We’re All a Bunch of Egotistical Opera Singers….

….singing, “Me, me, me, me, me!” And apparently, we’re lazy and impatient ones at that.

According to the results of The New York Times best seller list labeled “Hardcover Advice & Miscellaneous, ” Dr. Stanley’s new book, Turning the Tide, hit the list at number eleven this week. Not bad at all. However, when I looked through the other books in this category, I saw a disturbing trend.

Aside from the new parody book about sleepless children and the zombie parents who attempt to raise them, Go the F*** to Sleep, every other tome in the top ten made me worry about the future of America. Yes, I am aware it is the “Advice” category, a sort of catch-all for the non-fiction reading types who might not be keen on a David McCullough history or a weighty memoir by an aging politician put out to pasture. I expected a certain number of self help books to be there. Classics such as How to Make Friends and Influence People, Men are from Mars–Women are from Venus, and Who Moved My Cheese? have all done their turn on the wheel of fortune that is the bestseller list. However, the other nine texts ranked above Dr. Stanley’s book all have something in common–they are all about taking the easy way out.

For instance, behind the soon to be canonized classic currently sitting atop the heap,  The 17 Day Diet by Dr. Mike Moreno is another book designed and written to inform another group of overweight Americans that they can change their bodies with just a few changes in their diet and a few hours of walking a week. Granted, this information is not new. Eating less and exercising more will, in fact, leave you a little closer to your ideal fighting weight. However, why anyone feels the need to give Amazon.com $14 of his or her hard-earned money on a book to teach them something common sense could provide is beyond me. According to his author blurb on the aforementioned bookseller’s (and everything else you could even think of ordering online) website, “Dr. Mike takes pride in being viewed not only as a doctor, but also as a friend and confidant.” I don’t know whether to yak or suggest him as a cast member in the reboot of The Golden Girls.

Timothy Ferriss has two books on the list, at number three and number seven, and both of them have something to do with the number four. The 4-Hour Body (currently in third place) actually boasts a much more jaw-dropping full title….The 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman. I’m not kidding. Go look it up.

According to the publisher’s blurb on Amazon, by reading this book,

You will learn (in less than 30 minutes each): how to lose those last 5-10 pounds (or 100+ pounds) with odd combinations of food and safe chemical cocktails, to prevent fat gain while bingeing (X-mas, holidays, weekends), to increase fat-loss 300% with a few bags of ice, to sleep 2 hours per day and feel fully rested, to produce 15-minute female orgasms, to triple testosterone and double sperm count, to go from running 5 kilometers to 50 kilometers in 12 weeks, to reverse ‘permanent’ injuries, to add 150+ pounds to your lifts in 6 months, and to pay for a beach vacation with one hospital visit.

Well, heck! I bet we could read this and learn how to solve the conflict between Israel and Palestine, too…and in under thirty minutes! Seriously, everything in that list is pure vanity–physical satisfaction that can only be temporarily attained. I quote Yoda, “Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”

Sadly, The 4-Hour Workweek isn’t much better. It is essentially a guidebook that instructs readers how they can quit the 40+ hour a week grind and work remotely from some tropical paradise. In one chapter I am especially interested in reading, he claims he can “eliminate 50% of [my] work in 48 hours using the principles of a forgotten Italian economist.”

If Mr. Ferriss’ words were true, we’d all be beautiful, bronzed minor deities with washboard abs who could sling a pigskin over a mountain and be crazy good in the sack. However, anyone who has lost a substantial amount of weight or who has built a company from the ground up will tell you that what he proposes just isn’t possible. Few people are successful in such things because, well, because they’re darned hard. And when something is difficult, few people have the tenacity to see it through to completion.

In truth, his first book sounds a little too Mein Kamph for me….minus the eugenics, of course. The second might work for .009% of the American workforce, which makes it about as useful as nipples on the Batsuit. I also have to wonder, if the man is so over the moon about efficiency, why does his name have unnecessary double consonants? Shouldn’t “Feris” suffice? I might give you the second S, but two F’s is just folly.

Another diet book, The Dukan Diet, graces the list at number four. It, too, promises to provide a foolproof weight loss system (primarily geared towards women) that can help us get the bodies we crave by using a diet French women have followed for decades. (Because when I think of good nutritional health, the French are the first group of people who come to mind….) Apparently, the plan involves unlimited lean protein and an oat bran galette for a few days, followed by what I’m sure is an indecipherable combination of veggies, proteins, carbs, and other food groups until the perfect Hollywood starlet’s body has been achieved. Unlike diets in the past that involved jump-start days filled with only boiled eggs and grapefruit juice or vitamin pastes spread on Wasa crackers (I’m not making that up…I remember those days well), dieters are also “allowed two weekly celebration meals to stave off boredom.” Isn’t it pitiful that we have become slaves to entertainment to the point that our diets must also refrain from being lackluster? Man, how did the native tribal cultures of America manage without food that tickled their fancy after they’d hunted it down? :-/

And now for something completely different…

Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived by Rob Bell ranks number five on the list. I have not read this “Christian” book in its entirety; however, I have read enough of it and discussed it with other Christian apologists to the point that I feel comfortable saying that this book is utter nonsense. Bell, a pastor with a large and ever-growing following, tells readers that hell is really something we suffer on earth, heaven is a place we can all reach regardless of whether or not we have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and that Jesus “is bigger than any one religion.” I would argue that Jesus is bigger than any denomination, sure, but those who bow down and worship other gods are not followers of the Risen Lamb. I am sure that there have been other claims as outrageous as his in mass media before, but I can tell you that, in my lifetime, I’ve never seen anything so close to the warning in 2 Timothy 4:1-5:

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

The other “Christian” book in the top ten, ranked just one spot above Turning the Tide, is One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp. Thankfully, this one is more on point with the Christian method than Mr. Bells, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily perfect. It is a book that encourages readers to see God’s amazing grace around them every day, learning to live for daily joys and find contentment even in sorrow. In the immortal words of William Shatner, “I can get behind that.” The sample chapters I’ve read are a little, shall we say, florid for my taste…as overpowering emotionally as my grandmother’s gardenia scented perfume once was in the confined space of the Chrysler on the way to church each Sunday.

