The World of Fortune Cookie Wisdom

By Keith Kloor | July 27, 2011 4:15 pm

One of the best self-mocking anthems to fame is this classic from Joe Walsh.

Now when this song came out in 1978, the free spirited, social change-minded Age of Aquarius was giving way to the self-absorbed, inwardly focused era of crystal healing and personal gurus. The New Age movement soon became a mainstream, commercial success, brilliantly marketed by the likes of Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson, among other charismatic types.

Today, these self-anointed spirit guides command hefty lecture fees and write best-selling guides on how to heal your emotional pain and tap into the universe’s cosmic harmony. They have legions of acolytes that eat this stuff up.

What I wonder is if these New Age rock stars have any awareness of the narcissistic path to enlightenment they have blazed for the next generation of huckster healers.

Take the case of Gabrielle Bernstein, a rising star in the New Age firmament. Here’s a fawning profile of her in the August issue of Elle, a women’s magazine that, like most women’s magazines, mostly recycles stories on sex, beauty and self-improvement. (Here’s a lament/plea from one female journalist who wishes that women’s magazines offered more than this standard fare.)

Now let me first say that the all-knowing universe has previously guided me to Bernstein. So when it happened again earlier today, I read with much amusement in Elle about Bernstein’s penchant for $15 coconut water, her ascendant career as a “life coach” and how she is “unencumbered by mini melodramas.” (Well, not always.)

I tend to think of these spiritual charlatans as harmless. It’s not like they’re pushing crack. People with disposable income seek them out to learn how to be happier and better adjusted individuals. What’s the harm? But then I came to this part in the profile, where Bernstein is dispensing advice at one of her “life coaching” sessions:

One evening, a girl named Stephanie says she fears falling into a depression because her job hunt is going nowhere. Bernstein locks eyes with Stephanie. “If your happiness is based on external experience, then, my darling, you are fucked.”

Pardon me, but that’s a fucked up thing to say to somebody who is understandably anxious about not being able to find a job. Going forward I hope Stephanie realizes that the universe sometimes has a way of playing sick jokes on us. And that she holds on to whatever money she has left to buy groceries and pay her rent, instead of forking it over to someone who spouts fortune cookie quotes and buys $15 coconut water.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: New Age
MORE ABOUT: New Age Movement
  • Menth

    “If your happiness is based on external experience, then, my darling, you are fucked”


    Wow. What a dumbass. Reminds me of this great RSA animate video of Barabara Ehrenreich:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5um8QWWRvo

     



  • Stu

    They’re not harmless. They’re very very annoying. 

    *Calm blue ocean… calm blue ocean…. calm blue…

     

  • Matt B

    @ Meth,

    Good video!

  • Leo G

    Keith, just because the quote is a cliche does not mean that it is not true.

    But then again, just because it may be true doesn’t mean it is practical either.

    There is a sect of Zen monks, where the master walks around with a staff, if he/she finds you sleeping at the wrong time – KAPOW! staff across the body. In the west, a master like that would be in jail.

    Words hit

    like a staff

    awake!      

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About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, and an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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