Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A publishing miracle.

Inexplicably, something that actually makes sense came about as a result of James Arthur Ray’s depraved indifference toward human life, otherwise known as his sweat lodge in Sedona, Arizona. You may have heard of Ray: he was one of the contributors to the mega-bestselling The Secret. His latest news made headlines everywhere but the basics are these: About 50 people, dedicated to Ray’s teachings and philosophies, paid almost $10,000 each to attend his “spiritual warrior” retreat in the Arizona desert earlier this month. After several days of participating in various practices and rituals, including food and sleep deprivation, they entered into an enclosed space – Ray’s new age version of a Native American sweatlodge.

The tragic result was that twenty-one of his followers needed medical attention and three of them died as a result of his enlightened approach to spiritual “cleansing.” It’s very likely a number of factors contributed to their deaths, among them the oppressive heat, and Ray’s own direction to everyone to stick with the program and not give in to their desire to abandon the effort. Even while the criminal investigation is underway in Arizona, Ray is continuing to enlighten different followers, otherwise known as same s—t, different day.

The surprisingly lucid news about this story follows: On Monday, I read an update in Publisher’s Weekly, stating that Ray’s publisher, in a moment of clarity that was no doubt encouraged by the company’s legal team, had postponed the upcoming publication of two new books by the financial advisor turned spiritual guru. The first title scheduled was the paperback edition of his bestseller Harmonic Wealth: The Secret of Attracting the Life You Want. The second was a new book from Ray, titled The Seven Laws of True Wealth.

Before I go any further here, I have a few questions: why is everything that can make me happy in life is a secret? And why does everyone seem to know it but me? Why would I want to attract a life I don’t want? When there are laws or rules or habits that everyone should know, why are there always seven of them? Why aren’t there 23? Or 6? Or 327? What is false wealth and who would desire it?

Okay, enough about my issues. Hyperion, Ray’s publisher, has postponed his books until January 2011. Yes, that’s fourteen months away. By that time, Ray could well have offered the injured and the grieving families of the dead enough money to help this all fade from public view.

I hope they get some kind of compensation for their pain – whatever that could possibly be - but not one of them should allow him to get away with this. I’ve watched enough Law & Order to know Ray committed some kind of crime here and needs to be held responsible. Arizona must have its own real life version of Jack McCoy.

Hyperion has started to pull the plug on his deadly game of smoke and mirrors and good for them. The book-buying public needs to begin to do the same, not only to James Arthur Ray, but to every specious guru like him who professes to know exactly what we need to know to be fulfilled and happy and enlightened…knowledge they’ll happily share with us if we pay them a small price (in the case of a paperback book) or a very large fee, like those required to attend the horror show in the Arizona desert.

Because no matter how enthusiastically these now deceased people followed Ray, I refuse to believe that any of them were willing to pay with their lives.


Richard said...

I love it when Jack McCoy gets all indignant. This sounded a little like an extreme "Burning Man" event.

I too, wonder why happiness is something I cannot obtain on my own, and why I'd need some fringe, self-help guru to assist me in finding true joy. At least they didn't serve grape Kool-Aid!

renee said...

Thanks, Richard. Not serving the Kool Aid was just about the only thing he didn't do as near as I can tell.

Simply unconscionable. He should be investigated and fined for perpetrating fraud at the very least; incarcerated for many years for committing manslaughter would be a better outcome in my view.

Fifty people paying $10,000 each is a lot of money. I have an idea: next time someone with that kind of spare cash needs to spend it to feel enlightened and whole, I'll send them a list of worthwhile organizations who could do a lot of good with their contribution.

I'll even make them this promise: They'll feel so much better about themselves; and the non-profit group they supprt will get to continue for a little while longer. Everyone wins.

renee said...

PS Jack McCoy is fierce!! I LOVE him.

My dream is to appear on L&O as the judge who sits at the arraignment each week. I could definitely do that.

(Wearily): "Do I hear a plea, counselor?"

(Cheerfully): "And I'm sure we'll al be delighted to hear the rest of your story during trial. Bail is set at 1 million dollars."

See? I even know my lines!!

Richard said...

Did you know another writer, Fran Lebowitz played Judge Janice Goldberg in "Law & Order" and "Law & Order: Criminal Intent?" The character was an arraignment judge.

Lebowitz wrote some very funny books: Metropolitan Life and Social Studies. I guess you have probably read them. If you haven't, you ought to. There's also this funny piece on the web:

renee said...

Hi Richard -

Yes, I've seen her in that role. She's perfect.

Not only have I read her books, I went to hear her lecture once at Moravian College a thousand years ago. I'll check out the link - thanks.

She is one of the most brilliant, unheralded writers of our time.