Saturday, August 28, 2010

Vitale likes greed?

So I'm reading along in this article about starting a new businessI'm reading it because I got a Google News alert on it for "Joe [the Universe is your shopping catalog] Vitale," not because I'm thinking of starting a new business, though I could use onethus I know that our friend Joe will be featured in it somewhere. Finally I come to this quote attributed to him: "Money likes speed."

See, this, again, highlights one of my major gripes (arguably the major gripe) with self-help, which is the simple-minded, bullet-point, bumper-sticker nature of its advice. Money likes speed? It's catchy, I give you that, but what the hell does it mean? Well, let's look at the context for the quote, shall we?

Hаνе a рlаn аnd stick tο іt аѕ far аѕ possible bυt bе prepared tο bе flexible аnd open minded. Sometimes thе mοѕt unexpected opportunities come аnd уου need tο bе ready tο seize thеm. Aѕ Joe Vitale ѕауѕ ‘Money lіkеѕ speed’.
Let me get this straight: I should have a plan and stick to it...but I should also be prepared to throw that plan out the window if it seems advantageous to do so. Isn't that a little bit like saying, "Always use a condom, but if an unexpected opportunity comes along..."

If it sounds like I'm just being glib or nitpicky, I'm not. There's a very real and very serious problem here, and it's a problem that afflicts almost all of self-help. How does one know, precisely, when one is supposed to "stick to the plan" and when one is supposed to be "flexible"? Under what circumstances? As a practical matter, what kind of "guidance" is it to tell someone, "Do this...but then again, at certain times you may want to do that. Or do something else entirely." In the end, this kind of "advice" reduces to no advice at all.

Or let's look a bit more closely at the "money likes speed" wisdom itself. Maybe it's just me, but that smacks of being a perfect excuse for letting yourself get caught up in some get-rich-quick scheme. (And do I sound too cynical in pointing out that such schemes are often concocted by people like Vitale's newish pal, Kevin Trudeau?) Couldn't it be used as a rationale for doing some crazy-reckless-impulsive something that "seemed like a good idea at the time"?

On the other hand, I guess a guy like Eckhart Tolle would say it's perfectly OK to do that, since you're just "living in the Now."


Cosmic Connie said...

Word has it that Joe 'borrowed' the term 'Money likes speed' (or its variant, 'money loves speed') from copywriting king Dan Kennedy. (There are some interesting discussions about Kennedy on Salty Droid's blog.) Another variation on the theme is "The Universe likes (or loves) speed." Here we have one blogger trying to 'splain it in a 2008 post:

When a New-Wage guru tells you that "Money likes speed," hold on to your pocketbook. Tightly. All of that stuff about money and the Universe liking speed is calculated to nurture impulse buying in consumers. This of course lines the gurus' pockets but -- no surprise here -- doesn't do the consumers much good at all.

Steve Salerno said...

CosCon: Thanks, as usual, for that peek behind the curtains of the CONscape.

Somehow I suspect that if the Universe itself has likes and dislikes, Joe Vitale is increasingly high on Its list of the latter.

Anonymous said...

"See, this, again, highlights one of my major gripes (arguably the major gripe) with self-help, which is the simple-minded, bullet-point, bumper-sticker nature of its advice. "

I assert that the simple-minded, bullet-point, bumper-sticker language you are criticizing is just part of the age we are currently living in and using and are subjected to.

In my opinion Steve, as a writer, you make a reputation for yourself orignating your own brand of catchy flashy and sometimes simple-minded, bullet-point, bumper-sticker phrases about people you don't like. Isn't all media shoving uninterrupted simple-minded, bullet-point, bumper-sticker phrases down viewers throats now that TV offers programming 24 hours? They use to shut down for 12 hours but now it never shuts up.

I am sorry Steve but to say that "Self Help", itself, a overly simplified, bullet-point, bumper-sticker term you are beating to death this year , has some monopoly on simple-minded, bullet-point, bumper-sticker phrases is dishonest and unbalanced in my opinion and a sham.

John said...

See, this, again, highlights one of my major gripes (arguably the major gripe) with self-help, which is the simple-minded, bullet-point, bumper-sticker nature of its advice.

I agree as to the actual usefulness of the material they panhandle. The thing is, there's more useful information out there but the panhandlees aren't buying. For example, in "Getting Things Done," by David Allen, he outlines a 5-step project development process:

1. Define purpose - what do we want.
2. Outcome visioning - what's this going to look like when complete.
3. Brainstorming - capturing ideas, mind-mapping, etc...
4. Organizing - sorting, refining, defining ideas and planning.
5. Identifying next actions - what to do.

