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Who Is "The Universe" And Why Does It Care What I Think? | Mary Beth Bonacci | Ignatius Insight
"The Secret" is about a lot more than just positive thinking.
So Oprah knows "The Secret."
Of course, nothing remains a secret for long once it's been
discussed on Oprah, what with her 80
jillion daily viewers and all. And so it is with The Secret, a million-selling movie and book about The Universe
and its "law of attraction" that will grant us whatever our hearts desire,
provided we think positive thoughts and believe that they will come to pass. The
Universe hears our thoughts and delivers. According to the movie, "It works
every time, with every person."
The Secret is very,
very popular. Oprah helped make it so, having devoted several shows to
discussing its various manifestations. I saw one of those shows recently. The
discussion was about relationships and The Secret Apparently The Universe is a matchmaker. If we just
imagine the perfect mate and focus our thoughts on him or her, we'll soon be
planning a wedding. It works every time, for every person.
Except when it doesn't.
It was obviously impossible for Oprah and friends to ignore
the 1000 lb. elephant on the set – the fact that despite all of that
imagining and positive thinking, plenty of single people in the world spend
their date nights with Ben and Jerry.
So why isn't it working every time? Oprah and her friends
were struggling mightily to explain the seemingly inexplicable. The discussion
ran along the lines of "Maybe they don't believe strongly enough. You have to really believe it." Or "You have to write it down, put it
away and forget about it." Or maybe it's something about clicking your heels
together three times while throwing salt over your right shoulder.
Why are so many positively-thinking people partner-less? Hmmm.
Maybe in addition to all of that positive thinking, they need to put on some
mascara and show up at a party every once in a while. Maybe they have personal
issues they need to work on. Maybe God has a different plan for them that all
of their positive thinking shouldn't override.
I doubt that any book or movie could become this popular
unless is contained some truth that resonates with people. In this case, the
valid element has to do with positive thinking. Personally, I'm a big fan of
positive thinking. It's important. It's helpful. It makes a difference. If I
think positively and optimistically about something I'm about to undertake, I
believe that increases the odds that I will be successful. But that doesn't
happen because some sentient "Universe" heard my thoughts and processed my
order for success. My thoughts don't change The Universe, they change me. They
change my attitude. They change the energy that I bring to the task. They may
even change others, to the extent that they come in contact with me and are
impacted by my ideas and my enthusiasm.
There are, however, limits to positive thinking. I believe
my positive thoughts and attitudes can make a difference (notice I said "can",
not "automatically will") in situations where I have some direct control over
the outcome. If I'm playing a game, my optimism and enthusiasm can give me an
added advantage. They might combine with my skills and abilities powerfully
enough to help me to win. But if I'm watching a game on television, all of my
most positive thoughts aren't going to move Jay Cutler's passes even an inch
closer to his intended receiver. Jay's attitude might help. Mine, not so much.
I also draw the line when "positive" thinking becomes
"dishonest" thinking. God created the mind to grasp and comprehend truth. Positive
thinking with no basis in reality is just lying to ourselves. A five-foot-two
grandmother is never going to be a six-foot-eight NBA player, no matter how
fervently she believes it may be so. End stage cancer patients who gasp "I'm
going to beat this" through their ventilator tubes are thinking delusionally,
I think part of the attraction of The Secret is that it seems to give us unlimited control. Control
is nice. Lack of control can be very, very scary. And when it comes right down
to it, we have a very limited amount of control over the world around us. We
can't ultimately control other people. We can influence them to a certain
extend by our example and our attitude. Legitimate legal, corporate or parental
authority gives certain people limited control over the actions of others. We can try, through manipulation
or intimidation, to exercise further control over those around us. Those
efforts usually meet with limited "success", because they are inherently
disrespectful of human free will.
We can, to a significant extent, control ourselves. We can
control our actions, our attitudes and our beliefs. We have some control over
our immediate environment. We can control our health, to a certain extent, by
eating well and exercising.
But no matter how scrupulously we attempt to control our
lives and our health, we're all gonna die some day. And that's the ultimate
loss of control.
Who holds all of the control? Whose thoughts control the
universe? God. His thoughts control the
universe. Not my thoughts. Not your thoughts. God's thoughts.
We are not God. God is God. But our primary temptation in
this life is to try to de-throne Him – to somehow usurp the power and the
control that is His, and assign it to ourselves. What did the Serpent say when
tempting Adam and Eve in the Garden? "Ye shall be like gods." (Gen 3:5)
That is the heresy of The Secret It's the oldest lie in the world, the very first
lie ever told in human history. We shall be God. Our thoughts – not His
-- shall control the Universe.
The Serenity Prayer says "Lord, grant me the serenity to
accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and
the wisdom to know the difference."
That's the real Secret.
This column originally appeared on RealLove.net
on May 10, 2008.
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Putting Things In Order | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., on Eighty Years of Living, Thinking, and Believing
Exploring the Catholic Faith! | An Interview with Diane Eriksen
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Mary Beth Bonacci is internationally known for her talks
and writings about love, chastity, and sexuality. Since 1986 she has spoken
to tens of thousands of young people, including 75,000 people in 1993 at
World Youth Day in Denver, Colorado. She appears frequently on radio and
television programs, including several appearances on MTV.
Mary Beth has written two books, We're
on a Mission from God and Real
Love, and also writes a regular, syndicated column for various publications.
She has developed numerous videos, including her brand-newest video series,
also entitled Real Love. Her video Sex
and Love: What's a Teenager to Do? was awarded the 1996 Crown Award
for Best Youth Curriculum.
Mary Beth holds a bachelor's degree in Organizational Communication from
the University of San Francisco, and a master's degree in Theology of Marriage
and Family from the John Paul II Institute at Lateran University. She was
also awarded an honorary doctorate in Communications from the Franciscan
University of Steubenville, and is listed in Outstanding Young Women
of America for 1997. Her apostolate, Real
Love Incorporated is dedicated to presenting the truth about the Church's
teaching about sexuality, chastity, and marriage.
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