Category Archives: Books

“Piezas” – Artbook

3 Babel
In october 2015, I published a really innovative artbook called “Piezas”. It mixes the aesthetics of chess with social, literary and philosophical topics. I encourage you all to check out the free preview at: www.ajpiezas.com

P.S. I am planning to publish a unique, short novel online next week. It’s going to be free to read or download. I’ll post more info. regarding the novel later on.

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Science and Magic –> Twin Brothers

The real magical struggle and the real scientific struggle are twin brothers: one was sick and perished, the other was healthy and prospered. But, they were twin brothers. They were born of the same impulse […]

There is something that joins Magic with Science, and seperates both from ancient “Wisdom”. For the ancient thinkers, the main problem was how to adapt the human soul to reality, and their solution was knowledge, self-discipline and virtue. For magic and science, the main problem is how to adapt reality to the wishes of men, and the solution is a determined technique.

—– C. S Lewis, The Abolition of Man

Science: turning dreams into reality. And the reality into dreams.

The world changes, but as a people remain the same.

Technology evolves fast, but we still have 10 fingers.

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The Aztec way of Life

Aztec, a +1000 page book, is the culmination of 12 years of historical research by its author Gary Jennings. First published in 1980, the book narrates the adventures of Mixtli, an aztec native, before & after the arrival of the Spanish conquerors in Mexico. The book serves as a window into a distant time, into an Aztec Empire capable of great beauty and cruelty. But most of all, Aztec demonstrate the unique philosophy of life and way of living of the aztec people.

Tenochtlitan - The Capital of the Aztec Empire

Aztec reminds of us of a time  where everyone believed in “fate”, a place where men coexisted peacefully with nature,  and a society in which money wasn’t the most important thing in the world.

Every time a aztec baby was born, his umbilical cord was cut off. If the baby was a girl, the umbilical cord would be wrapped around a piece of wood and buried under the house. (this should help the girl develop good household skills – the aztecs would say) If the baby was a boy, the umbilical cord would be wrapped around a small wooden shield and given to a warrior. The warrior would then proceed to bury the “shield” in a battlefield. (according to aztec tradition, this would give the boy the courage he needed to be a great warrior) This piece of buried umbilical cord was referred to as an aztec’s “tonali” or fate. The common aztec believe that their human fate was tied to their “tonali” and the will of the gods.

Like many ancient cultures, the aztec’s religion was deeply interwined with the elements of nature. The aztec gods manifested their will through meteorological and astrological acts. Just like the early Christians, the aztecs believed that man and nature where subject to the direct power and intervention of the God(s). But unlike the Europeans of the time who disdained nature, destroyed countless forests and abused of the Earth’s resources; the aztecs lived sorrounded by nature.

Unlike in today’s capitalistic society, money wasn’t  everything in the aztec world. As there was no official currency, the aztec’s often traded using gold powder, copper chunks, jade rocks, and chocolate beans. Honor, prestige, war and power – were more imporant than money. And the aztec tradesmen were members of a guild, known as the Pochteca, and always traded in the name and for the well-being of their Empire. (And unlike those working at Wall Street, these ancient traders would have never allowed their greed to destroy their nation)

And finally... the topic of human sacrifice

Why did the aztecs perform human sacrifices?

According to Aztec folkore, the world and its human inhabitants has been destroyed four times. The first time the entire human population was devoured by jaguars. The second time, destroyed by tornadoes and hurricanes. The third time, by a rain of fire. And finally, by a massive flood like Noah’s (but without survivors). According to aztec religion, these four destructions were sent by the gods because they were not pleased. The gods demanded a more constant supply of human blood, or else they would grow thirsty and destroy. From the aztec point of view, being sacrificied was an honor: they were giving their life for a good cause. Protecting the human race from further divine destruction.

Henceforth the problem: how can you sustain an Empire that constantly requires war prisioners for sacrifice?

The answer is easy: make “fake” wars. During times of peace, the six central Aztec nations would wage their own war simulation, called “Florid Wars”. Every year, 3 Aztecs nations would face off against the other 3 Aztec nations in an open field. The objective of these “Florid Wars” was not to kill the enemy, but to disable and capture prisoners. These “fake” wars would last several days, until all of the generals decided they had captured enough prisioners. Each army would then return to their own nation and commit massive “Florid Sacrifices”. And the gods were pleased.

