Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: philosophy

The Secret

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“Thou shalt not covet your neighbor’s house” spoke God, and a lightening bolt hit the table and ingrained the tenth commandment in stone for eternity. Moses, his hair turned white from being in the presence of God, shook in fear.

“But how will I get the chosen people to follow these commandments, Lord? I am but one small man. And the chosen people are a stiff-necked group of nudniks who are always arguing with one another. Couldn’t you have chosen a group that was more mellow, like the Amish? Surely the Israelites will not believe that I actually chatted with YOU.”

“Don’t worry, Moses. The answer is simple. Change them each $29.95 to learn the “secret” commandments and before you know it, you’ll be on Oprah and they’ll be standing on line to buy The Commandments on DVD.”

Recently, I’ve read a couple of bloggers talking about “The Secret,” some sort of new Age self-help book/video/audiotape/budding industry that was talked about on Oprah. Oprah speaks, people listen.

Now, I should admit that I have not seen this DVD or read the book, so I have very little to say about the content of this material. It might be inspirational. It might make me a changed man. But — the thing that annoys me about this “Secret” is the way it is being marketed. First of all, I was immediately turned off by their flashy, overproduced website. On the website, there is a lot of talk about “secret membership” and your choice of watching the video online for five bucks or buying the DVD for thirty dollars.

To me, the subtext says: inaccessibility. Why use Flash technology? Why do I have to download a special video codec from Vividas just to watch the trailer? And frankly — WHY should I pay for something so astounding? If this Secret really will change the world, shouldn’t this information be shouted out from rooftops everywhere? Shouldn’t it be freely spread throughout the world in order to make it a better place?

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Rhonda Byrne

I’m not against someone making money. But the editor, Rhonda Byrne, former producer of “What’s Cooking” and “The World’s Greatest TV Commercials,” admits that she is just revealing a secret that has already been with us for centuries, albeit only for the elite.

The Secret is released to the world! This ground-breaking feature length movie presentation reveals The Great Secret of the universe. It has been passed throughout the ages, traveling through centuries… to reach you and humankind.

This is The Secret to everything – the secret to unlimited joy, health, money, relationships, love, youth: everything you have ever wanted.

In this astonishing program are ALL the resources you will ever need to understand and live The Secret. For the first time in history, the world’s leading scientists, authors, and philosophers will reveal The Secret that utterly transformed the lives of every person who ever knew it… Plato, Newton, Carnegie, Beethoven, Shakespeare, Einstein.

Now, if this is all true, then HOLY S**T, that is some cool stuff. Someone should be GIVING away this information for free. Don’t worry, Ms. Byrne. You will not starve for all your hard work if you give away this information for free. After everyone has unlimited happiness and money, I’m sure you will be handsomely rewarded. But to make people buy a DVD to learn this amazing secret is simply immoral. It is like Moses charging for the Ten Commandments. It is like Jonas Salk discovering the cure for polio and only sharing it with his friends.

What’s with this selfishness, Ms. Byrne? Shouldn’t this information be offered to poor people for free? What about those without internet access? Or those without DVD players? Shouldn’t the United Nations be in on this?

Of course, I am just taking what you say at FACE VALUE — that this information of the Secret with bring in a “New Era for Humankind.” I would hate to think that all this is just cheesy marketing gimmick used to package the idea of “mind over matter,” a concept that has been around since Philosophy 101 in college.

I also notice that you include Henry Ford on your list of great visionary leaders who knew “The Secret.”

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Henry Ford

He certainly was an innovator, but considering that he was a nasty guy, an anti-Semite, and a Nazi sympathizer, I seriously doubt that “the Secret” alone will make this a better world.

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Know Thyself… Very Little

What Did You Have For Lunch?

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“Your posts this week have been the WORST,” said my blog editor/separated wife, Sophia, speaking on the phone from New York. “And stop writing about blogging. It is SOOO boring!”

There were other words exchanged during this conversation, mostly about my fear of putting advertising on my blog, but I’m going to avoid retelling some of the more “colorful” expressions she used to describe my “artistic integrity.”

I agree with Sophia that my posts have been lousy this week. I blame it on that video where I’m dancing with the mop, which premiered on October 13th to critical acclaim.

You know how some authors write a masterpiece for their first novel, but their second one sucks? After that video, I figured that I could just lie back and take it easy, but I was wrong. Modern readers are fickle. One false move and they’re off to read the blog of the latest young hunk right off the bus with a Dell laptop under his arm.

