Monday, June 25, 2007

The Power of Magic

I continue to find it hard to believe, but people in magic. They really do. Even when a straight-forward understanding of an event is readily available, they’d still prefer to believe a magical understanding. Here’s a case in point, in reference to a new positive-thinking DVD called The Secret:

Amanda Jacobellis, 25, believes her life has changed for the better since she watched "The Secret."

Earlier this year, she was trying to turn a building in West Hollywood, Calif., into a makeup salon specializing in eyelash extensions and evoking the glamour of Old Hollywood. Her renovation was only half done, her credit card bills were coming due and her banker couldn't explain why the money for a $50,000 approved loan hadn't arrived in her account.

Sensing her despair, a friend suggested she watch Winfrey's upcoming show on "The Secret." Jacobellis did, and bought the DVD as well.

She spent a night diagramming what she wanted in her life, using a piece of paper and a Sharpie pen: happiness, security, freedom; good relationships with her friends and family; fitness and health goals; less stress — and in one corner, she wrote that she wanted her $50,000 loan by the next day at 3 p.m. She made a call to her banker the next morning: no news. But by 3 o'clock, the mail arrived, containing a letter saying she could call to get the funds transferred into her account.

That’s right. This woman got a $50,000 loan. It didn’t appear in her bank account and her banker couldn’t explain why. So she watched a DVD, wrote some words on a piece of paper, and the next day she received a letter in the mail explaining what she needed to do to get the money transferred to her account. A letter which most surely had been sent before she had done any of the diagramming. Yep, sure sounds like magic to me. And while some wild-eyed cynics might try to suggest that the credit should go to the bankers who helped her; let’s not be silly. This was all because she watched a DVD and wrote some words on a piece of paper. Right.

And what’s so amusing is that this same lady insists that the DVD isn’t just about positive thinking. As she says “I think where people are mistaken when they watch it is they think all they have to do is wish and it's going to happen. That wasn't exactly the case. This is something I had put a lot of energy and time into.”

That’s right. This wasn’t wishful thinking. She had to write stuff down. She had to think deep thoughts about things she wanted. Her own special needs. Like happiness, security, and freedom. That’s hard work, people. That took a lot of energy. She earned that letter.

To be fair, I really don’t think that’s what she meant. I think she just meant that it took a lot of work to do the renovations and get the loan. But then where did the DVD help? Everything that needed to be done had already been done before she followed the DVD’s advice. She couldn’t possibly believe that her positive thinking retroactively got a letter put in the mail that hadn’t yet been sent, could she? But if not that, then what? What the hell does she really think happened?

Mind Magic

And why exactly do people find it reassuring that mind magic can have such a direct impact on our lives? Doesn’t that also mean that curses work, and that our enemies can use mind magic against us? Isn’t it much better to believe in knowable cause-and-effect? Do people really like the idea that they have to censor their own thoughts, lest a negative thought send their finances into instant ruin? Are they really forbidden from thinking negative thoughts? Or is it enough to simply avoid writing them down?

Sure, loan processing often does resemble magic to most laymen, but isn’t it still better to believe that there is some human-known procedure at work, rather than straight-up magic? Because I don’t find that shit reassuring at all. Call me old fashioned, but I like to know why things happen. Even bank loans.

But I guess that really is the point of “The Secret”. This lady doesn’t know how bank loans work. She didn’t understand what was happening and felt hopeless. And this program has not only allowed her to pretend as if she does understand how these things work, but that she has some sort of direct control over things she can’t possibly have control over. And that allows her to feel better about the whole thing and relax.

And while that is certainly a positive thing, it still doesn’t do a damn thing to help her get a loan or anything else. And if anything, it can be quite detrimental. I mean, if a false sense of control is all that is necessary to relax, why not cut out the middleman and just learn to accept the loss of control? Because you can relax whether or not you’re lying to yourself, but if you don’t really have control over something, it’s best to understand that. Positive thinking is its own reward, but so is anticipating problems. I know of a few politicians who need to learn that lesson.

And hell, she’s a 25-year-old starting her own makeup salon on a $50,000 loan. If she thinks that she owes her success to a DVD, she’s really in for a rude awakening. Positive thinking is an important first step for anything, but it’s only one step. You've still got to do everything else.


whig said...

Neurolinguistic programming.

Nuff said.

Dan said...

The Secret is the latest scam for those that want to think themselves rich.