Now with the exception of steps 3,4 & 5 it's not that dissimilar from the what the gurus are telling people to do and I believe Dr. Joe Fire is even preaching that at some point in the process you may need to take action. Granted, there's a connection to the supernatural or whatever, as to how it works, but the basic ideas aren't all that far out of line from conventional business/project planning.

As goofy as it may sound, if someone wants new clothes, emptying their closet of all their clothes and just leaving hangers might serve to keep some people focused on what they want. Not that the universe would then step-in and provide the clothes, but keeping things at the forefront of our mind does help. In my experience, one thing quite a few business people have a problem with is getting real clear on what it is they want and staying focused on that objective. Now that's business people who have a degree of expertise in getting things done and most of their day to do it. When you get outside business and are dealing with people with little or no formal training or experience in business and productivity management, it's far worse, IMO.

Regardless of the way people like Rhoda Bryne or Dr. Joe Fire go about their business and the actual consumer worth of what they're selling, there's a vacuum they're filling that won't go away if they do.

Best Regards,

RevRon's Rants said...

I wonder if some people have a difficult time differentiating between carefully constructed, logic-based arguments and simplistic, bullet-point fairy tales. I think it more likely that the purveyors of the fairy tales (not to mention the senselessly hopeful people who cling to the empty promises the purveyors are selling) feel deeply threatened when their absurd "products" face reasoned challenges, and avail themselves of the only weapon they have at their disposal once the sham is exposed: a demand that you join them in their admiration of the emperor's nonexistent new clothes. Sigh...

Steve Salerno said...

John: We must be careful to make a distinction between "education" and "self-help," as I use the latter term on this blog. This is something that I get (unfairly) criticized for all the time, and it's a point I try to make whenever I'm doing media: I am not against learning or good advice! There's a difference between (1) a point-by-point "how to" that teaches a specific, repeatable skill (e.g. "how to change your sparkplugs"), and (2) all-purpose generic blather that seems to reduce human progress to a kind of mysticism. The self-help that really bothers me falls into the second category. Another problem with today's self-help is that it tends to pander to buyers by giving them easy answers (i.e. it tells them what they want to hear): Maybe instead of advising people to "put empty hangers in your closet," the better advice is "go back to school and learn something so you can get a job that pays more money," but that's not as attractive a message as this formless notion that the Universe will somehow respond to your raw desires, once you make them known with an appropriate degree of passion.

Rev: I actually think that the no-backing-down aspect of today's loyalty to SHAM is part of the larger cultural phenomenon that we've also discussed with respect to politics (and is neatly captured in your own evocation of Vonnegut's notion of "badges"). Once people have committed to something, that something becomes a totem with quasi-religious meaning: It's no longer just something they believe, but becomes an actual part of who they are in a profound, core way. At that point they put on blinders and refuse to consider any new information that calls that belief into question. This is what drives me up a wall about the contemporary climate in Washington. There is no more genuine debate or even mere engagement; there's simply shooting at one another from behind the barricades of each side's respective beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Rev and Steve

It is ironic how much you both depend on catchy sweeping put- downs of others and simplistic, bullet-points to position yourselves above others, while doing the very thing you are saying that chatch all phrase you lump bilions of people into "self-help" are doing. And what is surprising is that you won't cop to any of it no matter how obvious it might be. Must be nice to be perfect huh?

It is convenient to label what you do as "carefully constructed, logic-based arguments" but what those other people over there are doing as of "bullet-point fairy tales". Talk about having on blinders and refusing to consider looking at one'self.

If you interviewed others if they thought you sometimes relied on simplistic, bullet-point fairy tales when talking about others, you might get a more accurate unbiased point of view about what you are actually doing and it might not be as slef congratulatary as your own view of yourselves and Shamblog.

I am offering you my point of view about it.

Anon August 28, 2010 5:20 PM

Steve Salerno said...

Anon 10:23, I repeat--for the how many umpteenth time?--there is a huge difference between spewing fairy tales and debunking fairy tales. For you to say, in a bullet point, "A giant Easter Bunny lives in everyone's ass!", and for me to say, in a similar bullet point, "No giant Easter Bunny lives in everyone's ass" not the same thing.

Anonymous said...


"For you to say, in a bullet point, "A giant Easter Bunny lives in everyone's ass!", and for me to say, in a similar bullet point, "No giant Easter Bunny lives in everyone's ass"..."

First off, I never said that and you never said that.

