Barbarella
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The Secret is not just a moronic hymn to greed and selfishness; it nastily suggests that victims of catastrophe are the authors of their misfortunes. — Catherine Bennett

In case any bubble dwellers happen upon this page, allow me to give away the secret to the universe, as explained in the frighteningly popular movie and book, The Secret. Here it is. Ready? You can get whatever you want, as long as you really, really want it. Shhh, now don’t go telling the secret to other people, because they might want the opposite of what you want, and then you’d all get nothing, and wouldn’t that suck? At least, this is what I’ve gleaned from people who have actually seen the movie. I refuse to suffer through a viewing. I only made it ten minutes into What the Bleep Do We Know? — a kind of documentary, kind of fantasy film that implied human brains have the capability to reshape reality into any form people wish it to take. It wasn’t the subject matter that bothered me (reshaping reality is easy, I’ve done it myself — all you need is a sugar cube that’s been soaked in lysergic acid diethylamide); what pushed me to the edge of apoplexy was the sheer quackery of the “scientists” interviewed.

I am a skeptic. I used to think that being skeptical made me smarter. But recently, someone I love and respect has shown me how arrogant I’ve been — that it’s one thing to disbelieve, and quite another to condemn believers. I used to think that having facts on my side made me “right.” What I’ve learned is, being “right” has nothing to do with the facts.

My sister Jane was the first person to invoke The Secret in my presence. We were discussing Jane’s hopes to have someone clean and organize her garage when she made the comment, “It’s like the secret, you know, I’m putting it out there.” When I asked her what she meant, she answered, “It’s the magic formula — ask, believe, receive.”

“That’s a fallacious formula if I ever heard one,” I snapped. Jane took my strike in stride and asked me if I wanted more coffee. But I felt compelled to fully explain myself. “Positive thinking is great; it keeps you from getting depressed, but you create the life you want by doing things, not wishing for them. The formula should be ‘ask, do something, and your chances of receiving increase.’ You’re not a successful businesswoman, wife, and mother because you sat around visualizing your career and family; you’re successful at those things because you took the necessary steps to achieve your goals and worked your ass off to get where you are. If I want a Mini, I’m not going to visualize the car into my garage, I’m going to go out and buy one.”

“You’re right,” said Jane, smiling impishly. “I am successful.”

By the time I’d finished my second cup of coffee, I felt as though I’d convinced Jane to see the errors of The Secret’s ways, and I left her house feeling like a parishioner of the Rock Church who had just scored another touchdown for God. After all, I reasoned, New Age thinking is just another doctrine. They may have replaced the word “God” with “universe,” but the underlying belief (that some unknown power is mapping the way and we must have faith and submit to the will of that power, or “go with the flow”) is the same, no matter which word is used. “Putting it out to the universe” and hoping to get what you want seems no different than praying, and to me, praying is as effective to a situation’s outcome as plucking petals from a flower and saying “He loves me, he loves me not” is an accurate way to gauge someone’s feelings. It was my deep belief that the harder one hopes, the more bitter the disappointment one suffers when faith proves, as it does more often than not, to just not be enough. I thought I had saved Jane. It was only after I tried to save my father that I realized the extent of my hubris.

One cold, gray Monday afternoon, I was staring at the rain pelting my office window when Dad called. He wanted to tell me how much he enjoyed Monique Marvez’s standup-comedy act. He had found her so funny that when he got home from the show, he looked her up on YouTube and suggested I do the same. He chuckled as he relayed some of the jokes he could remember and then mentioned how delighted he was to hear the comedienne reference some of his “Science of Mind” principles, one of which maintains that positive thinking can physically alter the composition of water molecules, a concept made mainstream by Masura Emoto, one of the “scientists” interviewed in What the Bleep Do We Know?

When Dad mentioned that Monique had brought up the water-crystal thing (that water molecules become beautifully symmetrical if you shoot good vibes at them and distorted and ugly if you project negativity), I couldn’t resist the urge to melt his perfect snowflake. “Dad, you know that’s B.S., right? That guy Emoto has been debunked a hundred times.”

“No, I haven’t read much about it, but I still like the idea,” Dad said. Returning to his initial reason for calling, he said, “Anyway, I liked Monique a lot. She’s hilarious. I wish you could have been there. Look, honey, I have to run, I’ll call you later.”

But I wasn’t done. As soon as we hung up, I did a few quick Web searches and emailed Dad a handful of articles ridiculing Emoto’s theory. Dad was gracious in his response, “If you don’t believe it then it won’t work for you, and that’s okay!”

