Choices and "The Secret"

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Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, "Where have I gone wrong?"
Then a voice says to me, "This is going to take more than one night." (Charlie Brown)

Usually when there has been a fork in life’s road, I have taken one direction and later wonder if I should have taken another. Was I right to do this? Should I have done that? A friend said to me “I love life – it’s all the choices that make me crazy!”

In today’s world we have a tyranny of choices. A young woman who came to America from the Ukraine told me that when she first arrived, she found grocery shopping so confusing. “Why do you need 20 brands of laundry soap? You have more brands of cat food than you have brands of tuna fish! Why do you need 50 kinds of ice cream or 6 kinds of floor wax? How am I expected to choose?”

I suppose one of the virtues of getting older is that I have less choices to make about my life direction - I have finally decided that there isn’t really time to become a ballerina or a brain surgeon. I'll never have to decide again what to wear to the prom, or wonder if I ever will marry.

My life is now the lush accumulation of many choices, some wise, some foolish, but all of which have brought me to this precious instant. Having so very many choices behind me gives me a foundation to work from, a vast accumulation of saying yes and no.

But those choices are combined with accumulation of circumstance - I am white, a woman, was raised blue-collar, am over-educated, the grand-daughter of immigrants and I live in America. That has made and makes some things easier and some things harder, no matter what choices I am able to overlay on them.

Then there is the tumult of the random -- the result of chance - good or ill fortune that was brought on the wings of accident.

No, I do not believe there are no accidents. I do not believe that everything in life is because "God wants it that way" -- I do not believe that we are puppets on the end of Divine strings, dancing a dance He already knows we will dance. Sometimes things just happen.

People who shouldn't die, die. People who don't deserve misfortune are visted with an avalanche of it. Children who could grow up to save the world perish of starvation, or abuse, or neglect. Wars erase anything we ever thought was sane and whole and decent. I cannot believe that my creator wants horrible things to happen. However, I do believe that we are all called (regardless of our religious tradition or lack of it) to take care of eachother. To mend what is broken as and when we can. To love. To not sit and navel-gaze while the world is burning.

There are two heresies afoot with "The Secret" - and they are dangerous because they are heresies cloaked in truth. It IS true that we have choices. It IS true that our choices can change our world. It IS true that a positive attitude can help build a happier life. It IS often true that what we cannot imagine for ourselves becomes remote to our lives. The Secret is not all stinking fish. Therein is its peril.

1st Heresy: That somehow success or health or wealth is all about right thinking.
I can never look at a starving child in Darfur and imagine for an instant that she is dying because she didn't have her thoughts in order. I cannot look at someone still homeless from Katrina and tell them that if they had just stayed positive the hurricane would have skipped their house.

2nd Heresy: Control is Mine
The world is not a serious of Prizes for the Positive and Punishments for the Depressed. I do NOT have control, nor do I want it, over every little thing that happens to me. And the world really does have legitimate victims who need my care, my support, my money, my cries of outrage -- not just my positive vibes. Lord save me from someone who tries to help me by telling me that all the hardships in my life are really my fault.

There are valuable things about understanding abundance, seeing a positive future. I am not saying that The Secret is all hooo-hah. In fact a lot of it makes sense, but NOT without knowing that there are cracks in the foundation. Read it if you like. They have any number of items you can buy on their extremely slick website. It's no secret that they are being positive about their own desire to amass wealth.

Take from it what serves you best, but (as with anything that says it has ALL the answers) don't forget to leave the rest behind. Far behind.

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