Second, why trun to absurd examples that are not part of this discussion and distract away from what is actually being discussed? I can give you examples from your shamblog where you use flashy snappy overly simple-minded, bullet-point, bumper-sticker language to invalidate others, if that would help.

Those examples would be my point. In my opinion, you are doing, at least a similiar version, of the type of thing you are saying that your favorite catch all bumper-sticker term: "self help" is doing.

Anon 10:23

RevRon's Rants said...

Sorry, anon, but as has been pointed out numerous times previously, the classic Pee Wee Herman "I know you are, but what am I?" defense is not a viable debating tactic. You haven't actually refuted anyone's points at all, focusing your argument entirely upon style rather than substance. but if that's what you've got to work with...

Cosmic Connie said...

Regarding our old friend Anon's comments: I think that to a certain extent everyone with a strong opinion about something dons those Vonnegutian "badges." We also have a tendency to repeat ourselves, using some of the same pet phrases repeatedly, and offering the same arguments over and over (of course the latter is generally because we are answering the same criticisms over and over).

So yes, it could be argued that there are some stylistic similarities between the critics and the people and products that they criticize. However, as Steve pointed out, there is a substantial difference between promoting a fairy tale (or what some of us think is a fairy tale) and attempting to debunk that fairy tale.

Moreover, I don't see any one of the SHAMblog regulars congratulating themselves for being "perfect," as Anon implied we do. At times we do get a little condescending here -- at least I do -- but that, IMO, doesn't render the points we're trying to make any less valid. I've certainly seen condescension and a sense of superiority on the "believer" sites and blogs too. It's seems to be an inevitability with online discourse.

We're all wearing blinders, in one way or another, and the critics have their blind spots as do those whom they criticize. But I think there's a great deal of difference between the thoughtful and informed criticism of a SHAMblog, and the works of self-help hucksters who are intent on extracting thousands upon thousands of dollars from their readers and followers.

I’ll continue in my next comment and address an earlier point Steve made; I’m getting Blogger’s infamous “4,096 characters” warning.

Anonymous said...


I view "spewing fairy tales" as an example of shsmblog using an overly simplified and overly generalized bullet-point, bumper-sticker catch all phrase, to invalidate thousands if not millions of different people and different ideas in the quickest amount of time, and that basically means nothing. It requires specifics or evidence, it just sounds spiffy. In my opinion, in that one phrase shamblog (you) are embodying the thing you are commenting on.

Anon 10:23

Steve Salerno said...

Anon: OK, we'll try this one last time, and I'll omit any references to Easter Bunnies or asses.

If you say, "Trust in the universe and you will be rewarded," and I say, "It is ridiculous to trust in the Universe," those are not parallel thoughts. I am simply refuting an idea that has no scientific evidence behind it.

If you say, "Pray to God and your prayers will be answered," and I say "That is an absurd notion," those are not parallel thoughts. I am simply refuting an idea that has no scientific evidence behind it.

If you say "2+2=7" and I say "2+2=4," those are not parallel thoughts enjoying an equivalent standing in the discussion.

If you say, "Debunking something that has no scientific evidence behind it is the same as proposing something that has no scientific evidence behind it," that is ridiculous. If "millions of different people" believe in something that is plainly ridiculous--based on all known scientific metrics and empirical evidence--then millions of people have a ridiculous belief. The fact that millions of people believe in something doesn't, in and of itself, speak to its credibility or give it a legitimate raison d'etre, in my view.

Anonymous said...

Cosmic Connie

"Moreover, I don't see any one of the SHAMblog regulars congratulating themselves for being "perfect,"

My remark was in response to Rev Rons comment:

"...I wonder if some people have a difficult time differentiating between carefully constructed, logic-based arguments and simplistic, bullet-point fairy tales...."

It in my opinion that the above "carefully constructed, logic-based arguments" is lauding the commentary on shamblog both his and Steves while casting fairy tale status to the other side who may or may not be doing the exact same thing Rev Ron and Steve are doing, we may be all doing.

Self "congratulatory" might not have been the right word to use but I hope you know what I meant.

And what is with the ridiculous examples you and Steve resort to?Who said: "Debunking something that has no scientific evidence behind it is the same as proposing something that has no scientific evidence behind it," that is ridiculous." No one is saying nor said that. And there is no science behind Steve's and Rev Rons simple-minded, bullet-point, bumper-sticker phrases about people they just don't like. If there is some "science" behind them and I missed it, please present it.

