April 8, 2007

I first heard about The Secret when my friend Jane suggested I get the book. It's the latest self-help trend in America. She said that it was really helping her and it might help me too.

The theory behind The Secret is that thoughts determine your destiny, you get what you think about, like attracts like, etc. My first thought was negative. If putting out positive energy attracts positive things, then the opposite must be true. That means that if I get Ebola, I'll have brought it on myself. That can't be right. Already I was suspicious.

I went to The Secret's website and watched the video. It was like watching a trailer for The Da Vinci Code. "Throughout the ages there has been a secret?" It seemed to imply there has been a secret recipe for success which has been handed down all the way from Galileo to Oprah. But I thought maybe, for once, I should set my cynicism aside. Let's say I followed The Secret and it worked. And all my dreams came true. That would be awful, because what happens the day after all my dreams have come true?

The following morning I called Jane and left a message on her machine. "I know it's early," I said, "but The Secret is trouble." Five minutes later she called me back. She was upset. "Why would you wake me up to tell me that?" I explained that if all her dreams come true, there would be a lot to lose. She pointed out it was a philosophy that was making her feel better, and that she told me about it as something to help me. I told her she was being manipulated, she told me she didn't want to talk about it, and we hung up.

I thought about it, though, and I had to admit she was right. If it's something that makes her feel better, why did I need her to see the downside?

That afternoon I decided to buy the book. I went to Barnes & Noble but I couldn't find it. I was filled with dread. Would I have to go to the self-help section? In America, this takes up an entire floor. I approached a sales assistant. "Do you have The Secret?" I asked.

"Depends on what secret you're talking about," he said with a wink.

I went to another bookshop. "Do you sell The Secret?" I asked. I was told they were out. "You're out?" I said.

She nodded. "We're out."

I didn't appreciate her attitude. I asked: "When are you getting it in?"

"Ty-reese!" The woman shouted. "You know when The Secret is coming in?" We waited for Tyrese to respond.

I stared at her. She stared back. Seconds passed. Tyrese didn't know.

I went to two other shops before it was confirmed: The Secret was sold out. Everywhere. In all of Manhattan there was not one copy left on sale.

As I walked home empty-handed, I felt the burden of having to improve myself lift. Suddenly I felt free. I had let go of my cynicism and tried to be positive but it didn't work out.

A few days later I was talking to another friend when he said he'd just bought The Secret, but before he could finish his sentence I cut him off. "You didn't buy it here in the city, did you?" He told me he did. I said that was impossible. He said no, it was possible.

So, The Secret was available. To everyone but me. Maybe I willed that to happen. From now on I'm going to embrace being negative. That's as positive as it gets.