Wednesday, April 15, 2009

It's No Secret

A couple of years ago I was loitering in a photo gallery on Sunset Boulevard called Morrison Hotel. Theoretically, I was there to view the works of legendary rock photographer Henry Diltz. I had actually met Diltz at an opening there a few weeks earlier. We were standing in front of a picture he took of Jimi Hendrix onstage at Woodstock. And when I say 'onstage at Woodstock', I mean Diltz was literally standing on the stage about ten feet away from Hendrix. It suddenly occurred to me that the guy I was talking to was the guy who took the picture. Of Hendrix. Onstage. At Woodstock.

Turns out Diltz is a real nice guy. He told me some interesting stories about hanging out in Laurel Canyon with Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash, and touring with the Stones in '72. Unfortunately I didn't have any money, or I would have bought one of his photos.

At the Diltz opening I also met Claire, a lovely young woman who worked as the gallery's receptionist. We chatted about screenwriting. She had a semi-interesting idea that had something to do with being surrounded by all of those amazing photographs all day. Her idea reminded me of a Ray Bradbury story, which I mentioned, but she had no idea who Ray Bradbury was. She also told me about a book she'd read called The Secret, which had something to do with imagining your way to success and happiness. That reminded me of a book I'd once read called Creative Visualization. She'd never heard of that either.

I happened to find a copy of Creative Visualization in a used bookstore called The Bodhi Tree during one of my many walks around West Hollywood, and so I thought I'd stroll by the Morrison Hotel gallery one afternoon and drop it off for Claire. I thought it was a gallant gesture. She seemed unimpressed. We talked some more about The Secret, which was beginning to sound more and more like New Age Hooey. She tried to explain the core premise of The Secret, which is called the Law of Attraction. It states that your thoughts generate some kind of magic energy field that literally attracts what you desire.

Although it seemed a little silly to me at first, I thought I would give it a try. After all, I don't claim to have all the answers. Maybe Claire was really onto something. And, I knew exactly what to ask The Universe for: I wanted Claire. So, I thought about her. I even Googled her. And since she was not only a receptionist, but also an actress, I managed to find one of her headshots online. I put her picture on my computer and imagined how wonderful it would be if she and I were together. I felt confident and grateful that The Universe would manifest my desires.

A week or two later, I went to the gallery to give Claire a flyer for an upcoming Buzzards gig. She wasn't there. There seemed to be some uncertainty as to when she might be there again. I went back a week later to see if she had gotten the flyer. I had, of course, been imagining how great it would be when she came to the gig and saw me up onstage playing and singing with my band. So cool. I felt certain that she would soon be mine.

Oddly, though, Claire was not at the gallery when I went back. I don't know if she ever got my flyer. She didn't come to the gig. In fact, I never actually saw her again. Could it be that merely imagining that you will get something doesn't actually guarantee that you will get it?

I decided to forget about The Secret.

For the record, this was not the first time I had encountered such a philosophy. As a child, I remember seeing a copy of the book The Power of Positive Thinking in our house. And I recall my Dad telling me about the successful use of visualization in the training of Olympic athletes. During my research for my first screenplay "Merlin" I came across various texts which discussed the correspondence between conscious thought and manifest reality. That's when I first read the book Creative Visualization. I myself have practiced aspects of this method. For years I have been carrying around a copy of a $100,000 bill in my wallet to remind me that my prosperity is imminent. For years. I have also been a lifelong Hope addict and incurable optimist who has dedicated himself to the fulfillment of a nutty dream despite an avalanche of disappointment and rejection.

So, when I was browsing through the online catalog of the West Hollywood Library and saw the DVD version of The Secret, I decided to add it to my "on hold" list. Apparently, I was not the only person who had put The Secret on hold. In fact I believe I was around number one hundred and eighty three on the list. It took quite some time for me to finally get my notice from the library that The Secret was available for me to check out. The better part of a year at least. Maybe more.

I watched The Secret with a mixture of skepticism and hope. Part of me thought it might be good for a laugh, and part of me was thinking, 'Maybe...'

I was right about it being good for a laugh. There are all these goofball experts on there sharing half-baked anecdotes about how 'positive thoughts are 100 times more powerful than negative thoughts' even though negative thoughts have the same ability to attract things as positive ones. And how worrying about debt actually causes debt. Really? 'Cause I thought not paying your bills caused debt.

Mostly it was, as I had originally suspected, a lot of New Age Hooey. Although some of it was downright dangerous hooey, like the woman who claims to have cured her cancer by watching funny movies. Now, I'm all for holistic healing, but I don't think it's very responsible to recommend that people forgo their chemo in favor of Pauly Shore flicks. In fact, I think most people would find the chemo far less objectionable.

There was even a guy named Jack Canfield, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, who said he made up a fake $100,000 dollar bill and put it in his wallet to remind him that his prosperity was imminent. He called it his "abundance check." And wouldn't you know, within a year he went from making $8,000 to nearly $100,000. In just one year! Asshole. I've been carrying around my goddamn fake $100,000 bill for nearly three and a half years. And I ain't got crap.

Sure, there's a certain amount of wisdom to focusing on the positive in life. But the fact is, only hot young women ever get their desires granted by The Universe, and when I say The Universe, I mean, of course, horny rich guys. The rest of us have to work for a living.

But my analysis of The Secret was not a total loss. As it happens, I watched The Secret the same week that the Republicans released their alternative budget. And I have to say that after years of failing to understand the conservative political ideology, I think I finally get it.

They believe in The Secret!

It's true. The key to understanding the Republican approach to governance can be found by applying the tenets of The Secret. Allow me to explain: The basic premise of The Secret is that what you desire will be attracted to you. However, and this is crucial, you will also attract what you don't want by harboring negative thoughts. That is why it is so important to focus on the positive.

Now, look at the Republican response to the failed economy. They want to freeze all further government spending. Why? Because by trying to "fix" the problem we are focusing our attention on what we don't want. But, by ignoring things like Unemployment and Debt we cease to call them into being and they simply go away. Regulation of banking and other industries is likewise a futile endeavor, for it is simply creating the expectation of failure. Instead we need to allow The Market (i.e., The Universe) to bestow its abundance upon us. Health Care? A no-brainer. The more money we spend trying to fight disease, the more disease there will be for us to fight.

It's frickin' brilliant.

Perhaps the most inspired of all Republicans is former President George W. Bush. He used The Secret to formulate an entire foreign policy. As it is explained in The Secret itself, rich powerful and successful people have known about The Secret for centuries. And who is more rich, powerful and successful than the Bush family? The Bush Doctrine relies on one of the fundamental principles of The Secret, that you must act as if what you seek is already manifest. So, if we believe that a country may someday pose a threat, we should invade that country as if the threat were real. If we believe that Saddam could have WMDs, we must bomb the crap out of Iraq as if those WMDs had actually been found.

In the end, The Universe will deliver unto us what we deserve. Peace, Security and Democracy For All.

Now that I understand the conservative mindset, it no longer confuses and frightens me. I realize that rich and powerful people are a lot like hot young women -- they really do believe that all their good fortune is a reward for being positive and righteous and has nothing to do with luck or circumstance. And so long as they keep getting what they want, they'll keep believing in The Secret.

As for me, I'm going to keep on thinking positively. But I'm not telling anybody what I'm wishing for. It's a secret.