I will give you credit for offering a balanced view about the commonalities between us all. I think you have less testosterone to deal with when writing.

Anonymous said...

It is ridiculous to trust in the Universe,"

Has scientific evidence behind it?

RevRon's Rants said...

Going over some of the comments, I find myself compelled to offer a bit of perspective on the logic applied to some of the New Wage "metatechnologies." I think the video in the link speaks for itself.

Cosmic Connie said...

Steve, this is probably the same Anon who has engaged both of us before, asking for us to back up our opinions with "specific examples" (and overlooking the hundreds of specific examples presented over the lifetime of the respective blogs.) My guess is that she gets bored on occasion and comes out of hiding, more or less, to initiate the same discussion we've had over and over and over again.

Regarding the presentation of specific examples every time one utters an opinion, however, let me just say that Anon seems to be one of the very few, if not the only, person here who is puzzled, or pretending to be puzzled, by the "fairy tale" reference.

BTW, I tried to post my promised (or threatened) follow-up comment yesterday, but even though the total character count was less than 3,900 I still kept getting that "warning" notice about exceeding 4,096 characters. I'll try again today.

Anonymous said...

Steve once again

no one is saying or said

"If you say "2+2=7" and I say "2+2=4,"

These abstract examples distort what we are talking about and give you too much credit for what you are saying, making it sound superior and more accurate and real then what others are saying. And as far as I an tell, that is not the case, that you are simply putting forth your opinions of what others are saying, and as good sounding as it might be, with no science behind what you are saying (for the most part).When we actually start talking about how we all agree a word is spelled or how we all agree what 2 + 2 = , then I will have much less to say. But we are not discussing math.

I have no problem withyour opinions. I do take issue with you claiming you have "science" on your side when you present no evidence of that.

Steve Salerno said...

Once again, Anon misperceives (or purposely distorts?) the scientific method: The person making the claim has the obligation to submit the proof. You cannot logically or scientifically put we "skeptics" in the position of having to prove a negative. The statement "Trust in the Universe" is ridiculous because there's no evidence for it. The Secretologists, if you will, have utterly failed to meet their burden of proof.

And, you know, look, I say again, I don't mind dissenting views. I really don't. At the same time, I'm mystified as to why you'd want to doggedly haunt this board when you know its premise going in! I wrote a book called "SHAM" in which I basically alleged that the self-help movement is a house of cards (or maybe an "emperor's new self-improvement plan"). That's my founding lens here. If it/I frustrate you so much--and you have such a fundamental disagreement, compelling you to attack each and every point I make (almost as if you're surprised at my perspective, when in fact that perspective is the very rationale of his forum)...then why are you here?? Seriously. I want to know.

Cosmic Connie said...

This is regarding Steve’s earlier point to Anon about the "all-purpose generic blather" versus the "repeatable step-by-step" varieties of self-help/advice. I think there’s also a huge in-between area that, despite the numerous “your results may vary” disclaimers, seems no less scammy than the mystical stuff. Case(s) in point: the moneymaking schemes, touted on infomercials, that claim to lead to repeatable results “if you work the program.” Some of the SHAM world’s leading lights have a hand in these.

This morning I happened upon the last ten minutes or so of an infomercial that employed the familiar framework of one of those "special report" shows. This one, called "The Hansen Report," featured Steve's old nemesis, Chicken Soup co-creator Mock Victor Hamstrung... I mean, Mark Victor Hansen… as "host." In the infomercial Mark pretends to be interviewing an earnest young huckster named Anthony Morrison, who’s hawking a book called "Advertising Profits From Home."

Either Anthony's little scam is so successful that he can afford to pay Mark directly, or Mark is getting a handsome cut of the action, or both. (For those who aren't familiar with Mark, he is one of the more successful SHAM purveyors, calling himself "America's Ambassador of Possibility." The "Book MVH" page on his web site says, "When Mark's time is over with an audience, amazing things happen. Desire levels and inner drive increase, self esteem and morale is [sic] raised, creativity is stimulated, challenging assignments and situations are approached with a new perspective, and most importantly all these things effect [sic] your bottom line." The copy doesn't specify HOW the bottom line is "effected.")

But back to young Anthony. Although he says repeatedly that his program is not a get-rich-quick scheme, the clear message is that if you follow his instructions you can get extremely wealthy, as he claims he is. His $19.95 book purports to teach a step-by-step way to make scads of money online using the usual suspects: a boilerplate web site provided and paid for by Anthony himself, plus social media such as Twitter, Facebook & Myspace, & other “proven” ways to drive traffic to your site. One big advantage of his book, he says, is that it’s not big and thick and complicated, but short and simple. As a bonus for ordering, you also get another one of his immortal works, “The Hidden Millionaire,” and a DVD.

