...the "elegant (a)whole"?
Once again I'm late to the party, but I did have a point I wanted to make in my few moments of downtime this morning. What tend to get overlooked amid the more sensational aspects of the James Ray case are the implications of the eyebrow-raising financial disclosures that have emerged from this whole debacle. As has been amply documented by now elsewhere (indeed, everywhere), the picture Ray paints of himself in bail hearings is a far cry from the way he portrayed himself on-stage as recently as four months ago, which is to say, before three followers became perfectly balanced in one of his sweat lodges. (For those of you who don't get the reference, Ray was fond of saying, "The only people who are perfectly balanced are six feet under.")
We are told that James Ray—who hinged his very business model on a phrase containing the word wealth; who paraded his insights in front of 200 paying audiences per year—is too broke to make bail; we are told, among other things, that he has $14,000 in his checking account, which is less, a lot less, than it costs to buy just one wheel from a set of four of the high-end type that most of these jokers put on their cars.* For our purposes here, it doesn't really matter whether all of that is true (some have suggested that Ray was never as successful as he pretended to be) or false (others have suggested that the assets Ray liked to tout during his programs are now lovingly sheltered in Andorra or wherever). Either way, the implications for Ray—and by extension, for the genre—are grim and revealing:
If Mr. Harmony Hisself, the maestro of wealth-building, managed his portfolio and his low-overhead empire so poorly that he now can't raise $500,000 cash bail** even by liquefying assets—if the guy couldn't make his failsafe methodology work, even for him—then he's revealed as a fraud.
If Ray put his money illegally out of reach of the IRS and/or other regulatory bodies and, to compound that sin, is now lying about his actual circumstances—also with the long-range goal of making himself lawsuit-proof when it comes time for his day(s) of reckoning in civil court—then he's revealed as a cheat and a scoundrel.
Maybe it's fitting that James Ray had his comeuppance in Arizona. The place is just crawling with snakes.
And on that note, I am reminded suddenly of something that happened, once, when I was covering a seminal figure in the success-training movement. There was this magazine piece I planned to write (it later became a book), and the guru gave me an unusual—and, really, reckless—degree of access to him, his people and his programs. So I'm backstage at one of his seminar gigs, and there comes a point where he says to the audience, very dramatically, "Write this down: People who answer the telephone within three rings make 20% more than people who don't." Immediately that sounded suspect to me; I couldn't figure out, for starters, how such data would've been compiled. So I asked him about it later: "That thing you said about answering the phone within three rings? Is that really accurate?"
He sort of snickered and shrugged. Then he replied, "Who gives a shit? People eat this stuff up. It works, so I use it."
There's your self-help movement in a nutshell, folks.
* I grant you, a lot of affluent people don't keep a lot of money in their checking accounts. But come on. As part of the overall picture Ray paints—especially when he gets into descriptions of his monthly nut—why would he have only $14K on-hand to pay it?
** He would have to collateralize the remaining $4.5 million, of course.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
...the "elegant (a)whole"?