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Spare me those soppy inspirational and pseudo-spiritual emails
by Graeme J. Davidson
11 August 2007

..As is the case with most of these online fables, I felt manipulated by crude analogy and sentiment rather than convinced by reason.

....Misguided friends persist in sending me scores of inspirational and quasi-religious emails in the forlorn hope I’ll gain a deep insight that’ll bring on a 20-second rush of spiritual ecstasy that I must share with others.
....Among the latest batch of feel-good folk religion was one about a doctor and patient. “I’m afraid to die. Tell me what lies on the other side,” the dying man asks the devout doctor. At that moment there’s whining and scratching at the door. A dog springs into the room and leaps excitedly on the doctor. Turning to the patient, the doctor says, “My dog has never been in this room. He knew nothing except that his master was here and when the door opened, he sprang in without fear. I know little of what’s on the other side of death, but I know one thing. My master’s there and that’s enough.”
....I couldn’t resist replying with a sardonic twist to the tale: “Father O’Brien, about to say the last rites for the dying man, looked aghast at the doctor. ‘If heaven’s like that, then I’ll have to learn to slobber and jump up and down.”
.... As is the case with most of these online fables, I felt manipulated by crude analogy and sentiment rather than convinced by reason.
....If you’re lucky enough to have computer firewalls that block this tasteless candyfloss, let me explain what you’re missing. These fake pearls are a collection of allegories, aphorisms, anecdotes and poems often festooned with animated flowers, butterflies, pets and pictures of blissful people in idyllic scenes. And, oh yes, gossamer fairies and other ethereal beings often hover.
.... The comment at the bottom of the dying patient fable is typical: “I believe that friends are quiet angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly.” The words “quiet” and “angels” don’t naturally spring to mind when I think of my friends. And I suspect they’d rather imagine me with a tail and two horns than with troublesome wings that suffer from Alzheimer’s.
....Kids and their religious insights are always popular, like this explanation from an alleged eight-year old: “God doesn't make grownups, just babies I think because they’re smaller and easier to make. That way he doesn't have to take up his valuable time teaching them to talk and walk. He can leave that to mothers and fathers.” Researchers found that adults often write this cute kid stuff and attribute it to children.
....Many are chain emails: “To receive further blessings, pass this to 10 friends today. Do this and you’ll help make this world a better place.” The arrogant assumption is that your friends will love this banal cyber-pollution clogging their inbox. Far from making the world a better place, this trite pap is as welcome as a tax increase. And as it’s been sent by a friend, we click “Delete” because we haven’t the heart to reply, “I want to thrust my fingers down my throat".
....Nearly two million websites offer the online version of inspirational greeting cards – that we pay over five bucks for at shops – containing the kind of doggerel popularised by Helen Steiner Rice. Acclaimed as "America's beloved inspirational poet laureate" and “ambassador of sunshine,” she made buckets of money writing 72 books of verses that still appear on cards 26 years after her death.
.... Here’s a typical email poem that echoes the Rice style: “I cannot predict the future, I cannot change the past. I have just the present moment. I must treat it as my last.” Another verse tells me to “win friends”. But there doesn’t seem much point if I’m going to treat each moment as my last.
....Why do so-called friends deluge us with this kitsch? The usual answer is that it connects with deep inner beliefs and ideals at an emotional level. It gives the recipient warm fuzzies when it resonates with their aspirations and sentiments. And those deluded enough to send them usually select victims they think will swoon in ecstasy.
....So, dear reader, if you connect at a deep emotional level with my disdain for soppy inspirational emails, you’ll be truly blessed and make the world a better place if you rush out now, buy 10 copies of The Dominion Post and send this column to 10 friends today.




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