Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Law of Attraction

Before I make fun of something, I usually try to understand it. Not today! I refuse to read The Secret or watch the DVD of it or look up the Oprah shows devoted to it. So I’m doomed to a life of failure and thwarted dreams. At least I have a blog from which to issue half-assed judgments. What does Rhonda Byrne have? A few million bucks, a tan, and accusations that she stole The Secret from a psychic who lives in an RV and channels the spirit of some guy who knows everything.

From press coverage (skimmed and snorted at), it all looks silly. The book/DVD is obviously a millennial version of The Power of Positive Thinking, which I made the mistake of reading years ago. I’m not saying that positive thinking is a bunch of crap, per se. Better a loving, caring, receptive, hopeful attitude than a fearful, sniping, rigid, bitter one. Being responsibly generous makes more sense than sewing money into your pockets. Thinking good thoughts about your health probably beats keeping a hearse on stand-by. But to quote someone other than Norman Vincent Peale, shit happens, man.

One of the shits that happens is that sooner or later, books full of fatuous bromides top the nonfiction bestseller list. If you can distill some long-proven principle like The Golden Rule into a simplistic philosophy with a big, obvious hook, you too can make a millionaire ass of yourself by going public with it. Take a couple hundred pages to say “what goes around comes around” and give it a catchy title. Promise material wealth, and you’re gold, baby. Law of Attraction, shmaw of shmattractshmion. (Hmmm... it won’t be easily mocked....)

I remember when pre-eminent New Age philosopher Ken Wilber wrote about his wife’s death from cancer. They’d both been proponents of the idea that “we create our own reality,” until reality itself created a deadly tumor right in her brain. It was unexplainable within their old paradigm, and in order to be compassionate through her dying days, they had to give it up and admit that, well, maybe it wasn’t some wayward sliver of carcinogenic negativity that infected her POV. Maybe illness isn’t all about burning off karma from past lives, either. Maybe any number of wifty little theories about co-creation and personal responsibility are or aren’t true. But let’s see how well we can live our lovingkindness and Be Here Now. This shit is cancer, and it happens even to the most spiritually evolved.

The boulevard of broken dreams is littered with people who thought for positive-sure they were creating an entirely different reality. A study should be done to determine if adherents to The Law of Attraction achieve financial success, marital contentment, etc. at higher rates than the average nattering nabob. The criteria would have to be objectively measurable, cuz one thing’s for sure: Positive thinkers will lie their asses off.

For me, The Law of Attraction is this: Petite, dark, curvy women exert a power that I am just about helpless to resist. This has been so from the time my testes dropped and I cannot explain it. By “petite,” I mostly mean short. But there’s also a certain delicacy -- little bird-bone hands and a way of moving that suggests a small amount of wine swirling in a bell-shaped glass. Dark eyes so big they make the face look small. And ideally, a thick mane of dark Sephardic kink.

The first time I saw my petite, dark, curvy, curly darling was a moth-to-flame moment. That she was sensitive, hilarious, Thoreau-quoting and a great writer/kisser/cusser ultimately torched me. The first apprehension is somatic and kinetic, though, and this kind of physicality embodies a particular feminine archetype. Nell Carter’s a fatty, and I don’t care. When I saw how light on her feet she was, it was all over. Closer to the center of the camp, the "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf"-era Elizabeth Taylor. Natalie Wood, sort of. Helena Bonham Carter? Don’t even start. My fireplug ninth-grade Spanish teacher. My tenth-grade typing teacher, although she lacked pudge. Penelope Cruz is at the skinniness and height limit for the archetype, but in “Abre Los Ojos” (the original “Vanilla Sky”), she’s it. Ming-Na should be chubbier and less wholesome, but still. Even Jennifer Lopez, whose mystique is long gone, but who undeniably Got Back, Baby.... And if Salma Hayek walks into my office right now and orders me to buy The Secret, I’ll ask her to accompany me to Waldenbooks. Not the one across the street, but in Mexico.

I have some kind of radar for the soma-type. We were at B’nai Jehudah temple last night for the pre-K play (Jonah’s an alumnus of this storied theater program, and all the alumni return every year to take the stage at the end of the play and talk about which productions they were in – playing Cinderella 25 years ago or, in Jonah’s case, King Achaverosh in last year’s Purim classic, “My Fair Esther”). Anyway, it’s priceless to watch costumed toddlers chew the scenery and cry and sing off-key and forget their lines. But my point is, there was in attendance a woman who looked a bit like my darling, only slightly taller (5’2’ or so, about Hayek-height) and a bit Jewier in some way. Ah, the dark curly hair, the olive skin, the voluptuous hint of wanton aging here and there — I kept stealing glances, which was crass, I know, but I’m sorry, there’s no point in pretending that I’m oblivious to this particular kind of beauty. It IS my oblivion. It gets me in the gut the same way Caesar’s gut got it on this very day long ago. You can Ides, but you can’t run. The Law of Attraction dictates that I will make a fool of myself looking at certain women, and I will get busted for it, except in those cases where my darling herself points them out, which she’s been known to do, God love her.

For anyone who thinks the dainty, petite qualifier suggests a control issue, I refer you to my second-string obsession, which is the large-scale version of this same feminine type. Lisa Nicole Carson, Sofia Milos, Maria Grazia Cucinotta (the bombshell from "Il Postino"), Anna Magnani even after she grew a moustache, yea verily even Queen Latifah before she scaled herself down -- the kind of woman who could beat the slop out of me with one hand tied behind her back. Tied with her hair, perhaps. And she's standing on one foot, so she has to hop. Okay, maybe I’m a little controlling. At least I know what I like.

So. That’s my Secret. Now you show me yours.


scotland said...

