Saturday, September 27, 2008

Leaving the Secret Magical Church of Oprah

Magical thinking makes no one wiser.

You're in your attic. Water's rising and the attic's far apex is knocking your head as the water laps into your mouth.. The impossible is going down. You're gonna die. Your children are gonna die. And it's got nothing to do with your ability to envision success.

They rescued the family next door yesterday. If you're an Oprah true believer, you must be thinking your visualizations of perfect linens and running water need juju. Obviously, your Power of Intention isn't worthy, if it were, everything would be fine..

I don't know about all y'all, but this is wrong from every which way. That water does not give a shit about anything. It's nature, and it's careless like a distracted second grader with a hot poker. Your life is as incidental to that water as a bloated swine carcass.

If you still believe there's a loving creator attending to your personal outcome, then that creator is doing a bait and switch on the folks that are already dead. Talk about falling down on the job.

It about makes me heartsick to hear survivors thank God or Jesus or Yawheh or Whoever for saving their lives.

It avoids the obvious question of just how Jesus must have felt about the babies and daddies who drowned in an airless horror story of warm oily water that just kept on coming. Were they not as worthy? Did they not see Oprah the day she did "The Secret"?

Get Whatever You Want For Thinking On It Real Hard.

Oprah has been all over this "envision your best life" notion as spelled out in best-selling book and movie, "The Secret." Essentially, it goes, if you wish for a red convertible with enough mental energy, then it's practically in your garage.

Positive thinking is great stuff. I use it in moderation from time to time myself. But, that mansion on the hill will not be mine in exchange for any amount of hard pondering. Hard thinking for personal gain is beyond absurd. And beneath this pillow sham of hooey, everybody knows it. Why else do people consistently credit their own success to hard work, tenacity, great people, education and determination? Because working, acting, learning, going, being, doing—these are the only way to create success. Thinking in your own head about selfish things makes you stupid, credits all the wrong things, and blinds you to your fellows.

This newest brand of selfish-help-through-visualization ripens us to subtly aim a finger at the non-visualizing poor, the ill, the ugly, the fat, the pimply, et al. for being the author of their own suffering. Why, it's practically criminal in some circles.

We absolve ourselves of any moral involvement because it's their fault, not our problem to fix. Now off to yoga and smoothies with ginseng and studying our own pretty princess selves 24/7.

Time was, we were our brother's keeper, when Americans weren't so magicky in their thinking. Barbara Ehrenreich reminds us vividly of the not so long ago in this bit from a larger article on Alternet:

Americans did not start out as deluded optimists. The original ethos, at least of white Protestant settlers and their descendents, was a grim Calvinism that offered wealth only through hard work and savings, and even then made no promises at all. You might work hard and still fail; you certainly wouldn't get anywhere by adjusting your attitude or dreamily "visualizing" success. Calvinists thought "negatively" as we would say today, carrying a weight of guilt and foreboding that sometimes broke their spirits. It was in response to this harsh ethos that positive thinking arose -- among mystics, lay healers, and transcendentalists -- in the 19th century, with its crowd-pleasing message that God, or the universe, is really on your side, that you can actually have whatever you want, if the wanting is focused enough.

I predict as financial fortunes smile upside down more widely, we'll find fewer people wanting to be held morally responsible for their balance sheets.

It's become criminal to struggle, even when so much is stacked against the marginally moneyed. Not long ago, poverty was everywhere and there was no sin in it—my dad slept head-to-toe with his brother on the bottom bunk while my aunt slept up top. Fine old family, nobody thought a thing. They were well off compared to many, but took no moral superiority for their fortune.

We're in for some tough times that need sober visage and steady hands from some unlikely quarters-- like business and government--to navigate. We no longer have the luxury of fudging the numbers or changing the subject when the problem is unpopular, hard, or just hard to explain.

We certainly can't visualize our way out of the Wall Street bailout and its fallout. I'm sick and tired of being reassured falsely. Do not pat my head. I want a bunch of hardheaded realists who feel the weight of the times, tell the truth, and get us all working together to make things right for everybody.

If winter hits and reality is not the new black, I fear a dearth of smoothies, chai tea lattes, and Spanx.

Pretty princesses-- petulant princes-- the times they are a'changin', and you won't know what it is.