Friday, March 02, 2007

"The Secret" of faith

More magical thinking from the world of self-help. Apparently the "secret" to getting everything you want is "ask, believe, receive", the shorthand form of words of Jesus but taken entirely the wrong way. Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace said much the same thing but with an eastern twist: Where you place your focus determines your reality. Still, he wasn't talking about material goods either.

I agree with the premise that the mind and its thoughts and intentions are a source of great power but a power that we are much too immature as a species to use wisely (see Global Consciousness Project). There may be indeed a law of attraction whereby events, material goods, health, and other desirables gravitate towards us (or us towards them). But do we ever consider how all these things come to pass? Sure, a new BMW parked in the driveway would be great, we think, but it didn't just poof, arrive out of nowhere. Resources and materials were culled and assembled, mostly likely at the environment's expense, by many persons with many different lives and contexts, often not paid a living wage. A great amount of fuel is used to ship automobiles to their final destination. Whatever we want, it almost always involves other people and the life of this earth. Do we ever take into consideration how what we want will affect those whose job it is to produce it?

In a most marvelous book, Mutant Message Down Under, the Aborigines in the narrative always begin their petitions to the divine with the words if it is in my highest good and the highest good for all of life everywhere. You'd think this would be our heart's desire but we do not trust the divine to know what our highest good is, not really anyway.

Some would say that human beings are naturally selfish, that it is part of our biological heritage, a survival tactic but something we have to live with and try our best to overcome. I don't believe that. We are selfish because we learned as a species to be fearful that there isn't enough. And so we hoard and stock up, separate ourselves from the earth and from each other, thinking that we are safe, that it is because of our efforts that we have enough. Most of us have more than enough and can afford to live with less, yours truly included. Poverty is not a judgment on the poor for not trying hard enough but on everyone else.

Having faith, whatever it is you believe in, implies an ethic, a certain moral behavior, unless what you believe in is only yourself. What is the point of faith, of belief, if it doesn't pull you out of yourself, your little corner of the world and cause you to grow and better the world around you? And not bettering the world by Oprah-fying it but by leaving as little a footprint on the earth as possible and a huge impression upon the lives of others.

P.S. Here's what Barbara Ehrenreich had to say about The Secret.

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