They're at it again.
Like most alumni of The Secret, John Assaraf was laying low for a while after his pal and co-conspirator James Ray parboiled a trio of New Age acolytes in Sedona. Then, and also like the rest of the clan, Assaraf sought to reinvent himself with post-Secret insights. Lately he's been tweeting about this stuff.
I'm not going to get too deep into the particulars of that site, which is premised on the supposedly magical powers of the precuneus and your ability to harness same (with a little ongoing help, that is, from your friends in the New Wage community, as our friend Connie likes to call it). You're fully capable of reading the advertorial for yourself and drawing your own conclusions. But as a general matter, this is what self-help hucksters do: They take a snippet of science (usually so-called "emerging" science), combine it with a pinch of philosophy, a useful aphorism or two from someone with high name recognition, some ever-ready boilerplate about Empowerment and Positivity and blah-blah-blah, and presto...a hot new product line*. It's like the old wedding prescriptive: "Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue" (to which I would append, "helps them separate your cash from you").
I've said this before, but it's important to expend a few more words from time to time so that some readers who are inclined to dismiss me as a curmudgeon—or worse—fully understand the argument I'm making. I do not dispute that you can make yourself obsess about things that you want, or want to happen. We all know people who do that even without trying. What I dispute is the existence of a push-button link between that level of obsession and the attainment of whatever it is you want, or want to happen.
I do not think that positive mental attitude is irrelevant in life. Such a stance would be ridiculous. When people get down and hopeless, they no longer even try, and it seems logical that more often than not, you must try in order to succeed. (There are, of course, powerful examples of accidental success. See under "Fleming" and "penicillin.") Positivity is all the more important (if not downright essential) in any enterprise that plays out largely in the human heart or mind: like love. If you and your partner are not positive about your love, you will likely not be happy in that love, and the love strikes me as far less likely to last, ipso facto.
But the more important point is that in other real-world enterprises—that is, where we must interact with our environment and, to some degree, conquer it—there's plenty of pointless, useless trying and hoping. Since talk of personal reinvention is all the rage these days, let me stipulate for the record that I would love to reinvent myself as a pitcher/outfielder for the New York Yankees. I really would. And if I thought I had half a chance, I'd be sitting here obsessing and attracting and dispatching positive energy into the ever-obliging universe 24/7. But it ain't gonna happen for me. Not at 61 with two bad knees. In fact—and this is the more pertinent fact—it isn't even gonna happen for the vast majority of 20-somethings who are signed and drafted out of high school or college. These are kids who have obsessed about baseball; they have organized their entire lives around success in the realm. They've hit until their hands bled, worked with the best coaches, attended all the most renowned camps and clinics. It's just that statistically, there isn't room for all of them in major league baseball. End of story, end of dream.
Sorry, folks. PMA is not a bush-putton panacea for what ails you.
The bottom-line problem with the self-help movement is its lack of nuance, its near-total disinclination to parse language in the way that it must be parsed in order to have any real-world relevance. Marketing dictates call for communicating a clear and unambiguous message, thus SHAMland finds it necessary to take highly complex (and individualized) topics like "What are the ingredients of success?" and distill them down to absurdly simplistic bullet points that offer about as much true instruction as my telling you to "go out and enjoy life." (OK, glad we've got that settled.) You cannot get a deal for a realistic book, a book with a title/premise like "Maybe you ought to try harder because it probably increases your odds of success a bit more, though in truth you can't really count on that..."
At least that's what my precuneus is making me conscious of, this morning.
* Translation: scam.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
They're at it again.