, interactive thing. In "SHAM" I stated what I personally believe to be true, because that is what one does in a book. It would make little sense to qualify each sentence, a la, "I think self-help is a waste of money, but on the other hand there are millions who differ and I could always be wrong." My book was me stating what I believe to be true. I do the same in many of my posts here (though not all of them; I write some posts in a decided mood of devil's advocacy). That is a very different matter, however, from me stating that something is true. It's a subtle but important dichotomy, albeit one that--I do realize--can cause a great deal of frustration and rage in people (notably my long-suffering wife).

The Lazy Vegan said...

Hi, Steve:

I just wrote the following post on Connie's blog, and with your permission would like it reposted here. Simply, "self-help" is not synonymous with "sham," nor does it largely serve mindless, sheep-like followers. Quite the opposite, in fact, as denoted by the term: *self* help. Many thanks,

Kim ("The Lazy Vegan")


>and, for that matter, most consumers of self-help literature and products, are well-educated, middle-class or affluent folks

Hey Connie:

I'm just working my way through your long James Ray-related post and had to address this. (The above snip is from your email to the View.) I just have to say, both you and Steve get a lot wrong about the so-called "self-help" community, as you lump us all together.

First of all, we're not all mindless sheep, and you seem to think so. In fact, I would suspect most of us are not, which is precisely why we pursue *self* help. As one central example, yes, James Ray was a millionaire (and probably won't be for much longer), but at some $5K in income per true follower in a year, let's say just for illustration, that's still only about 1800 people out of what? 300 million in the US alone? Not huge. By contrast, Christianity, with its insistence on surrender to and belief in a faceless, nebulous, omnipotent "father," boasts something like 2 *billion* followers worldwide, or about a third of the world's population.

Point being, it's called *self* help for a reason. That is, most of us know that we, ourselves, are always the ones in charge when we're looking for answers, when it's done right (IMO).

Now, over probably 10, 12 years, I've read a lot of authors. Among my favorites have been Marianne Williamson, Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, and yes, Esther Hicks (whom I know is a sore spot for you).

Here's my point: I've gotten something from *all* of them, but I have never agreed fully (or even much, sometimes) with any of them. And again, done right, they as "teachers" recognize that that is exactly what should happen; they're just presenting information, for you to accept or not as you wish. So be careful about the generalizations you make.

One other thing: Most of us are also not particularly affluent and don't just mindlessly drop hundreds or thousands of dollars on materials. Most of this info can be had for absolutely free on the Internet or through that old dinosaur repository of information, your local library. And again, I would wager that that is how most of us pursue this, with self-study and reflection as our central focus in how we handle learning, not actively being "taught" by anyone.

Dangerous folks like James Ray get the attention because they are sensational, commanding and outrageous. But watch (really *watch*) Chopra or Williamson sometime, for example. They are gentle and self-effacing in their presentations, not over the top. They fully recognize, again, that theirs is just one "take" on the world, out of many, and they expect to be disagreed with by many as a matter of course. And again, it's because it's about *self* help, not acquiescence to some external authority.

Thanks for listening.

Cosmic Connie said...

Kim (Lazy Vegan), I'm glad you posted your comment here on SHAMblog, because it will give more folks a chance to see it.

For the record, my response to the comment (which I had to make in two parts, due to one of Blogger's "character limitations" error messages) begins here:

I'm sure Steve will have more to say. :-)

The Lazy Vegan said...

Hi, Steve:

Another post between Connie and myself I thought would have a home here here (this one is in two parts, because it was long). I mostly just wanted you to see the part where I talk about you ;-), so while I would like to post it here, not necessary if too long. Again, this has two parts.


>But their massive egos, propensity for
lying...er...creative embellishment, nonstop manipulation

That's not just true of these few folks. I dare say that if quite a percentage of the public had the opportunity to put themselves in such a light (look at all those "get rich quick" schemes on the Internet now, but around "forever" since the beginning of time in other mediums) as a means to make a few (or more than a few) bucks, they'd do it. Should these guys be doing that? Of course not. We're agreed there. But this is an example, unfortunately, of many in the human condition at large, not of the self-help industry alone. We all would like things to be "quick and easy," even if most of us at least have the sense to neither endanger ourselves nor take advantage of others in that way.

In such situations, if we take responsibility for ourselves, we may get taken a time or two before we learn better, but it *is* our responsibility, each of us, to "learn better" and approach all supposed "authority" with skepticism and a sense of restraint. And while yep, I'm sure some of these folks are charlatans, there are also many who are not. Just don't dispense with the entire self-help industry at large because there are some true charlatans who *only* want your money and will do anything to get it. That's true in any industry.

