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Prosperity Consciousness

by Mark Peres

March 6,2007

The Secret has gone mainstream and is no longer a secret. The Secret is in the midst of its moment – showcased on two episodes of Oprah, profiled on CBS News and the Today Show, written about in Newsweek and in the Sunday Styles section of The New York Times. Columnists, viewers, readers and acolytes throughout the world have weighed in, some blissfully espousing it as “the incredible revelation of the ages that will be life-transforming for all who experience it.”

Wow. Better than Jesus Christ. Better than Barack Obama. Better than TiVo.

I first encountered The Secret by text message. Last fall, I called my life-long friend Adam, when, in a bad moment, I was questioning everything I had ever done managing a dollar bill. Adam, who stood up for me at my wedding, and who has known me since fifth-grade, talked me down from my precipice of self-flagellation. He told me that I was the author of my own script in life and that everything I have – or don’t have – is an exact manifestation of the thoughts I express into the universe. You have to know Adam to know that is quintessentially him. He is a walking vibrating New Age crystal. After wrestling with my guilt, I blew him a kiss over the phone and hung up. Ten minutes later, the text message appeared on my cell phone: Check out The Secret.

And so I did. I was on the website that night. I read about The Law of Attraction. This principle, said to be known by an elite few over the centuries (yes, the same elite few who are, certainly, card carrying members of the Priory of Sion), states that what you think “attracts” more of the same as objective physical reality. If you ask the universe for money, and believe that you will receive it – really, really believe it – then, in fact, you will be showered with it. If doubt creeps in, if you are not intentional about it with all your heart, then you are destined to have to muck through the “negative realities” of an unfulfilled life. You get what you think about. You get what you deserve.

Well, that sounds simple and profound enough. Wrap it up in scrolls, wax, esoteric ancient wisdom, the same color scheme as The Da Vinci Code, “philosopher-visionary life coaches” in Nehru suits available to you 24/7 for a slightly more than modest fee, the sizzle of a high-energy 90-minute DVD with a soundtrack that evokes angels from on high, and you have marketing nirvana.

The unhappy and stuck are lining up by the millions. And next year, they will line up for something else.

This stuff is rooted deep in the American psyche: from Calvinist predestination that asserts that prosperity is a sign of God’s favor to Christian Science that claims that the material world is an illusion that gives way to prayer. Every generation we encode this stuff further, borrowing language from the Theory of Relativity, post-war psychology and now Quantum Mechanics.

Listen, I’m a proponent as much as anyone in the benefits of positive thinking. I write down my goals, I think about them, I envision them as already true. I’m awake to events and take action. The process has served me well my entire life because somewhere, in between, I work really hard – that means working when it isn’t easy – to make goals happen.

This magazine is very much in the camp of approaching the issues of the city positively. We envision a better place. We talk about what that means. We lift up those at the vanguard of a more vital and vibrant city. But we do it rationally. We do it critically. And we roll up our sleeves. Wishing is not a strategy.

If only “ask-believe-receive” would get the trash off our streets, deliver light rail on time, reduce crime, and increase test scores at CMS. It doesn’t. What does is an engaged citizenry working toward a defined future desired state. That means all the contextual messy stuff of defining that state, noticing, building consensus, and motivating and sustaining action. Awaken to the world as it is. That’s the Secret.

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