MEMORABLE QUOTES FROM THE BOOK

Yes, at your age you expect a lot. You can go in any direction you choose. You can go alone or with company. Your companions might travel with you a short or long distance. But at the end of your life, no matter how full your wanderings and days have been, you must learn what everybody eventually learns […] No man has ever lived more than one life, which he himself as choosen and for the most part lived alone.

I believe that memories are the only treasure that humans can ever hope of owning forever.

We had wasted love, which is the most unforgettable waste of all. Time and love are the only two things in the world that one can’t buy, only spend.

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Highlights of the ART of WAR

The Art of War was written by a Chinese named Sun Tzu, more than 2,000 years ago. While originally conceived as a war-manual, its profound wisdom and knowledge have made the Art of War an all-time classic.

Sun Tzu´s advice inspired communist leader Mao Zedong to victory in China´s Civil War (1946-1950), and has become an a must-have book for the stock-market professionals of Wall Street. Besides teaching one how to become a great leader, the Art of War also contains great advice on how to read the minds of your opponents.

That being said, here are the most memorable quotes of the book:

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War is a matter of vital importance for the State: its the province of life or death; the path of survival or ruin. It´s ought to be studied profoundly.

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With the joy of overcoming difficulties, people forget the threat of death.

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The Five Virtues of a general:

  1. Intelligence
  2. Sincerity
  3. Humanity
  4. Courage
  5. Severity.

If he is so, his army will call him ¨The Respected One¨.

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There has never been a State that has benefited from a prolonged war. War is like fire; those who can´t put aside their arms are consumed by them.

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Winning 100 times in 100 battles is not the essence of hability. Submitting an opponent without fighting, is the true essence of hability.

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The most important element of war is attacking your opponent´s strategy.

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Five Omens of Victorious Men

  1. He who knows when to fight and when not to.
  2. He who knows how to use both, big and small troops.
  3. He whose army is united in spirit.
  4. He who is prudent and waits for the right moment to attack.
  5. He whose officials are competent and doesn´t have a meddling superior.

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Know the enemy and know thyself; and in a hundred battles you will never face peril.

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Being invincible depends one`s self ; that your opponent is vunerable, depends on him.

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When planning, never make useless movements. In strategy, never take a step in vain.

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Generally, being in charge of many is the same as being in charge of few. It´s a question of organization.

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Apparent confusion is a sign of adecuate order; apparent cowardness, of valor; apparent weakness, of strength.

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Make the enemy see your strong points as weaknesses, and your weaknesses as strong points.

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During the first hours of the morning, the spirit´s of the men are high. During the day, they waver. By the afternoon, their thoughts start wondering home.

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Don´t pressure a cornered opponent.

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A doctrine of war. Don´t assume the enemy won´t advance; be confident in your own preparation to confront him. Don´t presume he won´t attack; better yet, turn yourself invincible.

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How to read your Opponent

  • If the enemy is close, but hiding: he is in a favorable position.
  • When his messengers approach you with humble words, but he continues his preparations: the enemy will advance.
  • When his lenguage is deceitful and he advances slowly: he will retreat.
  • If his messengers speak too highly of you: the enemy wishes a ceasefire.
  • If out of nowhere, the enemy proposes a ceasefire: he is up to something.
  • If instead of advancing, the enemy parades his troops around: he is waiting for reinforcements.
  • If 50% of his troops advance and the other 50% retreat: the enemy is setting a trap.
  • If the enemy sees an opportunity and doesnt´t move: he is tired.

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When sorrouding your enemy, you must always leave an ¨apparent¨ escape route in sight. By showing the enemy´s men the possibility of fleeing, they won´t be obliged to ¨fight to death¨.

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The feats of a wise general surpass those of ordinary men because of previous knowledge. (intel/espionage)

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The best spies/informants are:

  • those who are intelligent but appear stupid
  • those who are intrepid but appear inoffensive

Or you can always be stupid... but appear intelligent

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Mexico, a Superpower?