Of course the show features a number of “success stories” from real people. During those testimonials, and periodically throughout the show, a disclaimer appears in white letters at the bottom of the screen, explaining that in a "recent poll" of existing customers, most had not yet implemented the advice, so the advertisers are not making any claim that the "successful" people are in the majority. (In other words, people who fail have only themselves to blame.)

Significantly, the disclaimer adds that some students (presumably those "successful" ones) had also purchased “additional support programs.” This is the big clue that anyone calling the 1-800 number will be subject to a dizzying &d confusing array of upsells. Indeed, as one blogger (see link below) put it, “Once you order the book, you get bombarded with phone calls from Morrison’s ‘team’ about how now you really need to ‘upgrade’ and go for the $4,000 coaching system to get the REAL secrets of making money online.”

Scam, scam, scam… Meanwhile, Mock Victor and Anthony Morrison are chortling all the way to the bank. Shame on both of them. As one commenter on the blog I quoted above put it, “Their promises are empty and their pockets are full!” Here’s the link to that blog post:

I have yet another headache from rolling my eyes. And Anon, I realize this was just one example of scammy infomercials but it is not an exceptional one.

John said...

Maybe instead of advising people to "put empty hangers in your closet," the better advice is "go back to school and learn something so you can get a job that pays more money," but that's not as attractive a message as this formless notion that the Universe will somehow respond to your raw desires, once you make them known with an appropriate degree of passion.

Steve, with your earlier distinction between education and self-help noted, it does seem like the attractiveness of the message is a big factor as to why one would buy into some of this stuff in lieu of the more traditional and proven roads to success like discipline, education, focus and hard work.

I think the issue is figuring out what people find so attractive with the law of attraction or the power of love. First, "it's so easy, even a caveman can do it." It doesn't require any special talent or skill to dream about what we want and feel lovingly towards the universe. Hence, if one believes all it takes is a dream and a few incantations to evoke the power of the universe to do one's bidding, well, that sure beats the more difficult routes.

Secondly, "some plan is better than no plan." Not that I'd agree having any plan rather than no plan is preferable in an absolute sense, but just that people are more at ease in their own mind if they have some sort of plan rather than none. Right on the heels of desire, is the question of how: how can I realize/attain my desire? Well, if you have no idea how, things like harnessing the power or your higher-self, your subconscious or the universe at least gives you the sense that you do have a plan. Now whether or not that plan is valid is really not the issue, because for some reason the human psyche seems to prefer the illogical and farfetched to the unknown.

In regard to preferring the easy way, I've ended up taking the long-way around the block looking for shortcuts enough times to disqualify myself from commenting. However, with the issue of having some plan rather than none, I don't think you have a chance of fixing the real problem by criticizing someone's plan or the logic/rationale behind it. You might feel better, but they'll feel worse, because you're not only asking them to give up their plan, you're asking them to give up hope. For some people, The Secret is all they've got and they'll cling to it, rightly or wrongly, with all their might until a more promising plan comes along.

Best Regards,

roger o'keefe said...

Steve, your tolerance for this guy is remarkable. You are a better man than I, I would just tell him to go piss up a rope. It reminds me of the characters you'd get in Philosophy 101 who woudl start arguments about "but how do you know the sky is really blue, maybe blue to you is yellow to me etc." Or whether the light in the refrigerator really goes off when you close the door. I know you like to be open to views and even pride yourself on it but I don't see how tolerance of this is helpful or serves any purpose. In a way it undermines intellectual debate and honest inquiry.

I'm with the Rev on this one with regard to the Pee Wee Herman school of debating tactics.

RevRon's Rants said...

OK... It's for real now. Not only have I agreed with Roger on a few occasions, he now acknowledges agreement with me on something. Can the four horsemen of the apocalypse be far behind? :-)

My only point of contention with Roger's comment has to do with his inclination to tell anon to "go piss up a rope." I find this suggestion highly unkind to rope, which does fulfill a significant need, and is not deserving of such treatment.

As an alternative, might we replace that bit of advice with an entreaty to take a flying f**K at a rolling donut? Or, if the inane one is feeling particularly grandiose, perhaps a flying f**k at the moon?

And don't blame me for the vulgarity of the image represented. In all fairness, I must acknowledge that the talent behind the phrase(s) is none other than my oft-quoted literary idol, Kurt Vonnegut.