Believing Dad’s soul was at stake, I couldn’t allow myself to let the matter drop. I aimed at a weak spot — Dad’s dedication to the kids he helps through the Make-a-Wish Foundation — and took my shot: “No amount of positive thought or prayer has even been proven to cure leukemia. If one child survives the disease, do you really believe that it is because that one child wanted to live more than the others? I do believe that positive begets positive, and that confidence begets positive results. What I don’t believe is that my thoughts — like telekinesis, or words that only have the meaning we give them — can change the formation of a water crystal.”

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Comments

jim87vette March 12, 2008 @ 3:24 p.m.

We all have a lot to learn lol.I don't understand a lot of things other people believe in but I figure if it benefits someone else and does not harm anyone,who cares.

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ajustice32 March 13, 2008 @ 12:04 a.m.

As much as I believe in God and all His works, I still believe that you have to be a doer; that no amount of me thinking something is going to happen or that hoping something is going to happen...is going to make it happen. If that were true then I would have all the things I truly desire to have because I have wished upon stars and coins my whole life (just in case lol). One must be willing to do the work to get the prize. However, I do believe that positivity begets positivity and all you can do is make lemonade out of the nasty lemons served to you often times on a silver platter by friend and foe. I know it is quite cliche but it is quite so true.

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Barbarella Fokos March 13, 2008 @ 7:22 a.m.

Jim, that's my article in a sentence. You truly understand the economy of words. ;)

Ajustice, well said. There is a Swedish proverb of which I am fond and it goes like this: "God gives every bird his worm, but He does not throw it into the nest." Thanks for commenting!

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jen March 13, 2008 @ 12:18 p.m.

You sure the real secret isn't about turning water to wine? Looks like you were well on your way there. In fact, I think a couple "pinche"s would have gotten you a nice cabernet...

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pete69 March 13, 2008 @ 2:56 p.m.

Ahhh yes...good old lysergic acid diethylamide. Last time I partook in that I was at a Phish concert in Maine. I lost my shoes... No bueno. But damn the grass felt good on my feet. I bought it from some hippie girl my friends and I dubbed "Earth Mama." She was vaguely reminiscent of Frodo from Lord of the Rings (furry toes and all).

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Barbarella Fokos March 13, 2008 @ 3:32 p.m.

You have a point, Jen. Next time I want a dark rich blend, I'll pepper my words to suit my desired results.

Pete, oof, Hobbit girls can be frightening. Or fun, depending on what you're into. ;)

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mike1 March 14, 2008 @ 6:12 p.m.

In this case you are right and your dad is wrong. The religious do-gooder may be a better person than the selfish atheist, but that doesn't make the do-gooder's beliefs any more real than any belief in the secret, santa claus, the easter bunny, zeus, leprechauns, a flat earth, a man who rose from the dead, or an invisible man in the sky. All of which are open to mockery if taken seriously. And is your dad a republican? In that case, all of his good deeds (which I commend) are more than balanced out by his support for a party that is responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands in Iraq and is openly hostile to the very same people he shares his neighborhood with. Not to mention helping the rich while screwing the poor. Now would jesus approve?

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Barbarella Fokos March 16, 2008 @ 7:04 p.m.

Mike, thank you for the thoughtful comment. Just as I do my best not to judge a man by his religious creed, I try not to judge a person based on his political leanings. It is my understanding that my father votes for whomever he feels is the best candidate according to his personal values, regardless of whether that candidate is republican or democrat. I would hope that any rationally-minded, fair person (and certainly someone as liberal and radical as Jesus) would approve of that.

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Joaquin_de_la_Mesa March 19, 2008 @ 11:04 a.m.

Whoa, mike. You're bumming our lysergic acid diethylamide trip. What about that other party's support for 40 million babies killed in their mothers' wombs? (And that's just in the USA) You see, neither the left nor the right wing has cornered the market on death for expediency.

Barb, your Dad is a beautiful man. His gentle fatherly love for you was so poignant in that letter. He's an inspiration and support to me in my role, my mission as a father. I will pray for him and thank God for creating such a beautiful soul.

As for the Secret, I'll say what I think is good about it. It turns people out of themselves a little bit so that they can see there's a great big "universe" outside of themselves and their messy garages. And once they've turned out, they notice the beauty and suffering -- and, to get a little mystical, the beauty within suffering, e.g. children with leukimia -- around them.

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mike1 March 24, 2008 @ 12:15 a.m.

Whoa Joaquin...funny thing about how the Republicans care about the fetus until it actually becomes a human. But then of course the big daddy let his son die an excruciating death. (Not that I believe that silliness.) But please keep praying.

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