This post is a continuation of last’s week’s ¨Review – The Next 100 Years¨, a book written by George Friedman, CEO of the largest private intelligence company in the world. In this post we will discuss how Mexico will one day challenge US power in North America.

2080 – Mexico´s rise to Power

Two eagles collide

 

Factors to take into consideration:

  1. Mexican inmigrants don´t usually lose their closeness with Mexico.
  2. Being neighbors with the USA is an economic advantage.
  3. Mexicans still feel like the USA stole their northern territory.

By 2070 Mexico´s economy will be in the top 10.

  • It´s currently #14 in GDP (production)
  • The second largest flow of money into Mexico, is the money Hispanic citizens in the US send to their families in Mexico.
  • Much like the millions of dollars produced by illegal alcohol sales in the USA during 1930´s, the billions of $$$ made by the drug cartels in Mexico will one day be ¨cleansed¨ through reinvesment in the country.

By 2070, the Hispanic citizens and inmigrants will constitute over 70% of the total population in former Mexican territories.

 

Source - US Census Bureau (2006)

 

Around 2080, tensions between USA and Mexico will escalate:

  1. Hispanic commnity will have a large representation in Congress.
  2. The rest of the US citizens will start feeling threatened by the growth of the Hispanic community.
  3. A Mexican secessionist movement will be born calling for the reintegration of these ¨Latino¨ states back to Mexico.

This minoritary Mexican secessionist movement (within the USA) will fuel the fire of the US conservative base. The American right-wing will label this movement an ¨insurrection¨ and will start calling for the inmediate deportation of all ¨Hispanics¨ back to Mexico.

The American goverment will respond by deporting all Mexicans who are not citizens back across the border. The Mexican seccesionis will then turn to vandalism and start revolting. The US will try to contain the revolt by mobilizing the National Guard and the US army.

The Mexican goverment will also mobilize its army to the border. The American actions will be viewed as racist ¨ethnic cleansing¨ by the Mexican goverment, whose right-wing party will start gaining massive support. While militarily superior, the US will not be facing the Mexican army. Instead it will be inmersed in an inner struggle to keep it´s southern states under control.

Territorial shifts aside, Given that the Hispanic community will be the biggest one in the US by 209o, the question will be:

Washington D.C or Mexico City?

Which city will be the capital of North America by 2100?

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Review ¨The Next 100 Years¨

A lot has changed in the last century. And, these changes don´t show any signs of slowing down.

Goverments paying inmigrants to come in? World War III? Mexico as a superpower? These are just a handful of predictions from George Friedman´s bestselling book ¨The Next 100 Years¨. Friedman is the Texan founder and CEO of STRATFOR, the world´s leading private intelligence company. So with a clear mind and open eyes, let´s take a glimpse at what the future might have in store.

Highlights of the Next Century

There is one basic principle in which Friedman bases his book on… The United States of America ¨superpower¨ status isn´t fading anytime soon. The Americans have merely hit a rough patch, but will continue being a superpower for decades to come. Trying to maintan it´s status as the #1 country in the world will be a task the US goverment will take very seriously.

2010s – USA / Islamic War

Whether United States is defeated or Iraq/Afghanistan remains a stalemate, that really won´t matter. As long as the Muslim world remains ethnically divided and fighting between themselves, it won´t pose a real threat to the US.

2020 – China´s expiration date

China´s current economical growth is the result of the country opening it´s market to capitalism. Such tremendous economical growth is causing stark differences between the rich coastal cities and poor central goverment. The coastal cities will eventually want more liberty. This in turn will leave the central chinese goverment two options: let the coastal cities drift away weakening the union or impose a more control over them. Both outcomes will cripple China´s economic power as a country.

2025 – Labor Force Crisis

Are you 18 and worried about finding a job? Don´t worry. By 2025, the ¨job crisis¨ will turn into a ¨labor force crisis¨.

With birth rate´s falling through out developed countries: a new laborforce will be needed to sustain the big, retiring ¨baby-boomer¨ generation. Currently, the birth rate of Europe and Japan is below the 2.1 child/woman ¨replacement level¨. This means that in a couple decades, developed countries are going to be filled with old people and lacking young ones.

