Sunday, December 17, 2006

Your Alanis Morsette Moment

Stress Expert and author of the self-help book, "Don't Sweat The Small Stuff," Richard Carlson died yesterday of a heart attack at the ripe old age of 45.

His agnostic, self-centered psychology appealed to many baby boomers and other feel-good hipsters. From his obituary:

Carlson was a popular motivational speaker, stress consultant and media figure dubbed one of the world's foremost happiness experts. . . For Carlson, who practiced meditation but wasn't a conspicuous religious seeker, the joy of living was in the positive relationships one could make. The danger was in the tangle of one's own thoughts.

The same editorial contains one clear paradox:

"He always reasoned that the corporations aren't going to use that money for the same good you and I are, so let's get more," Breitman said. "It was so delightful to work for someone who really cared about the world in his own heart rather than his own greed."

So he wanted to get as much money for his books as possible because he wasn't greedy. I wonder if Grover Norquist or David Strom will get such accolades upon their demise for feeling the same way about giving money to the government?

A lot of Carlson's advise is practical and true. However, the substitution of his psychobabble for real moral teaching that used to come in a religious framework is troubling.

"And he always ended his correspondence with 'Treasure Yourself.' "

Carlson is right that the most important thing in your life isn't your next meeting, next phone call or even your kid's soccer schedule. However, there is something greater than self. Hopefully his followers will realize that. It's possible that he did:

Carlson was a large supporter of and participant in the National Center for Family Literacy. At the time of his death, he was working on a project with them calling for "A Penny a Book" from publishers, authors and literary agents to promote literacy.


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