Last weekend I went to this really interesting seminar. It was vaguely marketed as a personal development seminar, and a friend of mine who went a few years ago had been raving about it for so long that I finally gave in and signed up. I don’t usually sign up for things like this only by a friend’s recommendation, I usually like to do research from several different sources to find out about what I think I might get involved in. Usually seminars like this turn out to be pretty good. I’ve had other friends try and recruit me to sign up for their seminars, or seminars that they have attended and feel some kind of a strange desire to tell people about. Kind of like the idea behind the seminar gets into their head somehow and they feel a need to spread it, like a virus or something.
Like this book I was reading recently about these things called “memes.” Memes are something that was invented by Richard Dawkins, the famous evolutionary biologist. Actually he didn’t invent them, he coined the term, or thought up the idea, or made it up while he was sitting in his Jacuzzi. The concept behind the idea is that there are these things that are “units of cultural information” that get passed on from person to person. Like the specific directions of how to fold an origami, or how to make a sloe gin fizz. As these units spread from person to person, they become more popular, and pretty soon everybody is folding Japanese paper and drinking English gin. Some of these “units of information” are really popular, and others are not so popular. For example, I think everybody knows about or knows somebody who knows something about the idea of breaking a mirror equals bad luck. Some place in history, you could break a mirror and it wasn’t considered unlucky. Maybe dangerous, if there were a bunch of people walking around barefoot, but not unlucky. Then one day, somebody came up with the idea of breaking a mirror is unlucky. Maybe somebody broke a mirror right before they lost a big bet on a horserace, or somebody was shaving, and slipped and banged their forehead into the mirror just as the giant earthquake hit that reversed the course of the Mississippi River. Whatever it was, somebody (perhaps the mirror breaker himself) assumed the mirror caused the bad luck, he went and told all his friends, and the meme was born.
Some memes of course, never make it past puberty. Like maybe somebody was eating a grilled cheese, and he dropped it on the floor, and then it started to hail unexpectedly. So he went and told all his friends that if you dropped your grilled cheese it will start to hail, and all his friends laughed and said he was crazy, and that particular meme died then and there. Or maybe they all believed him, and then rushed home and dropped grilled cheeses on purpose only to find that it didn’t hail. Or maybe something completely different.
So my friend went to this really crazy seminar, and he seemed to be trying really hard to convince me to go. Like the particular meme of that seminar had a really strong reproductive urge built into it. My friend was a little bit overzealous, as I kept asking him for specific reasons why the seminar was so great, and he just giving me vague reasons. He didn’t become suddenly rich, or lose a bunch of weight, or learn any Jedi magic skills or anything. Maybe they brainwashed him or something. But he did everything else normally, but whenever the topic of that particular seminar came up, he just got this crazy glazed look on his eyes, like those pod people from that old black and white movie, and started telling me I should join. He even said that when you join, you get an advisor, and you are supposed to tell people about the wonderful truth. What really turned me off was when he said that the more seminars you go to, the more you want to go to and recruit more people. I didn’t really hang out with him very much after that, and for a while I kept checking for large pods under my bed at night.
But the recent seminar was different. My friend that convinced me to go didn’t seem to have anything particular invested in me going. She kept saying it was a good seminar, and gave me a bunch of websites for me to check out so I could make my own decision. She was confident that if I did my own research, I would come to the same conclusion that she did. Of course when I Googled the name of the seminar, I found a few sites dedicated to saying it was scam and all that, but there were a lot more of other websites where people were saying that they had achieved good results.
I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy learning new things and finding ways to make life easier and more rewarding. And it’s really good when you find something like this that can do that. You want to share it with your friends not because you feel some kind of a brainwashed obligation, but because you can really see the value and think your friends might as well. And the best part is that you can trust your friends to make up their own minds, knowing that the best way to maintain a friendship is to share mutual trust and respect.