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Michael: Today from the Imaginal Realm, we have two guests, rock musician Kurt Cobain and positive thinking guru, Norman Vincent Peale. It seems this unlikely duo has teamed up to sell their new book, Change is Not a Virtue, being hailed on Earth II as the best book since Madalyn Murray O’Hair’s, Holy Crap, Was I Ever Wrong. I’d like to welcome you both to our program.
Peale and Cobain in unison: Thank you.
Michael: Let’s begin with Doctor Norman Vincent Peale. You say in the preface of your new book that you regret writing all of those other books on self help and positive thinking. Why?
Norman Vincent Peale: I don’t regret writing everything I wrote. There were helpful ideas in all of them, but they focused too much on self.
Michael: Your new book seems to question the importance of change. Don't we need to change?
Norman Vincent Peale: It doesn’t question the importance of change, just the role and purpose of change. Transience and transformation are part of life. All things blossom and dissolve within the flow of time. But change for change-sake is not a virtue. Sometimes, the desire for change is a symptom of avoidance, a ploy to go unconscious and avoid my restless self.
Michael: But we are all excited about a presidential candidate who believes in change.
Norman Vincent Peale: It seems to me that the current political obsession to ‘believe in change’ may be a symptom that you are becoming a nation of addicts.
Michael: That’s a controversial statement, meaning?
Norman Vincent Peale: After you are dead, nothing is controversial, just clearer. I’m going to let my co-author, Mr. Kurt Cobain, address this; it is his area of expertise.
Kurt Cobain: The word 'addict' comes from two Latin words meaning 'to speak toward.' The addict is always speaking toward, or affirming whatever helps him/her avoid pain and discomfort. When I was with the band Nirvana, even after getting rich and famous, I lived for change; I couldn’t sit still. I hated the way I felt and wanted to change it. Sadly, people stereotype addicts as those abusing drugs and alcohol. Look at how people on Earth I are living in chronic state of trying to change everything!
• Change the TV channel – channel surfing
• Change the music – songs must be no more than 3 minutes long
• Change my wardrobe – shopping for more, something new
• Change of scenery – traveling
• Change of diet - eating
• Change my physical appearance
• Change relationships – serial monogamy – sexual conquests – falling in love again
• Change my car
• Google, google, google
• Change video games
• Change my career – moving up the ladder
• Change my bank account and investment portfolio
• Change sinners to saints
• Change conservatives to liberals
• Change liberals to conservatives
• Convert people to my religion
• Change people’s minds by criticizing and arguing
• Rearrange my furniture
• Rearrange my garden
• Buy more art
• Take more classes, read more books
• See new movies
• Gather and hoard more, look at it, count it
• Change my electronic gadgets for newer ones
Michael: Doctor Peale, you were known for Positive Thinking. Kurt’s evaluation is pretty negative.
Norman Vincent Peale: None of these activities is bad. They can be very healthy and beneficial. But when done to fill the empty hole in a self centered soul, they become pathways to mental and physical disease - insanity, heart attacks, depression, joint pain, anxiety, cancer or suicide. Fortunately, self obsession is a recognized disease here on Earth II, in fact, the Mother of all diseases. But it is treatable.
Michael: When you speak of Earth I and Earth II, what do you mean?
Norman Vincent Peale: Earth I is what humans call 'Earth.' It is where we began as baby soul seeds, as little nascent egos; a sort of psycho-spiritual kindergarten (child garden). Except for a few rare exceptions, most of our Earth I ancestors spent their days in survival mode, gathering food and preparing shelter, taking care of crops, animals, children and each other. That went on for hundreds of thousands of years. Then a shift took place around 600 BC, people became more self conscious and began to develop much more quickly over the next two thousand years. Lots of new ideas and inventions popped up.
Michael: So Earth I is where you lived before you died and came here to Earth II?
Norman Vincent Peale: Yes, and on Earth I, another shift took place when Jesus’ teachings about universal compassion and equality caught on. A new world slowly evolved, initiating the gradual abolition of Greco-Roman slavery, capricious Paganism, and the rigid class distinctions. Countless monasteries were founded, inventing humane labor saving technologies, capitalistic economics and universities which studied the nature of God and His logical universe. Over a period of about 1,500 years those ideas and actions flowered into what Earth I people called the Modern scientific era.
