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Spoofs & Satire

We Are Not Beasts, We Are Gurus

Stranded on a desert island, a panel of self-help authors must rely on their wits and catchphrases to survive.

Brain/Cloud (With Seascape and Palm Tree), John Baldessari, 2009. Courtesy the artist and Counter Editions.

“I think this is an island,” announced Eckhart Tolle. The author of The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment clambered up the rocks overlooking the shore and scratched at the beard growing predominantly on his neck. “It certainly appears to be an island that we’re on now. And we must remember now is the only moment that matters.” He eyed the surf below, thinking it looked beautiful.

Wearing only an Ultimate Edge™-branded loincloth and a wireless microphone clipped to the side of his face, Tony Robbins effortlessly leapt up the rocks. “I think we’re the only survivors,” Tony said excitedly. “That would mean limitless potential for development of our own goals.”

Eckhart shrugged in response.

Tony picked up a conch shell, which seemed to disappear within his enormous hands, and addressed the others on the beach below. “Well folks, as you all know by now, we are stuck on this island. And I know what you are all thinking. How can I do this? How can I go on? You’re standing there with all your impotent goals swirling around in your mind. Well let me answer those questions for you. You can. Yes. And of course. I’ll help you.”

“Um, Tony, really,” Eckhart interjected. “We all understand the situation. Our cruise liner sank. We’ve been here for a few hours. This is hardly necessary.”

Tony gave him a cold look and muttered, “You don’t have the conch,” then turned back to the others. “I think you’ll all remember what I said on board earlier and I think you’ll find it rings especially true given our current situation. You see, life is a precious gift that offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to—”

“No, I’m serious,” Eckhart said firmly. “I think your heart is in the right place, but right now—and might I remind you, that’s all we have: the now—we need to think clearly, we need to all sit down and figure out what the plan is, because we might be stuck here a very long time.”

“We need to organize!” shouted David Allen from the beach, who had been busy arranging his waterlogged copies of Getting Things Done in the sun. Both Eckhart and Tony looked down at him, their eyes narrowing. David, sensing everyone’s attention, stood up tall, pushed his glasses back up his nose, and tried to wipe the sweat from his forehead.

“Come on! Seriously? Organization is the key to success? Folks, you are taking advice from a man who isn’t even holding the conch.”

“I mean, much of the stress that people feel doesn’t come from them having too much of it, but from not finishing what they started,” he said, puffing his chest out. “This anxiety we are feeling isn’t from the captain screaming ‘Mayday, mayday,’ or the untimely conclusion of our all-inclusive self-help cruise package. It’s not from watching the deck attendants slide overboard into shark-infested waters or because we suddenly have to fend for ourselves for the first time in our lives. No. What the anxiety is caused by is the fact that we aren’t properly organized and prepared. Thus I propose we begin by dividing up portions of land, color-coding them accordingly, and then—”

“Come on! Seriously? Organization is the key to success?” Tony decried. “Folks, you are taking advice from a man who isn’t even holding the conch.” He held the conch up, flexed his bicep.

“Listen everybody, I’m sensing a lot of tension in the jungle here and, honestly, I think you are sort of sweating the small stuff,” said Richard Carlson, author of Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff … and It’s All Small Stuff. “In this kind of life event, well, in any life event really, perspective is key. And that is what we are all losing here,” he said, pacing along the beach. “We just had, might I say, a really stellar spiritual and economic experience earlier, even if the cruise did end up sinking. We exchanged ideas, we had brunch, we moved a lot of product and totally helped so many people. Now things are different. To hold on and not accept that change is to be serious and uptight. What we need to do is lighten up.”

“He’s right,” bellowed Dr. Phil, as he dragged a dead boar onto the beach with a bowie knife still stuck in its side. “As I’ve always said, coaching your wife is like trying to baptize a cat, and boar hunting, well that ain’t no big thing.” He smiled and wiped his nose, inadvertently smearing his mustache with blood. “If we harbor anger and bitterness toward one another on this island, then we will be locked in that bond. And that won’t be good for any of you.” He looked them all over then slowly wiped the bowie knife off on the sleeve of his coat.

Tony waved the conch around in the air angrily. “Does this conch not mean anything to you? There is no abiding success without commitment! Is that not registering?”

Blank stares from everyone.

Tony continued, “I’m going to say this once. Listen carefully. Take control of your consistent emotions and consciously and deliberately reshape your life, because if you do what you’ve always done then you are just going to get what you’ve always gotten.”

“I got this boar! That’s something new I’ve gotten. So how about a luau?” offered Phil, all folksy, and everyone but Tony laughed.

“Oh Phil,” sighed Eckhart. “You’re never a bore.” More laughter.

It would be a few more hours until the factions began to form.

Epilogue

Three days later the coast guard search party arrived, alerted by the sight of color-coded tags fluttering on trees. Further investigation revealed the presence of several villages comprised of small huts, all made entirely of self-help books. Along the rocky northern coast, a makeshift raft constructed from duffle bags and DVD cases danced in the surf. Most disturbing was the boar’s head on the stake. It was positioned along the beach and stared out to sea with a hands-free microphone stuck to its cheek.

Zane Shetler lives and teaches in Durham, NC. More of his articles can be found at zaneshetler.tumblr.com. More by Zane Shetler