>because, so far, there haven't been deaths during
their seminars.

James Ray is getting smacked (as he well should) because he refused to see that people were in trouble and were literally physically dying in front of him as a direct result of his carelessness and arrogance. That would be true no matter who was running that event. That said, those same people who were his victims were absolutely as responsible as anyone for letting themselves get *to* the point where they could actually be that controlled by someone else, that they would literally ignore their own well-being to the point of death.

Look, I'll bet there's not a one of us where life hasn't been so "sucky," so awful that we just wanted someone to make it better, already. "Make it better for me, Mom or Dad, I don't want to/can't deal with it." 'Course, with most intelligent adults, returning to actual childhood is not an option. Hence the fact that indeed, you can set yourself up to be taken if you don't act like an adult and give someone else parental control, in essence. Well? Learn from that experience, and you won't get taken again. Or keep blindly following. Your choice, your responsibility.

(There's more, but I have to split this into parts; I'm getting the "character limit" warning, too.)

The Lazy Vegan said...

Hi, Steve:

Second part of my post to Connie, thanks, Kim.


to mention some of the dicey "science" [Deepak Chopra] promotes

I can't speak to what his ego is or isn't (never met the man), but I think what he says about science makes a lot of sense. For one, he's actually a medical doctor with that background *and* explores this "dicey science" besides, so he's not just talking out of his ear.

What I'm trying to say is that it's *your* opinion that it's dicey science, nothing more (and nothing less, BTW). Same here. I don't think it is, and this is "just" my opinion, too. Both have merit, and neither should be discounted. He's not pushing you to believe in that "dicey science," though, if you don't. Easily ignored.

>Then, of course, they spend all
of their time and energy trying to persuade you that they possess so
much wisdom that you'd really be missing out on something

Again, I think the "over the top" guys like Robbins and Ray probably do that (the "preacher-like" folks with the evangelical zeal), but I don't see that with the quieter folks like Williamson or Chopra. They're quieter, so it's easier to ignore them, which is exactly the point of self-help: "Stay out of my way unless I want you; if I want you, I'll come find you."

>but let's be honest: the survival and growth of
the self-help industry, as well as the careers of self-help authors and
speakers, depends upon repeat customers as well as new ones. In that
sense, it depends upon making consumers dependent, if you will, on
continuing to consume these products.

Well, but that's true of anything, any business. You could even say the same of Steve Salerno with his book. In its own way, that's a "self-help" book too, in this case against the industry.

I'm *not* trying to be snarky (to borrow from you) with that comment, either. I'm simply saying that Steve with his "expertise" wrote a book about what he saw as a problem, to dispense information as he saw it and provide some solutions, similarly. He probably expects (hopes?) that it will become popular, and that he will make money from it. Why wouldn't he? He deserves it. (And why else write a book for publication and thus at least some monetary gain or, (hell, let's just say it) a LOT of monetary gain? No problem, no dishonesty there.)

And if, should that book be popular, he's asked to write another, are you saying he shouldn't? And if he does, he's bound to get repeat customers if they liked and agreed with the first book. (They may even become avid followers, oh, my. ;-) ) No problem, right? I certainly don't see any.

And as I've been saying, some people will probably also think it's bunk and not buy another. Their choice, right? So why, then, is it somehow different with these other authors? It shouldn't be, IMO. In the end, it *all* boils down to personal choice and responsibility.

>In any case, I thank you for taking the time to share your view, LV. (And believe me, I'm with you all the way when you point out that
self-help is small potatoes in comparison to traditional religion.)

Thanks! And thanks for taking on such a long post. :-)

The Lazy Vegan said...

>Kim (Lazy Vegan), I'm glad you posted your comment here on SHAMblog, because it will give more folks a chance to see it.

Got it, sent a reply (also long) and copied Steve on that too (since it's really relevant in both places and I'm just too lazy to retype what I've said once).


>I'm sure Steve will have more to say. :-)

Looking forward to it; great discussion going, here. :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Connie, LV: I'm not sure how much more Steve will have to say, at least at the moment/in a timely fashion, because Steve is swamped and overwhelmed. God how I wish I could keep up the pace of my comments-on-people's-comments, as I used to do in the good old days, and as Connie still does, for the most part. I don't know you manage it, girlfriend; you must have written about 5000 words' worth of comments on that ever-expanding James Ray post of yours, which is now probably hovering around 10,000 words in its own right!

Please do not take my relative lack of response as a sign of apathy or, worse, incivility. That's why I had that little disclaimer up on the site for a while (about not being able to answer all comments). I just can't keep up anymore.