Dear James, My untold story has me tending a campfire all night through a ridiculous thunderstorm. Something I experienced that night(which will remain secret)has held my life in its hands ever since. On two occasions of falling in love,this light has embraced me through physical space directly from these women and set me on a path similar to the very human one you alude to. This light is all I truly have in my heart. The way things have gone I simply have to love my hidden one in all of reality. Things could have been worse. Please delete this post after you make fun of it for a few days!

Jasph said...

Delete? Make fun of? Think of the karmic damage I'd incur... also, I'm not sure how to delete comments. But yours is beautiful and evocative, so why would I? Scott, you remain my Ideal Countercultural Soul Man.

djayt said...

There's a corporate version of this that blows (all meanings implied) through companies every few years.

You do a kind of surface assessment of your traits, preferences, etc. and that makes you a something or a something else and the somethings and the other somethings work better together than the somethings ad infinitum.

Finken the Elder said you could make a nice living by just creating new groups of four every few years. Are you a John, or a George, or a Paul, or a Ringo? Then, a few years later, come back to the same company and ask, Are you a North, or a South...

People's inherent love of talking about themselves keeps the party goin' and the insights, "Paula is such a North George! She really is!" can be used to form clubs, or as clubs. It's kind of brilliant, but doesn't do anything.

Oprah probably has her staff go through them like whatever her trainer is substituting for butter.

And, on the specifics of the attraction principle: Julie Chen, Lucy Lui, Joan Chen, and so on...

Jasph said...

"Kind of brilliant, but it doesn't do anything." I think that phrase appeared on my performance review this year.

When my Hallmark Hero, Gordon MacKenzie, retired, he went on to a lucrative if brief consulting career. He even circled back here a couple of times. He always had a good shtick. I wonder if you could write a sort of parody of a business book that makes fun of consulting practices while appearing to offer simple alternatives. The John/Paul/George/Ringo idea could easily be one of them. Or maybe it's about the kinds of partnerships that emerge in companies, and you develop a model with duos: John/Paul, Mick/Keith, Milli/Vanilli...

djayt said...

Joan Chen/Julie Chen?

Anonymous said...

I hadn't heard about "The Secret," so I Googled it. It makes me want to fucking vomit. So thanks for bringing that to my attention.

Positive thinking helps. A little. But with the logic of this book, I guess I would conclude that, for instance, people caught in the middle of the war in Darfur would be fine if they would just think more positively. Really they have no one to blame but themselves. And that includes the little kids.


As far as the other kind Law of Attraction...I don't seem to have a particular type? Unless smart, funny, and nice is a type.

djayt said...

That whole "having a type" is really just like prefering a certain kind of music or art or coffee, ideally.

The "leg man" or "any other body part man" or the woman who goes by hair waviness or whatever seems really 50's and dumb to me.

I'd like to think my single children (18 and 15), would not have a "type" in mind when looking for someone to date or "hang with" as they call it.

Anonymous said...

By the way, in my previous post, I meant to put a smiley after "thanks for bringing that to my attention."

Cause without it, it seems a little harsh.

Sorry to be harsh.

:o) :o) :o) :o) :o) :o) :o) :o) :o) :o) :o) :o)

Jasph said...

Harsh must = funny to me. Plus, I loves me some cussin'.

And! Given the multifariousness of human appetites, there must also be others like you who aren't drawn to any particular physical type more strongly than any other. Polymorphously attractable or something.

Frankly, I sometimes wish I weren't so beset and besotted as described. It verges on obsession. I'm sure it suggests a psychic imabalance of some sort. On the other hand... damn!

Sarah M. said...

Once in college, we had a crazy faculty sponsor for our residence hall who kept on inviting psychics and new-age "healers" to speak in our dorm. One was particularly loathsome -- the whole "disease is a result of emotional/personal issues" thing. I made the mistake of asking "Are you telling me that my grandpa brought on his cancer himself?" in a "this-is-pure-BS-tone." She sneered at me and asked what kind of cancer it was. I told her testicular. She answered really smugly, "That kind is caused by unresolved family issues." Meaning, "Your family gave your grandpa cancer." Nice.

This is the kind of worldview that just can't survive in the fluorescent light of reality. And it breaks my heart when people buy into it because you know they're headed for disaster when (not if, when) tragedy strikes. They won't have any way to deal with it.

As a Xian, I especially hate the "health and wealth gospel" peddlers. The ones that promise that if you just believe in Jesus enough, pray hard enough, have enough faith, you'll be rich, happy, and healthy all your days until you drift off peacefully in your sleep to be accompanied by angels to heaven. This is nowhere in the Bible, people. In fact, if I remember correctly, there was a lot of talk about denying yourself and taking up your cross.

Anonymous said...

Oh my God. What a bitch that new age lady was!

I do think that more and more, people feel guilty and embarrassed when they feel unhappy. And that's so crazy. Of course, I always thought it was crazy that people are made to feel embarrassed to be poor, too.

I believe that sometimes things just suck for no good reason. ~Hey, this sounds like the beginning of an essay for NPR!

Jim, I tried to post a bodacious pic of Salma Hayek for your viewing pleasure, but I can't figure out how to do that here...

djayt said...

If I know JH, and to some degree I do, then the best pictures are already in his mind. I know this because of the increasing and not particularly comforting areas where our ven diagrams overlap.

I was surprised to hear about a new agey person who was so hateful. She should go out and look at the back of her car where several bumper stickers would point her to kindness and goodness and possibly love of a particular breed of dog.

Jasph said...

Sequel to Stacey's NPR essay: I believe this blog gets better comments than any other blog in the world.

djayt said...

I believe that children are the future. But really, who else would be? The elderly?

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