Michael: How was Jesus' God better than the Pagan or Eastern Gods?
Norman Vincent Peale: I never said 'better', just different. The Pagan Gods were unpredictable and their universe was beyond figuring out. These Pagan Gods were just to be experienced mystically, never understood, and their world was cyclical like the seasons - nothing could be changed. Jesus presented a God that was not only personal, but loving, logical and linear. His universe could be studied, laws found and progress made. The Pagan Gods had little concern for humans and would just as soon kill them as look at them. Jesus presented a God-image that loved the whole world and wanted them 'saved' from their errors and sins.
Michael: That contradicts most of western history which calls Christianity the 'Dark Ages.'
Norman Vincent Peale: Yeah, dogma comes in many forms, the Imaginal Realm allows more perspective. Anyway, with the advent of the modern world, suddenly people had lots of spare time since most of their basic needs were met through myriad labor saving devices. And they had more time to do what comes naturally, think about their selves and their natural desires. There was time to get bored and wonder. Days were no longer filled with the necessary requirements for staying alive, but with hundreds of options for gratifying physical and emotional longings. The longing greatly increased emotional pain as so many desires went unfulfilled. There was lots of time to compare and judge what they didn't have or were afraid of losing. The idle desiring human mind becomes a starving, omnivorous predator.
Michael: So, back to the book. When does change become bad?
Norman Vincent Peale: When change itself becomes the focus. Restless, desiring minds must be filled or constantly seeking. If something isn't 'working,' change is required. Change has become the number one aim of the modern world on Earth I - the focus of everything from advertising to religion. Many spend their evenings changing the channels on their televisions only to find some commercial telling them to change their hygiene practices or car insurance. They are always coming up with new words for change, like ‘make-over’ and ‘design’. Talk shows from Dr. Phil to Oprah draw millions daily who are bored and looking for change. The American Medical Association makes billions of dollars yearly by developing pharmaceuticals which promise people changes in emotional and mental conditions. Therapy and self help programs earn millions by teaching them how to change their relationships, jobs and most importantly, feelings! Religions promise them they will change their lives, and millions respond. And yes, of course some of these changes do improve our lives, but for how long? People often find themselves excited by the change, but a few minutes, hours or days later they are in search of the next change.
Kurt Cobain: I can speak from experience. I learned here on Earth II that my soul will never be content when focused solely upon me and my desires. I wish that were not true because my natural propensity is to focus on my empty and needy little self, even here on Earth II - the musical notes are clearer, women more gorgeous, food tastier, wine more intoxicating and money more plentiful. This place can be either Purgatory, Hell or Heaven depending on how clearly you see the problem and the solution. Whoever put these Earth-schools together knew exactly now much poverty and prosperity to place around the growing souls.
Michael: I recall C.S. Lewis writing a book about that called, The Great Divorce.
Kurt Cobain: But the irony is that the more I try to meet my needs through chronic change, the more needy I become. In other words, I seek the very thing that kills me. It is by chronically obsessing on how I can distract and divert myself that I create a larger hole to fill, an expanding sink hole which feeds on itself and can never be filled. On Earth I, the day I put the shotgun in my mouth, I had a wife, a new child, cars, new guitars, more money than I thought I would ever see – I was known and sought after on every continent, women adored me, men envied me. I had unlimited access to drugs and alcohol, and then it dawned on me - I had never been more empty and miserable. There was nothing on the planet that could make me happy.
Michael: So what have you learned here?
Kurt Cobain: I gradually came to see that at any given moment of the day I am seeking either self obsessive distractions, or ways to really serve others in making souls. The only time I am really, really content is when I am helping, or after I have helped, another human being without the expectation of a certain outcome or reward of any kind. Anyone who has been caught in a flood or other communal disaster knows the natural high that comes from being out of the self and into helping others in need.
Michael: I read that Bill Gates recently retired as the CEO of Microsoft in order to devote his efforts to philanthropic enterprises. He said that giving away what he has gained is more rewarding these days than making more.
Kurt Cobain: Smart guy.
Norman Vincent Peale: I am still a positive fellow, you know, so let me say that changes or 'distractions' can be very beneficial when we use them to refuel for the next round of service. Distractions and diversions are like roadside rest stops, places of respite, not the ultimate destination.