Anonymous said...


"then why are you here?? "

I don't know actually. Because I have a computer on my desk probably, and I am interesting in the phenomena of internet criticism. What I express are only my opinions, nothing more. And while you may experience it this way, I don't see that it is accurate to say that I "attack each and every point" you make. I did challenge a few of your points but only the one or two I took issue with.

W don't have to agree for me to say as always I do appreciate that you do post so called "dissenting" views and that speaks loudly about you and who you are. You are a bigger man then most.

Anon 10:23

Anonymous said...

roger o'keefe

"it undermines intellectual debate and honest inquiry"

How so? That is all fine and good to assert but why? Because I more then not disagree with you or Steve on some of your fundamental premises? Does a post need to have an element of criticizes on the topic at hand to be honest and support the debate?

Steve Salerno said...

I'm not going to address Anon's latest questions--and I think my reasoning can be found in any of two or three prior threads where we ended up at this same wearying juncture, where every single sentence comes under semantic attack--but if Roger (or anyone else) wants to take a whack at it, I'll let this continue for one more generation of comments. Otherwise I honestly don't see the point.

I will say--as a general observation--that there's something wrong when every post evoles into the same basic thread that seems to call all of known reality into question through a reductivist dissection of every single word or phrase. I don't want to have that happen here anymore. There are better forums for that. Otherwise I would've called this

(And now I'm fairly sure that someone out there is analyzing this very comment for openings to the same sort of dissection.)

Anonymous said...


"..where every single sentence comes under semantic attack''>

This is just not true or now what is happening in plain site for anyone to see. And I am not "attacking" the "semantics" of this statement either just it's lack of reality. You may take it personally and "feel" attacked but that is your trip, I only remarked on a couple of your many many points posted in shamblog and I stuck to those few comments. I may be insufferably redundant and out of place here but I am not "attacking" you or your every sentence as you present.

John said...

Rev Ron wrote:
Going over some of the comments, I find myself compelled to offer a bit of perspective on the logic applied to some of the New Wage "metatechnologies."

As I understand it, the basic premise is that thoughts influence reality, or more formally: mental activity is a causal influence on what we perceive as physical reality.

We can establish whether or not that premise is true (or needs qualifying), a posteriori. As to the theory of "why" thoughts can/do influence reality, I don't see that as a question we can answer empirically, yet than seems to be a main tactic in debating this issue. The "why" is based on the particular metaphysical position held. So, for an idealist whose worldview is that ultimate reality is mental, the why is established a priori.

When one denounces as untrue the above mentioned premise based on an opposing metaphysical position they're not (or shouldn't be) factoring in any evidence or lack thereof into the argument. The materialist isn't really saying that what the LOAers are claiming does not work. What they're saying is that it can't work, a priori, based on their opposing worldview.

So bringing science or the scientific method into the argument is a non sequitur in terms of "why" it cannot work. Of course, just claiming an idealist worldview doesn't make the premise true, either. There's still the question of establishing if there is a cause-effect relationship between what we think and what we experience.

Best Regards,

Elizabeth said...

Steve, you say:

The statement "Trust in the Universe" is ridiculous because there's no evidence for it.

True (I think...). But (of course) people do not need hard evidence to trust -- and/or believe, love, hope, endure, cherish, what have you -- i.e., use all kinds of methods and ideas that make life bearable.

It seems not everyone is equally devoted to the search for truth and people vary in their grasp of reality (I say this without a hint of irony, I do). And some people place other values higher than the (so-called) objective and verifiable truth. That would seem to be an acceptable personal preference as long as it does not harm others, IMO.

Well, at least that's my bumper sticker and I'm sticking to it. There.

Steve Salerno said...

OK, let me say this straight-out: I will no longer publish comments whose entire raison d'etre appears to be to try to asphyxiate this forum via sophistry or linguistic legerdemain, thus resulting in (a) prolonged, pointless debate and (b) the need for the obvious not merely to be stated, but stated again and again. I am sick and tired of questions that reduce to, "But how do we really know the sun is hot or the earth is round?"

I remember when I was teaching nonfiction writing at IU, a student of mine recounted--with some delight--how he'd recently managed to tie up his philosophy class for several sessions with his observations about the AIDS virus. "How," he posed, "do we really know that AIDS isn't caused by turning doorknobs? Maybe every time someone turns a doorknob, that's what really causes somebody somewhere to get AIDS." And when challenged, his pat answer was, more or less, "Go ahead, prove me wrong, if you can." For some reason that escapes me, his philosophy teacher tolerated this for a number of classes, allowing the "debate" to peter out on its own. My student felt oh-so-victorious. (And I'm left asking myself: This is what you come to college for? This is what passes for "critical thinking"? Your parents must be so proud...)

