A Fairy Tale

White-haired and -bearded wizard with robes an...

An otherwise intelligent friend who tends to read about this sort of thing a lot forwarded me this link about “The Law of Attraction” (ala The Secret). After I delivered a somewhat immoderate blast about the nature of reality and how consciousness, while certainly a mystery and all that, is misplaced in this sort of discussion, he asked me to pretend he was my 4-year-old and to tell him a “bedtime story” that represents my idea about “the universe.” This is how I obliged. I’m not sure he got the allegory, but I thought it was rather obvious.

Once upon a time there was a young prince who went out into the woods to find some treasure. He walked around for hours and days and months, but he couldn’t find any. Then, he went to a wizard. The wizard told him: “If you want to find treasure, you must first learn how to search for it properly.

And the prince stayed with the wizard for 7 years and 7 months and 7 days and read a lot of books and thought about a lot of things and the wizard taught the prince how to tell when he was close to treasure. He also taught the prince how sometimes, even if he thinks he’s close to treasure, he isn’t, really. And sometimes even if he’s really sure he’s right, he should still think about all the things the wizard taught him to make sure, and if they didn’t agree, he should be really, really sure before he ignores what the wizard said.

And then the prince went out and searched for years and years. Finally, he did find some treasure, but it was a lot less than he had hoped for, and he was disappointed. But along the way he found a princess and found out a lot of cool things, and had a lot of fun. So he was still happy that he had gone out to find the treasure instead of sitting around in the castle all day.

In the end, he and the princess took the treasure and went back to the palace and lived happily ever after.

(In another version of this story he finds a lot of treasure. In another version a bandit kills him before he meets the wizard at all. In another version the prince is gay.)

I should add that I find the basic argument of the article (positive thoughts seem to help, so regardless of whether the mumbo-jumbo is true or not, why not try heeding the advice?) more or less sound. The immoderation was provoked by the other parts of the article and how the author makes a feeble attempt at “science”, and the discussion was more a continuation of similar discussions we have had before. Also, the many-worlds hypothesis, which apparently this guy has never heard of.

PS: This quote from T.H. White’s The Once and Future King is one of my absolute favourites.