European and japanese goverment´s will have to compete over inmigrants by offering them money and medical care packages. For the USA, whose birth rate level is higher, more lenient and open inmigration laws will solve the crisis. This increased flow of  inmigration and future innovations on robotics will help solve the 2025´s labor shortage.

2030 – Third Fall of Russia

Oh, yes! The Russians are back for a rematch. This next decade we will see Russia get economically stronger. This economic strength will in turn lead them to expand their military branches. With a strong military, the Russian goverment will then be interested in re-establishing the Soviet Union´s former sphere of influence in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

Western Europe won´t help Eastern Europe, because Germany (EUs key player) depends too much on Russian gas. Thus Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe will turn to the USA for support. The United States will gladly ¨contain¨ Russia through its support of Eastern Europe (west), Turkey (south) and Japan (east).

The resulting ¨Cold War¨ will be very much like the last one, but shorter. This time a non-direct confrontation, alternative energy sources, a declining population: will all play agains´t Russia. Their economy will collapse, followed by their military. And once again Russia will disintegrate into an even weaker nation.

2050 – World War III

With Russia and China out of the picture, by 2050 the most powerful nations in order of strength will be

  1. USA
  2. Turkey: with a sphere of influence over the Middle East and lower Russia.
  3. Japan: with a sphere of influence over the Pacific and western China.
  4. European Union
  5. Poland: with a sphere of influence over Eastern Europe and Russia.

The Americans will see that its spot as the #1 country is being challenged by its former allies Turkey and Japan. The USA will do all it can to ¨contain¨ the expansion of these two countries. Turkey and Japan won´t enjoy feeling ¨contained¨ and will become secret war-allies. Japan will then stage a ¨Pearl Harbor¨ in space, taking down as many U.S satellites as it can. Then in less than 15 minutes, most of the US Airforce will be destroyed.

With Poland, China, and Britain as allies, the USA will strike back with it´s reserve forces. The result of the war will be determined by whoever controls the air and space. No nuclear devices will be employed (as they would be seen undesired by all). The European Union will remain mostly neutral.

After almost 2 years of war, by 2052 the USA will be able to take full control of space (high ground) and win. The war won´t  be a ¨total war¨ of societies destroying societies. Instead a peace treaty will be drafted in which the defeated nations won´t lose much and the USA (and allies) are allowed military control of space.

2060/2070 – Golden Decades for the US

Years of economic, technological and social prosperity.

2080 – Mexico´s Rise to Power

To be continued on next week´s post – ¨Mexico, a Superpower?¨


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Meaning of Life in the XXI Century

Exisitencialism, emptyness, constant boredom… all signs of the XXI century man struggling to find a meaning to his life. A struggle for meaning that only seems to be getting harder decade after decade, generation after generation. Capitalism tells us its money, Goverment tells us its work, Religion tells us its God, Hollywood tells us its pleasure… the list of meanings goes on and on… and so does the number of people that feel their existence is meaningless, that they have no control over their lives.

But what if there was a a way to find meaning to our lives… what if the reason we are not finding that meaning is because we are not looking in the right places. Here is where Viktor Frankl’s theory of logotherapy comes in. Frankl was a jew with a loving family, a prominent career as psicologist/neurologist, a pregnant wife and unpublished book. Then came 1942. His family was put on a train. His dad died in his arms. His mother was sent to the gas chambers. His wife was forced to abortion and sent to another camp.  His unpublished book was ripped to shreds. Everything he loved… gone in the blink of an eye.

So there he was standing in front of Auschwitz’s electric fence. With every right to want jump… end his life… escape the suffering. But right then, another prisoner touched his shoulder and said “Don’t, wait till to tomorrow”. And thus he waited. Waited 3 years in 3 different concentration camps before finally being liberated in 1945. What keep him alive? His willingness to reunite with his wife and rewrite his lost book.

His experiences in the camps taught him a lot about the human being. It showed him that even in the most miserable, inhuman conditions where a people were reduced to numbers: humans retained the ability to choose. Even in Auschwitz, prisoners could still to retain some dignity. “The pigs were unmasked. And so were the saints. Hunger revealed them” It’s this experience and his own professional formation that motivated Frankl to elaborate his theory of logotherapy.

Don't stop looking...