Michael: But there are a lot of very serving and loving people on Earth I.
Norman Vincent Peale: Of course! But be careful! Some of the most self obsessed people are those who think they are serving and loving others. They often do not see their own self obsession. They are public servants who are always bemoaning the problems of the world; they are the wives and mothers who are always complaining that their husbands and children do not appreciate them or cooperate; they are the men who work their fingers to the bone for their families and justify the little sexual affair on the side or the alcohol and drug abuse to help them unwind.
Michael: Can you give an example?
Norman Vincent Peale: In a remedial soul-making class last year, what the Catholics call Purgatory, I met a very self effacing and giving woman who boasted about her service to her family when she alive on Earth I. She had three children, a husband, a full time job and attended church every Sunday. She served as a community volunteer and attended every PTA meeting, took her kids to soccer practice after work, cooked dinner most nights and ran herself ragged until she dropped into bed at night, exhausted. Even in our class, most considered her a saint and the perfect wife, mother and citizen.
But as the weeks went on, most of her ‘sharing’ was about how no one recognized or appreciated just how much she gave. She spoke incessantly of her husband who never helped clean the house. She whined on and on about how the kids weren’t grateful for her superhuman dedication, how people at work took advantage of her kind heart, how her mother in law was too critical, how her friends were never there for her, and on and on and on she went. One night, after about her twentieth time saying, “No one ever appreciated me,” she went stone silent and turned a little more pale than usual, and whimpered, “me.” Then again, “me,” “me,” “me,” – I swear, for a moment her face looked cat-like. She slowly rose and moved over to an open couch and curled up, whispering, “me,” “me,” “me,” over and over. This may be the most insidious form of self obsession – selfless self obsession. There is no more pathetic disguise for self pity than when passed off as, 'see how good I am and how no one appreciates me.'
Kurt Cobain: These people are addicted to self obsessive change as well; they are hiding their selfish selves by hanging on crosses for people to see and pity them. They laud themselves for being such ‘good’ people. Yet many such people are no more content than the heroine addict seeking his next fix. They use martyrdom instead of a chemical to distract themselves from their selves. Their lives may not deteriorate as fast as the drug addict, but their emotional state is similar – restless, irritable and discontented, always in search of the next distracting whine session, complaint or subtle display of superiority.
Michael: But what about religious people? There are a lot of good servants of God on Earth I.
Norman Vincent Peale: I wonder. As a minister, I used to get calls from people seeking a new church – they’d tell me of all of the churches they had ‘sampled’ and where those churches fell short. These people were always seeking a change, desiring a place to be fed and made happier, wealthier, healthier and more abundant. They’d come to a church to be served or saved. But over the years I saw that such people were never content, and rarely found the health and wealth they thought the church ought to give them. They almost always left to find a better church to fill them up. I now see that they were religious addicts, often disguising their self-centered lives in a metaphysical or biblical ideology. I have been such, and still fall back into that mindset.
Michael: So you are saying it is better to give than to receive?
Norman Vincent Peale: Better? No, just more practical. It simply works to bring serenity and joy. Our book never tells people what they ‘have’ to do. It simply points out that self-obsession in any form never leaves one content or happy. Find what you have been given, and share it with others.
Kurt Cobain: This is important. We can give only what we have. It is not my responsibility to help those where I have no experience or means. But I can help others with the gifts, experiences, strengths and talents I have learned from living.
Michael: Let me see if I can summarize what I’ve heard: Change alone is not a virtue. The desire for change is sometimes just the self obsessive need for a new distraction, the addicts pursuit of escape from chronic desire and discontent. Be wary of those promising ‘change’ for change sake. If you are chronically discontent, frequently restless, obsessed with not being loved enough, not having the right partner or lacking in any area - consider reversing the order from self to other, of helping another human being without the expectation of a certain outcome or reward of any kind.
Norman Vincent Peale: Positively thoughtful summary.
Kurt Cobain: Yep, that is the way to Nirvana.
Michael: We have gone over our allotted time, so a heartfelt thanks to Doctor Norman Vincent Peale and Kurt Cobain. Their new book, Change is Not a Virtue can be purchased on Imaginazon.Com. Until our next interview, from Beyond the Grave, good night.