I'm sorry, New Agers among us, but the rest of us are not burdened with the task of disproving the patently asinine. On the contrary, it is your job to prove it...if you can--bearing mind that "proof" does not consist of smug (but idiotic) "how do you know" questions on the order of the one with which my student bludgeoned his class.

Elizabeth said...

Wait... Did I say something to set this off, Steve?

If so, I apologize.

I merely tried to point out, pointlessly perhaps, that for many (most?) people truth ("hard" reality, whatever you want to call it) are secondary to happiness, or simply living a bearable life, in the service of which they would employ any and all so-called irrational ways of adjustment.

No philosophical or other insults intended, really.

P.S. I am not a New Ager and have never been (I think).

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: Sigh. No, dear woman, you did not do/say anything to set this off.

What set me off were the ongoing "contributions" of our relentless Anon, which I'd finally had enough of. ("...of which I'd finally had enough?")

Paranoia is one of those really tough mental ailments, I hear. ;)

Elizabeth said...

Phew! OK, I feel better now.

Which tempts me to harp (yikes, yes) on the theme some more (bear with me, please).

You object to the statement/belief, "Trust in the Universe," as one without any proof behind it. Rightly so, I suppose.

And I'm somewhat hesitant here, because personally I am not so certain about the solidity of such proofs, etc., but more importantly because there is a very similar sentiment that does not evoke a similar objection from you, Steve, or from so many others who consider themselves skeptics -- and that statement/belief is, "Trust in God."

There is no difference between those two, is there? I mean, God and the Universe can be used interchangeably in people's minds, and the "evidence" of the solidity of such trust in either is very similar, no?

So why do we get our panties in a bunch over "trusting in the Universe," but not over trusting in God?

Why, we are proud of our trust in God -- so much so that we announce it everywhere (even on our currency, fer godsakes).

Why is one unsubstantiated belief objectionable, but the other not?

I am not trying to stir a pointless exchange (I hope not) -- I'm genuinely perplexed by this.

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz: I agree wholeheartedly with the implications of your comment. (This is one of those "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" moments.) I personally believe that God has no place in scientific discussions. The concept of a Supreme Being is no less absurd than the law of attraction--and I say that as someone who increasingly believes (or, more accurately, wants to believe) since the passing of my sister. At the same time, I know I'm almost surely deluding myself in the name of emotional comfort. So sue me. :)

Elizabeth said...

Nope, I won't sue you, Steve.

Although, hm, on the second thought...

Eh, naw.

Even if I wanted to (which I don't), for what? For holding some irrational and/or contradictory beliefs? Then I'd have to sue you, myself and the rest of humanity all at once. (Can you imagine such a lawsuit? Welcome to The Absurd! :)

John said...

OK, let me say this straight-out: I will no longer publish comments whose entire raison d'etre appears to be to try to asphyxiate this forum via sophistry or linguistic legerdemain, thus resulting in (a) prolonged, pointless debate and (b) the need for the obvious not merely to be stated, but stated again and again.

Steve, I don't look through the same lens that you do but I frequent your blog for the same reason I frequent Cosmic Connie's blog - you both articulate your points and positions very well. My whole thing is that I'm okay with disagreeing with someone but I have a hard time with those who pro-offer their opinions/views in an incomprehensible manner.

So my question for you is are you putting forth your opinions to encourage dialog, even if debate is generated, or are you coming at this from more of a political angle? I ask this because in an earlier post on gratitude, the criteria you were asking of others to validate your opinion does seems less than which you require others to present. It's not that I disagree with what you had to say on the matter, but I wonder if you've approached with an open mind and tried what you criticize to the same degree as you may have hoped someone would take your thoughts on gratitude.

BTW, from one trouble-maker to another, nice torpedo job on The Power. I know a little about the biz and when sales rankings are supposed to go up and reviews are supposed to start coming in and they don't…. Same thing happened with Dan Brown's latest literary masterpiece.

Best Regards,

Steve Salerno said...

John: You ask good questions, and I think to some degree I must fall back on that old all-purpose answer, "It's a judgment call." In another sense, however, I don't think the gray areas are all that gray.