However, I couldn’t read the entire book, and according to a reviewer named Cindy from the blog Books and Chocolate, “I was also wary of the mystical/contemplative spirituality/emergent church references, as she quotes those of the contemplative movement and recognized mystics such as Brother Lawrence, Henri Nouwen, and Dallas Willard. In addition, I was uncomfortable with the chapter on making love to Jesus in which the author speaks of seeking communion with God in what can only be termed as sexual language, taking it to a level that I personally don’t believe scripture intends” (emphasis mine). That entire concept reminds me of the song by Kari Jobe I used in a previous blog to discuss what was wrong with modern praise and worship music, and it just gives me the huzz. God is God after all—not Buddy Jesus, my homeboy, or my BFF.

One spot up from the love-fest that is One Thousand Gifts, Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness,  looks to be one of the most practical of the ten. In it, he explains how a few simple steps such as working hard, paying for things in cash, and staying out of debt can lead to financial freedom. It seems fairly obvious to anyone with a modicum of what Southerners call “good raising,'” but in a Hot-Pocket-eating-instant-gratification-I-can-download-that-book-in-one-tenth-of-a-second world, being told to save your money and to live within your means is pretty revolutionary. I think the book itself is a wonderful thing, but I have to worry about the mental fortitude and general willpower of a culture that has to buy a book (AKA spend money) to tell them how to save it.

The last two books on the top ten list, The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and The Secret  by Rhonda Byrne are also both books that jump up and down like a Jack Russell Terrier that got into an open bag of espresso beans shouting, “Hey, hey, hey!!!! Pay attention to me!!!!”

Granted, the first was written by a college professor who died of pancreatic cancer and who delivered a “Last Lecture” that was just that, a lecture of information he wanted to impart to the world before he left it. I haven’t read it, but I’m sure it is a touching book. However, it is focused on the temporal–what can I leave behind, and why do I matter in the grand scheme of things? You can actually watch him give this lecture live and judge it for yourselves. He does say that he isn’t there to talk about religion or spirituality and refers to his “Deathbed Conversion” that involved not finding God but rather finally deciding to buy a Mac. It’s more concerned with childhood dreams and the self-realization that comes with finding what you really want.

I can appreciate the desire to leave something of oneself behind, the human need to leave a sort of mark that will stand as a testament to the fact that you once converted oxygen into carbon dioxide and that you were more than a social security number or a blood type. It’s the reason cavemen painted on walls and why prisoners carve their names into the concrete of their cells. I was here, these messages tell the world, I mattered enough to be remembered. Yet, at the same time, I find the idea nauseatingly self-serving. What’s the purpose of leaving something behind, or teaching/enabling someone else to, when it’s all nothing but shadows and air? This world is a temporal, ephemeral thing, as easily discarded as a flyer in the mail. We should be more concerned with spending our time here growing closer to God, serving Him with all our mind, heart, soul, and strength, and making being used by Him to lead others to Christ. THAT, my friends, is something that lasts.

And then there’s The Secret. Oh my stars and garters, that book makes me want to kill myself via listening to Fran Drescher sing the role of Cio-Cio San in Madam Butterfly. From what I’ve heard from misty-eyed acolytes, the nugget of wisdom in the book is “life changing.” Granted, I might be simplifying a bit. Now, pay attention or you might miss it.

Think REALLY HARD about what you want = You get it.

That’s it. THAT’S “The Secret.” No serving a cause greater than yourself, no finding joy in simple things….like making love to Jesus (which still makes me twitchy)… and certainly no working diligently for what you desire. Simply wish non-stop for what you want and it will manifest itself like the Red Rider BB Gun that always seems eager to shoot one’s eye out. Who knew!? Imagine, I could have gotten that Albert Pujols autograph I’ve always wanted if I stood there and shook, my hands clenched in tight fists, and thought of nothing but Pujols signing my virginal, white baseball. Like someone trying to play a telekinetic superhero, all I have to do is grit my teeth and look like something cerebrally mind-blowing is going on between my ears, and it will magically appear like that lollipop that came down the chute when I was a good girl and didn’t cry at Fantastic Sam’s.

And to think, I schlepped through three years of graduate school for nothing!

When did we become a herd of self-serving, lazy nitwits who want all the joy and success life has to offer without putting forth a single iota of the effort? Why is the upper echelon of “self help” chock full of books that only show why we’re in this mess in the first place? Gracious sakes, people! If you want to lose weight, eat less and work out more. If you want to have money, earn it and save it. If you want to be happy, realize that the world does not revolve around you and that it is instead God who is at the center of everything! The answers are so simple, yet they sit untouched while the world trudges along looking for the path to wisdom and the route to enlightenment by picking up and looking under every rock on the side of the road.

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2 thoughts on “We’re All a Bunch of Egotistical Opera Singers….

  1. Fascinating take on the best-sellers list. Your reviews are witty and wonderful, making an insightful p as point each time. Well done! I love the line about Fran Drescher as much as I agree with you about The Secret.

    1. That’s high praise coming from you, Lorna! Your posts are amazingly funny and insightful. (I read them all though I don’t always comment.) Nice to know someone out there gets my weird sense of humor.

      I sure hope a book about how to be a better parent, to be more generous, or something more philanthropic shows up on this list soon!

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