In the days when I was a sparklinggirleen who did everything herparents told her and not a singlething more, I took lessons -swimming, ballet, piano, riding, andtennis. Without my lessons, I waswarned, I would become a graceless,troglodytic social moron withnothing interesting to say. Withthem, I would become a Well-RoundedPerson with a decent backhand, andeventually, a subscription to thesymphony, a seasonally updatedwardrobe, and an endless array ofsporty and arty anecdotes with whichto amuse my friends at dinnerparties. Self-improvement andpersonal growth were a socialobligation.
Clearly, though, their fingers wereup their noses instead of on thepulse of the next big thing. As timehas shown, the future ofSelf-Improvement is now, and it hasnothing to do with feeling at homeon a clay court. Self-Improvementand Personal Growth and Fulfillmentare about healing, nurturing,supporting (non-financially),empowering, reclaiming one’s innerchild/psychic wounds/bliss, andcontacting the dead. At least in SanFrancisco they are.
A perusal of my neighborhood cafe’scommunity bulletin board revealedthis fact. Always a good barometerof an economy’s health, the paucityof used computer equipment for saleand the bumper crop of self-helpcourses means that multimedia hacksand new age gurus alike are stillsuccessfully transmuting hot airinto gold. Or at least higher creditlimits.
While there were no printers forsale, there was a five week courseon “Positive Thinking,” whichpromised to clarify thoughts andfeelings, remove unnecessarythoughts, exchange positive fornegative, increase memory, improverelationships, (teach me to)experience cheerfulness and joy,(provide pointers on) more efficientwork and fulfillment of life, and(help me) develop strength andwillpower. Now there’s stuff I coulduse! Negative thoughts are,apparently, as simple to remove asunsightly warts, and with the helpof this course, I could expect tospend more time experiencingcheerfulness and joy. Good thing, asthe only Cheer and Joy I come acrosson a regular basis are under mysink.
I also found a flyer for a course in”Hypnotherapy and Sandplay.” Throughwhat is doubtless a highlyinnovative approach involvingshovels and plastic starfish, thiscourse promises a change inself-destructive habits, guidance indiscovering past lives, releasingcreative blocks, healing hurt andanger from the past, enhancingenergy, self-confidence, and hope.
And to think I’d ever consideredwasting my time on guitar lessons,when the solutions to life’sgreatest mysteries could bepurchased for a mere thirty dollars!Who were these Buddhas of thecorkboard? On what Mount did theyobtain the knowledge that woulderadicate suffering from the humanexperience? Why had they notrevealed themselves to Woody Allenor Schopenhauer?
Poor Schopenhauer – a lifetime oftedious schooling and the best hecould do was to argue that the humanwill is not free, that it has noultimate purpose, that it isall-consuming, pointless, andnegative, and that there is also noescape from it? It only takes acursory glance at “The LearningAnnex (The People Who Make LearningEasier)” or “Open Exchange (BayArea’s Magazine of Classes andServices)” to realize that the humanwill is, in fact, all-powerful, easyto use, and comes with simpleoperating instructions. For anominal fee, all traces of nihilism,despair, and somber meditations onthe human condition can beeradicated or transformed into “thenatural optimism and emotionalfreedom that affirms the purpose andworth of life.”
Indeed, I’m happy to report thathappiness and total fulfillment areavailable to all those with $60worth of credit on theirVISA, Amex, or MC (sorry, noDiscover cards).
Reading through “The Learning Annex,”it becomes apparent that we’ve beenlooking at problems backwards allalong, tending to simplify andunderplay their source and origin,while complicating and obfuscatingtheir solution.
Take illness, for example. Aseveryone knows, doctors have a”simple” explanation for everything.But when it comes to solutions,things suddenly aren’t so simpleanymore. You’re feeling a littleunder the weather, you go see yourdoctor, and before you know it,extensive (and expensive) tests arebeing run, surgery is beingdiscussed, pills are beingprescribed. Who needs theaggravation, when “all of us havethe ability to heal (through a)wellspring of inner energy and lovethat can be channeled using thetechniques of Holoenergetic Healingdeveloped by Dr. Leonard Laskow”?For only $24, you can learn to”release the energetic power ofillness at its source; reform apositive energy pattern usingenergy, intention, imagery, insight,forgiveness, and love.” And noadverse side-effects! It’s just thateasy.
Or say you’re healthy, but poor. Whygo through the trouble and expenseof obtaining an MBA or a lawdegree, when you can simply marryrich? For $39 you can enroll in “Howto Marry Rich (The Rich are Going toMarry, Why Not You?)” Taught by GiniSayles (“She is married to the heirof a rich oil and ranching family” -as if you needed proof), “you’llfind out where the money is, how toattract it, how to recognize it, howto look and dress rich and more!”And if you’re not ready for thatkind of long-term commitment, maybeyou can procure a sugar daddy/mamaby signing up for Gini’s othercourse “Learning to Flirt.” Wary?Let her credentials dispel yourdoubts: “Gini Sayles has a dynamicflirtatious attitude. She hasdemonstrated her flirting skills onJoan Rivers and Vicki, where shewas co-featured with Zsa Zsa Gabor.”Gini and Zsa Zsa are collaboratingon a new text: “Learning To FlirtWith Cops.”
Now, I’m not going to add to my”emotional debt” or increase my”toxicnostalgia” by harping on myparents’ misguided efforts atturning me into a well-adjustedindividual, but why for the love ofPete was I spending entire summersperfecting my serve, when I hadn’tyet been taught to properly breathe?Thankfully, I can now rectify thatsituation by enrolling in “Learningto Breathe Right!” Not only willincrease the oxygen flow to mybrain, but I will “eliminateconfusion, tension, and stress;overcome deep-seated fears; andtransform negative energy intopositive.” And it’s so basic. Whoknows, if I finally learned tobreathe, blink, pee, and transmitneurons… “right!”, I might doanything. I might “Bend a Spoon WithMy Mind (with the proper training,anyone can do it!)” I might “Learnto Write a Book on ANYTHING In 2Weeks or Less!” I might “Learn toDevelop Charisma.” I might annexPoland.
Well, if picking a workshop becomestoo overwhelming, I can always signup for “Contacting Your GuardianAngels and Having an AngelicEncounter” first. “Your spiritualguides can,” after all, “help you inyour personal, business, and socialrelationships.” Angels areinternationally known for theirbusiness acumen and sexual prowess.Either that, or I can enroll in theShamanic Intervention Workshop, and”invite the plant world to share itswisdom with (me).
I hear that broccoli, by the way,talks a big line, but therhododendron’s got the skinny on thereally good stuff.