Logotherapy  focuses on the meaning of life and man´s search for that meaning. Not an abstract/universal meaning that applies for all, but rather, a concrete personal meaning that life holds for everyone. Instead of dwelling in the past, logotherapy encourages us to look at the future. A personal meaning that has to found in the world outside, not inside.

According to Frankl there a 3 different ways of discovering/carrying out the meaning of life:

1. Meaning of  action: having a goal, a mission in life. Wanting to write, create or achieve something that one can later look at and be genuinely proud of.

2. Meaning of love: being able to accept and love that which sorrounds you. Being able to enjoy nature, art, company, friends and family.

3. Meaning of suffering: when one faces an inescapable destiny (terminal disease, death), life offers one the opportunity of carrying out a supreme value: accepting the suffering. Valor resides not in the suffering itself, but in the attitude in which one faces that suffering. By accepting the challenge of suffering, life maintains its meaning to the last instant, all the way to the very end.

Frankl admits that the our meaning of life can change with the passing of time, but the important thing its that never ceases to exist. In summary, what his experience in the concentration camp taught him was this: “The human being is not just an object among’st objects; things determine other things, but men, at the last instance, determines himself.”

Even Nietzsche, a devout existencialist, once said: “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how”. The trick is in finding that “why”.

Quoting the last words of  Viktor Frankl’s short book Man’s Search for Meaning (which I highly recommend)

“We have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s prayer or the Shema Yisreal on his lips”

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Utopia vs. Society and Catholic traditions

Utopia, a book written about that a perfect society. Sadly, 500 years into the future, we are still far from achieving such a thing. The world is still full of the same war, poverty, hatred and tiranny that Thomas More observed in 16th century England. Since More´s Utopia is based on the non-existence of money and the sharing of goods (socialist ideals) many of his proposal´s are irrelevant in the capitalist world of today. I will thus focus on: 

Those Utopian proposals that are applicable in a capitalistic society. (some will shock you… trust me)

1. Catholic clerical marriage: Thomas More, a deeply religious catholic himself, believed marriage should be a option available to priests. A priest´s wive is encouraged, not required, to lead a life of commuity help. That way, a motherly figure is made available to give advice about children/family values, should someone seek it. (such measure should also help solve the Catholic Church´s current pedophilia scandal)

2. Few laws and no lawyers: the more simple and clear the law is, the more just it is considered. The fewer the number of laws the better. In order to avoid lawyer´s attempt at circumventing laws and blurring the truth (a practice QUITE common in today´s legal system): everyone over the age 18 will have the obligation represent himself in court.

3. Pleasure as the only and principal source of human happiness: be this pleasure of a spiritual or mundane nature. This pleasure should never come at the expense of suffering (own/another´s), produce excesive fatigue or be followed withdrawal symptoms. Maintaining a healthly, physical and mental balance is considered the greatest of all pleasures.

4. Yes to Euthanasia: Eutasiania is acceptable as long as it´s voluntary and only when the patient is no longer able to carry out his vital functions. Not only is it viable alternative, but it´s considered an honorable death for those seeking to avoid living a life of torment for themselves and their loved ones.

5. Seven Supreme Rulers: elections are to be held anually and two of the ¨rulers¨ are local gobernors, who switch every week. (Instead of two changing rulers, I propose two ¨rulers¨ of a racial minority). This reduction of the political system would truly help reduce the burocratic/political bickering that dominates the politics of today. There are still of course regional elections and governors in charge of the need of their locality.

Thomas More (1478-1538)

6. Pre-Marriage ¨Peep Show¨ and Age Limit: Thomas More states that the age limit for marriage should be 18 for women and 21 for men. This might seem rash, but taking into account the actual high porcentage of divorces; establishing a 21 year uni-sex marriage limit might be good idea after all. Also, More proposes that before the wedding is pronounced, couples should be allowed to see  each other nude during a brief one minute ceremony. This is done in order to avoid traps or unpleasant after-marriage revelations. So sex or no sex, one should at least get a preview of your companion´s nude body before the wedding.