Looking for inspiration, I was intrigued by this new book titled “No One Cares What You Had for Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog,” written by Maggie Mason, who also has a popular blog titled Mighty Girl. (via Fussy)

A reviewer on Amazon described the book like this:

“Mason is thrilled at the opportunities that blogs have given the average person for self-expression, but laments that too many blogs are obsessive navel-gazing exercises that hold little to no interest over time. She wrote No One Cares as a way to help you come up with creative and new ideas for blog material that can lead to unusual material and interesting insights to the life and world of the writer.”

The book sounded interesting, but I took strong exception to the title, No One Cares What You Had for Lunch, even if the author is being tongue-in-cheek.

Think about the gullible young blogger out there who might read this book and accept this notion as a blogging “rule.”

In my opinion, blogging about your lunch is EXACTLY what you should be doing. This was what Sophia was trying to tell me on the phone. Is there anything more human, more sexy, more filled with human drama… than lunch?

Remember those cool lunch-boxes in elementary school? Remember grandma’s tuna fish sandwich? Remember having a romantic picnic lunch with your beau? Isn’t it true that the minute you get to work at 9AM, you watch the clock for three hours, waiting for what…? LUNCH!

When I finish my blogging primer, I’m going to title it “Write About Your Lunch.”

Of course, by the time I get around to writing it, no one will be blogging anymore because the fad will be dead. I’m always behind the times. (but please remember to buy my new book coming out in January, “The Dummy’s Guide to Making Money with Enron Stock.”

Sophia — today’s post will be about MY LUNCH. I want to prove to others that eating your lunch can bring about as many philosophical insights as reading the greatest philosophers.

Here we go —

Around noon today, I had a hankering for a hamburger. I felt like I deserved a treat because my cholesterol levels had fallen dramatically recently, thanks to my pills. I jumped into my car and headed for In-N-Out Burgers, but half-way there, I felt a nagging guilt. I suddenly remembered that I had eaten two slices of pizza for lunch the day before. I already had my “unhealthy” treat for the week.

What should I do? Go with desire or reason? I thought about the ancient Greeks. In his theory of anamnesis, Plato preached mastery over the body through reason. Did I really need this hamburger?

Thomas Aquinas, the medieval theologian, once said of Gluttony: “Gluttony denotes, not any desire of eating and drinking, but an inordinate desire… leaving the order of reason, wherein the good of moral virtue consists?”

I decided to find a balance between the two extremes — hunger and hamburger, much as in Hermetic Philosophy.

The solution: A Gardenburger!

I once had a pretty good veggie burger at Burger King, so off I went to see the King.

At my local Burger King, I was greeted by a slightly frazzled teenage girl, who took my order for a veggie burger, a side salad, and a cup of coffee. The bill came to $3.50. I looked at the receipt, puzzled. The Gardenburger alone was supposed to be $3.50. The girl had clearly charged me $2.00 less than what she was supposed to!

I went into a silent panic, mixed with glee. I enjoyed saving the two bucks, but I felt guilty about my moral stance. After all, I was stealing! I knew she had made a mistake, but I was intentionally remaining silent. What would the Talmud say about this? I certainly know that Immanuel Kant, the 18th Century writer of “Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals,” would be shaking his head in shame.

Clearly it was my moral duty to speak up and say, “Young lady, I think you’ve made a mistake.” Think about it: What if I knew that her boss was going to dock her the two dollars that she lost — would I speak up then? What if she was fired? What if she quit school because of my action? What if, because of me, I knew she would eventually BECOME A PROSTITUTE?!

But, I wanted that two dollars. I kept my mouth shut. I pocketed the extra money, waited for my food, then headed for my table without ever saying a word.

There was no thunder. No lightening struck me down. As I sat down, holding my tray, I rationalized my action. I was a Robin Hood fighting an evil fast-food corporation. Even Michael Moore would be proud of me!

But I knew this was a lie. I knew I was never going to give any of my two dollars to charity. I was going to keep it. I was going to blow it on an ice cream cone on the way home, my cholesterol be damned.

And I was enjoying acting like a selfish criminal.

I was like motherf***ing Samuel L. Neilochka!

I ripped open the paper wrapper and took a determined bite of my sandwich. All I received was a mouth full of soggy lettuce and wet bread.

I looked down at my sandwich and opened up the bun. Inside was lettuce, a tomato slice and a piece of pickle. There was no Gardenburger! No meat! Nothing!

Soon, it became clear to me. At Burger King, if you ask for a “Veggieburger” rather than a “Gardenburger,” you get this ridiculous “veggie” sandwich with nothing on it except soggy lettuce, a sliver of tomato, and a tasteless pickle slice for $1.50!  There wasn’t any two dollar mistake. I was the idiot who made the mistake. I ordered a sandwich with NOTHING on it.

Have it Your Way! Right-O.

Do I even need to bring up the Eastern concept of karma?

So, what do you have for lunch?

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: A New Hobby