Ideally what I'd like to see on my blog in the way of dialog (and this is not to imply that anyone else should apply the same standards in his or her own life; I'm just one man talking about his own standards for his own blog) is for people to put forth affirmative positions. I've said this before, but if Tony Robbins or Osama bin Laden were to turn up on my blog with an explanation justifying their ideas and methods, I'd absolutely run those thoughts and encourage debate on any/all points they made. Hell, if Charles Manson wants to explain the special joy he gets from killing people (or ordering them killed), that's fine too. I'm not even a stickler about coherency or linguistic facility; I have known people who didn't speak English as a first language, but in their own halting, sometimes inarticulate way, made devastatingly powerful arguments for this or that. What I object to is an argument (especially an ongoing one) that seems rooted in the Pee Wee Herman school of debating tactics, as Rev put it: "I know you are, but what am I??" That is, a sniping-type, defensive argument that seems to assume as its premise that nothing can be taken for granted, that all possibilities are equally possible, that collective human experience (and study) counts for nothing; an argument that rests on sophistic hypotheticals like, "but Steve, how do you know the Universe isn't listening to people's wants and desires?" Which is why I posed my own snarky and inelegant but ultimately relevant hypothetical a while back: "and how do we know there aren't invisible Easter Bunnies in our ass?" To my mind, those questions are on an equivalent logical footing.

If everything (no matter how fanciful or outlandish) is equally possible and there are no accepted benchmarks for gauging truth or even likelihood, then what is the point of discussion?

Anonymous said...

"How does one know, precisely, when one is supposed to "stick to the plan" and when one is supposed to be "flexible"? "

"Self help" as you callit, at it's best, does not do the thinking for other people nor tell them what to do but rather offers frames for people to consider and look through and experiment with. "Self Help" cannot reduce the risk that living is and at it's best does not promise to. It assists people in creating new terministic screens, as Burke called them, for themselves and leave a person with more ways of looking at something then when they came then perhaps just the one they had, much the same way you probably intend to do as a writer Steve. It is respectfully left up to each person if they see something new and of value from "money likes speed" or not. If you don't that is perfectly valid and does not say anything bad about you or the notion. It is not the truth. Most critics rail against ideas as if they were presented as the truth and that is just not the case, they are not presented as the truth. You are railing against yourself and your own way of looking at it Steve.

P.S Billy Bobby loves speed :-)

Steve Salerno said...

Sorry Anon. When a book is called The Secret or The Power, and its author gives interviews in which she proposes that her book is "the answer to everything" and avers that "With the knowledge from [my book] there is not anything any human cannot be, do or have...not a single thing. No limits whatsoever...," then there is an implied promise there. In fact, it's not even implied; it's stated outright: "This plan will fix your life."

Similarly, if you write a book whose titles contains phrases like "7 steps to..." or "10 keys to...", you are also, in my view, establishing a covenant with the reader in which you are guaranteeing that--with the completion of those steps or the mastery of those keys--something very specific and wonderful will have happened, because you will indeed have found "the truth" about success in life.

Anonymous said...

I have not studied the works you are referencing to agree or disagree and I am not familiar with "7 steps to..." books or programs. In such isolated cases, if in fact, and I do mean in fact, not just your personal take on it, the authors ACTUALLY intend for their work to be received as the truth or as facts with garanteed outcomes then yes I would tend to agree with you and those would not be what I am thinking of when I say "Self Help", as you term it, at it's best.

"covenant" ? You added that Steve. Doesn't exist for all people, not even most people.

Anonymous said...

And also we want people and books to have some conviction. Even you stand behind your views in this blog as if what you are saying is true and when pressed you would always admit that it is only your point of view. But you still play if "for keeps" and present it with enthusiasm and surety and as if you stand behind it 100% I don't consider that a covenant that what you are saying that what you are posting is 100% true and guarantees me anything and I am sure you would not want me to put that responsibility on you.

In my opinion, most of the authors you mention are no different than you in their intent and you are in most cases more like them then not, no matter how much you claim otherwise.

Steve Salerno said...

Sigh. Here we go again.

I guess in some folks' world, there's no difference between duplicitous scumbags who sell snake oil, and the people who stand up and say, "Wait a minute, these are duplicitous scumbags selling snake oil." I would imagine that--to those folks--there is also no difference between a doctor and a disease. They both have an "agenda," right?

Go away, Anon. Seriously. You've made your "point" 100 times over. Don't force me to reject all anonymous comments, or limit participation to verified true-name contributors only. That's not fair to others who actually have a thoughtful comment to make.

Come on. If you have any sense of decency, please go haunt someone else. You clearly find little to like in SHAMblog, so why stick around??