7. Forced Social Labor for Criminals: Thomas More proposes death for grave crimes (first-degree murder/rape…), and enslavement (forced social service) for the rest of crimes. Forced social service in which ¨slaves¨ that present good conduct and behavior are rewarded back with their freedom and those ¨slaves¨ that commit another crime or escape while serving time are killed. I propose replacing the ¨killing¨ part with perpetual arrest. Such measures will greatly discourage ANY kind of crime.

8. Religious tolerance: the belief that in the end we all worship or seek to obtain closer access to the same God. The religious beliefs of all others are to be respected. (atheists included, More said, even if he himself found their logic irrational/despicable). Those who incite violence through religion, and can´t be dissuaded, are arrested as criminals.

9. New Type of Confession: of all the catholic sacraments this is the one whose fundations on the Scriptures is the most shaky and dubious. Thomas More proposes that a real, pure confession should be made by kneeling in front of the person wronged and pleading for the forgiveness of the sin commited.

10. Future Buildings with a minimun three floor height: the future is in building up, not sideways. This way we help to better preserve our natural resources, drainage areas and ecosystems (forests, prairies…)

Human Fraternity Above all Else

Without a doubt, Thomas More was a visionary man with ideas way ahead of his time. He believed that nature invited all mortals to mutually help one another in the search of a happier life. Humans should be able to look at each other as brothers and be able to put aside all religious, political or social differences. (More himself didn´t believe money should exist)

I quote from his book: What shall I think of the rich men who exploit the poor daily? In reality they get away with it, not through their own squemes, but through the protection of our own laws. [… ] I see the sprouting republics of today – God forgive me – like a group of rich people who seek, in the shadows and in the name of the republic, only their own benefit. [ … ] When the rich manage set these social traps in the name of all, their own and that of the poor people, they pass on to become respectable laws.

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Special thanks to those loyal readers that´ have helped me reach the 1000 visit mark. You are the reason I write.

If you have ideas or topics for future posts, be sure to share them in the comment´s section.

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The Secret of Self-deception

The secret has traveled centuries... to reach you...

With these inspiring words and promises of a better future;  the Secret has the potential to make your life better. Make your life better not by learning powerful secrets… but through a little trick psicologist call “self-deception”. You see, The Secret does transmit universal truths… but so do novels and self-help books.

Novels: transmit their truth by telling a story. A story teaches it’s reader through its characters, trama and events.

Self-Help books: transmit their truth through a program. A program that teaches it’s reader through psychological studies and motivational quotes.

The Secret: transmits it truth through a belief. A belief that teaches it’s reader through uncoventional anecdotes, unproven theories and mysticism.

The central belief of The Secret is the power of  the “gravity of thought”. According to the book, we humans have the power to attract what we want through thoughts. So if I wanted to become a guitarist, all I have to do is to constantly think about being a guitarist. More times I think about becoming a guitarist, the more likely I will become one. Up till here everything seems resonable. Sticking an idea into our head is the first step into making it come true.

But then, The Secret’s author lets her imagination run wild when trying explain the power of thoughts. She says thoughts are like radio waves that travel the unvierse in order to attract our desired object. The more thoughts we have, the more powerful the our “pull” on the desired object. *Note: this theory is afterwards corraborated by unrealible scientists, mystic gurus, and personal anecdotes.

The way I see it, if the “gravity of thoughts” were to be real then:

Perverts would get all the action the world.

Millions wouldn’t die of starvation.

For every man there’d be a Megan Foxx

And George W. Bush would be a donkey

Thus the major flaws in the Secret’s argument are that its has little scientific data, biased “professional” opinions and relies too much on anecdotes. With almost no scientific data, many of the Secret’s theories are just that: theories. The mayority of the professional quotes inserted come from colleagues of the author: again not the most reliable source. And finally, the arguments of the Secret depend too much on extraordinary personal anecdotes. They are extraordinary for a reason: they seldomly occur.

All in all, there is really just one secret found in this mystical book: we all have the potential to obtain what we want.

Sure we can think a lot about something, become obssesed about “it”and finally obtain it. But that doesn’t mean there were any supernatural forces at work. Rather than believing in some mysterious gravitational force powered by our thought, isn’t just easier to believe in our own willpower.

That “willpower” we all possess and command. That willpower that is put in better use by reading good books and novels, than by filling our heads with mystical make-believe theories.

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