The Secret is no longer a secret, these days, despite being protected since the age of the Babylonians by a mysterious cabal.
What’s the secret?
Well if you were to say that the human race is a fantastical assortment of idiot creatures eager to ruin themselves by throwing their money at charlatans, you wouldn’t be far wrong, but The Secret is actually the latest self-help fad.
It was spawned by Rhonda Byrne, a spiritual guide with platinum hair and one of those smiles that is meant to look positive but is kind of weird.
The Secret DVD has grossed more than $30 million and the book of the same name topped the New York Times bestseller list by informing us we can rebuild the universe merely by thinking especially nice thoughts.
The DVD has terrific production values. It’s been called the Citizen Kane of infomercials.
It begins with Roman soldiers bearing torches, and an ancient man in a tattered tunic scuttling off with a mysterious papyrus scroll, which evidently held the only copy of the secret to eternal happiness and mega wealth.
Life has been the pits ever since.
The first release of the DVD also featured the famed medium, Esther Hicks, channeling advice from an old soul named Abraham, but Esther and Abraham were soon deleted from the DVD, following its huge success and a mysterious disagreement about marketing and contracts.
Basically, The Secret repackages that old, perennial favourite — the power of positive thinking. Throw in a few Babylonians, Hindu yogis, quantum physicists, Newton, Aristotle, Napoleon and Einstein, and some good advertising, and you’ve got a multi-million dollar industry based on teaching foolish, sad people they can be happy and drive a Mercedes simultaneously.
According to Rhonda Byrne’s theory, the universe is made out of vibrating particles.
So far so good.
Then she converts this very basic physics principle into pseudo-science by renaming it the Law of Vibration and informing us it’s complemented by The Law of Attraction.
This marvellous law tells us that we can re-align particles and change the universe by transmitting our positive thoughts.
I’m not making this up.
Taken seriously this would means that only those who failed to think good thoughts ended up in Auschwitz or the World Trade Centre on 9/11, or facing that drunk driver racing down the wrong side of the freeway.
That’s an ugly philosophy to inflict on victims — to tell them they caught cancer by failing to think positively enough.
Never has being depressed been so dangerous.
No one can deny positive thinking is a wonderful thing.
You have a better chance of success doing what you believe in and love. No question there.
And the placebo pill remains the greatest miracle of modern medicine.
However, the rest of this theory is junk science and magical thinking, and inherently revolting.
Stephen Leacock once said: “Advertising may be described as the science of arresting human intelligence long enough to get money from it.” He wasn’t far off.
But this assumes we are intelligent creatures.
The history of the human race has been the history of stupidity walking side by side with genius.
Who among us can’t look at our lives and recognize just how dumb we’ve been time after time?
A scholar has recently compiled the records of accidental deaths in both the Grand Canyon and Yosemite Park.
More than 900 people have discovered original ways to kill themselves during 156 years of recorded history at Yosemite alone.
Seven people have backed over the Grand Canyon while being photographed. Five toppled into it while taking a leak at the cliff edge.
Perhaps this is why Arthur C. Clarke noted: “It has yet to be proven that intelligence has any survival value.”
The fashion world is even stranger than New Age gurus and clumsy hikers.
High fashion is where madness truly meets money.
Not long ago, some Chinese masters of the ‘knock-off’ came up with a cheap $1.98 imitation of a French “market bag.”
This simple bag used by the fashionable for picking up a few groceries caught the eye of designer Louis Vuitton whose imitation of the $1.98 imitation bag sells for $3,050 dollars.
If that’s a little low class for your elegant tastes, you can always buy Mr. Vuitton’s Patchwork bag made out of pieces of other shopping bags.
It went for more than $40,000 US.
All 24 copies immediately sold out.
I can’t even imagine throwing a clump of bananas into a $40,000 bag.
It’s often been told that Nero fiddled while Rome burned. That’s an unlikely story.
For a start the fiddle hadn’t been invented yet, but the story has legs.
Maybe because the history of our species is the history of madness and mayhem.
Today is no different than 2,000 years ago.
While millions die of AIDS in Africa and the Arctic ice melts, most of us are out shopping or killing each other over strange religious ideas.
How bizarre can we get?
Last week Indians were burning effigies of movie hunk Richard Gere after, in a moment of enthusiasm, he landed a romantic smooch on the cheek of actress Shilpa Shetty at an AIDS Awareness event.
He’s been charged with public obscenity and faces three months in jail for a kiss.
As for The Secret, its victims are already beginning to appear — those who bought their Mercedes on credit and are still waiting for the money to ‘manifest’ itself.
Thousands, maybe millions, of people have convinced themselves they are “the most powerful transmission tower in the world” and are happily sending out “wealth frequencies.”
Any minute that “Bank of the Universe” is going to ‘manifest’ immense wealth and cure all our ailments.
I’m vibrating … I’m vibrating … but nothing’s happening yet.
Brian Brett, poet, journalist, novelist, lives on Salt Spring Island and returns to the Yukon whenever he can. His new book of poetry and prose is Uproar’s Your Only Music.