Tags: New Age, Philosophical, Stupid
Self-described “Wilde Man” Stuart Wilde offers this slim volume of advice on how to put your mind on a lean diet of positive and self-building thinking. At its core, there’s little here that’s “new,” in any particular sense of the word. Wilde is an entertaining figure in the world of New Age philosophy, without meaning any sleight to the genre at large. The trouble is that he is far more entertainer than philosopher, and to a certain degree, he’s hypocritical.
In another volume, Wilde speaks in greater depth of his past. A clothing entrepreneur of the 1970s, the man was worth millions of British pound notes and, by his account, he literally walked away from every last penny of it in order to find himself, his purpose, his true calling. What he’s found is another fascinating way to make millions more by telling everyone else to throw away their own pennies — whether toward him (probably his preference) or literally.
In Zen and other eastern practices, much is made of “detachment”, saying in essence that it is best to be apart from all worldly things rather than to suffer the pain of losing worldly things, including life itself. Philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer is famous for saying (I’m paraphrasing) that satisfying a want merely leads to manifold new wants, and thus one is never happy; his idea, like Wilde’s, is to want nothing, and therefore never be disappointed. This is like saying that if one never eats, one will never be hungry again. Eventually, that will come true. As a deeply cynical person I once knew said, “If you build a man a fire, he’ll be warm for a day; if you set a man on fire, he’ll be warm for the rest of his life.”
Wilde takes this rather depressing concept a step further in what I find to be a particularly disturbing comment:
In my early 20s, I owned a clothing company. We hired a great designer who was the mainstay of the corporation. She was indispensable. Exercising power over us, she totally controlled the fate of the company — and she knew it. After a while, her ego kicked in with a vengeance, and she became temperamental, capricious, and unreliable. As she wobbled, the whole company wobbled with her. She caused endless trouble because we had no real control. From that day forth, I decided I would never suffer the same situation again. Now, everyone in my life is dispensable. I hold no permanent emotion to any situation or person — including family and friends. (emphasis added)
I’ve dropped enough time and money on the couch to know that, when people are really bad for you, it’s best to walk away. But if you never form attachments to people, you are never really in their lives, nor are they in yours. If you risk nothing, you gain nothing. It is not possible to love without some measure of attachment, and this refers to any level, type, or depth of love. If your favorite menu item vanishes at your local restaurant, you’re going to grieve a little — maybe for only a few seconds, but it’s gonna hurt. When a beloved friend or relative dies, you’re going to grieve a lot, and that’s not merely normal, it’s vital, in the sense of “required to live”. Life, at its essence, is about your relationship to the people and things that you encounter, and if you don’t risk engaging with them, then you’re a heartless slug who is wasting a perfectly good incarnation. In many religions, God takes the risk of making Himself human long enough to engage with, attach Himself to, and suffer through those infamous “slings and arrows” that Hamlet spoke of. To be human is to suffer and to know joy, to have your spirit crushed and to have it experience ecstasy. Experience is a spectrum, and we travel back and forth on it throughout our lives. That is what it is to be human.
Taking Wilde’s own advice, I now detach myself from him, as I can’t trust anyone who not only claims not to engage in life but who also is making money off of telling others to do so. Happily, he won’t care that I think he’s a money-sucking sideshow philosopher. You, Dear Reader, have the chance to judge for yourself, and I urge you to do so. My own tuppence is that Wilde is dangerously antisocial, and you’re best done with him. Move on. My best advice to you is to go discover the loving works of Leo Buscaglia and let yourself remember what love is all about. It’s far more valid a viewpoint than mere detachment for its own sake.