Maybe it was a simple curiosity which led me to watch a movie entitled The Secret, a few days ago. The arresting trailer had promised to unveil the secret that would change my life: it started with a rich series of portraits of historical figures (Plato, Shakespeare, Newton, Hugo, Beethoven, Lincoln, Emerson, Edison and Einstein) who apparently knew the secret promoted in the movie, citing some of their most famous lines. The first quote was from a contemporary philosopher, Bob Proctor, and affirmed, “Whoever knows the secret can obtain whatever he wants: happiness, health, wealth.” A recent New York Times review has called this rhetorical ploy an “example of a related logical fallacy called the argument from authority,” but, still, I could not help but be intrigued.
The movie’s message of positive thinking then advocates that, according to the Law of Attraction, wishing for something can attract events and even make them happen. Interestingly, The Secret does not mention the fact of death nor what awaits us after life, but focuses only in the here and now: “think positively, rise up in the morning, look yourself in the mirror and say to yourself, today is a special day. Believe it to the end, and, eventually, your finances, relationships and your life will be special, and free from problems, anxiety and preoccupation.”
The movie was so persuasive that I even thought of giving it a shot. Maybe I could photograph a Ferrari, look at the picture every day as if were already mine, and sooner or later it would be in the garage. Or I could wish to become the boss at the office, so I told my wife about my resolution to arrive at work with a bossy demeanour, and after a moment of hesitation, she looked me in the eye and said, “Honey, are you feeling well?”
One could of course criticize a number of elements in The Secret’s grandiose self-help message. But what struck me was a missing portrait in this hall of success and fame. What about Jesus? I asked myself: how come the most influential person of all history is not part of its list? Maybe for the way he has lived his life? Has he lived it without anxiety or preoccupation? In health and wealth? Only with positive thoughts and nothing else?
The truth is that Jesus was born and raised in a modest, if not poor, family, worked like everyone else, and when he had to pay taxes (which are not at all small here in Italy, nor were they when the Romans pretended to conquer and profit from everyone else!), he had probably the same preoccupations we have when the revenue form arrives home. And when he died, he had been just betrayed by a friend, negated by another, and saw a crowd request that he should be crucified. It does not sound like a story of success, for sure, but between him and The Secret, I would rather choose the apparently less successful option. Jesus did not live with a secret in his life but he may well be, at least in my case, a hidden pearl more promising than The Secret’s assurance of health and wealth.
Enzo Bifano lives in Rome, Italy, and works as an analytical programmer at a large communications company.
Jesus wept sometimes. He got angry sometimes. He even prayed for something He couldn’t claim. Yet He trusted His Father perfectly.
We who believe need to question what is held up to us as “positive.”
Enzo, your critique rings true. The Secret plays on our modern preoccupation with “more.”
The gospel comes in and shows us that real meaning in life is found not in trying to save your life, but by being willing to loose it so that you may truly live.
Thanks for this.