Walsch away my troubles
Not too many years ago, things weren’t going so well for Neale Donald Walsch. Divorced from his wife and unable to work because of a broken neck suffered in a car wreck, he eventually became homeless. He says he spent nearly a year "panhandling for quarters and dimes on the street and living under the stars."
Like many who are down on their luck, Neale began to wonder where God was in all this. Rather than getting drunk and shaking his fist at the Lord, however, he decided to write God a letter venting his frustrations.
And guess what? God wrote back. Or, rather, God talked back, and told Neale to write it all down. Amazingly, this did not result in Neale ending up in the city jail or a locked psych ward, as might be the case with your average homeless person who receives messages from The Maker. Instead Neale’s interaction with the great I AM resulted in a book, Conversations With God: An Uncommon Dialogue. The book became a bestseller, and in short order Conversations With God 2 and 3 came out, as did several more book-length transcripts of God/Neale exchanges, all bearing the increasingly inaccurate subtitle, An Uncommon Dialogue (my apologies to the late Douglas Adams).
Now Neale was famous, and, indeed, why wouldn’t he be? Here was a dude who talked to God, asked the Deity the toughest questions imaginable about life, the Universe and everything – and God came up with all of the right answers, tailor-made for today’s spiritual seekers! That is, they’re the right answers if you’re a sensitive new-age guy or gal, or someone who’s just grown weary of the vengeful, egocentric, Self-righteous God most of us grew up with. If you’re a born-again or more traditional type, on the other hand, the answers are not so right. They’re downright blasphemous. If that's your view, no problem – there are plenty of other books for you. So please, move right along; this blog is as unsuitable for you as Conversations With God, because the last thing I am going to accuse Neale Donald Walsch of is blasphemy.
Actually, I kind of like the God in Walsch’s books. Described by some as a humorous guy-next-door sort of Deity, Neale’s God reminds me of the "Buddy Christ" introduced by George Carlin’s priest character in the great spiritual epic film, Dogma. But this just raises the question: Is it really God, or an imposter? Well, Neale was wondering that very same thing at first, so he asked the Voice that was dictating to him if It really was God. The Voice replied, as new-age voices often do, "What difference does it make? Even if everything I’ve said is ‘wrong,’ can you think of a better way to live?" Naturally, Neale had to say, "Nope, can’t say I can." And once he got his first book deal, he knew the Voice was right, Whoever it was.
Now at last comes the event that all of Walsch’s fans have been waiting for: the release of the movie version of Conversations With God. Scheduled to open in theaters across the US on October 27, the movie has already generated quite a bit of buzz, and sneak previews are being held in various new-age/New Thought centers throughout the US.
I couldn’t help noticing that the tag line on one of the pages of the CWG website is the same one used by most state lotteries: "If it can happen to him [referring to Neale, of course], it can happen to you." Oh, I suppose it’s a bit unfair to compare Walsch’s success with winning the lottery. The odds are marginally better for becoming another Walschian success story than for winning the Lotto. All you have to do is find an agent or publisher who hasn’t already tossed thousands of unsolicited copycat CWG manuscripts into the slush pile. Or better yet, call Oprah up – she’s standing by, waiting for your call even as I write this – and tell her you’ve been talking to God and wrote a book about it. Then you’re on your way.
But I digress. What does Walsch himself think about the CWG film? In a "personal message" on the movie web site he says, "I am thrilled about this movie because I believe that the messages of Conversations With God are extraordinarily important – especially the message that what happened to me can happen to everyone, and that God talks to people all the time. If you care enough about this movie to want to know more about it, please pass word of it on to others. CWG became a worldwide bestselling book by word-of-mouth. Help us do the same with the movie! Thanks!"
So consider this post my effort to do my part for Neale, who at this point needs your and my paltry promotional efforts like Ben Affleck needs to make another bad movie.
Over the past ten years, Walsch received numerous offers to turn his books into a film, and being a man of integrity, he turned them all down. So what made him ultimately change his mind? Was he finally seduced by the prospect of receiving millions and millions more dollars? Of course not, you cynic. He was drawn to the project by producer Stephen Simon, who, Walsch explains, possessed an "extraordinarily high level of artistic integrity, vision and willingness to collaborate." (Plus he was intrigued by the prospect of receiving millions and millions more dollars.)
Stephen Simon has produced films such as Somewhere In Time, What Dreams May Come, and Indigo, the latter of which was a low-budget film in which Walsch himself was featured. Indigo is a tale of the so-called "indigo children," who are either the "next level" in humanity or poster children for the next generation of Ritalin. Simon, by his own declaration, is on a journey to have "Spiritual Cinema" recognized as its own genre. He views this genre as "the twenty-first Century version of shamanic storytelling – with filmmakers as the modern day shamans, sitting around a celluloid campfire, passing down the myths and hopes of a culture from one generation to another."
Only in the case of the twenty-first century shamans, you have to pay actual money to get the myths passed down to you. Nothing is free anymore. And if in the process some of the shamans get obscenely rich, it's all for the good of humanity.
So passionate is Stephen Simon about his mission that he has even co-founded a sort of Spiritual-Movie-of-the-Month Club, touted as "The world’s first transformational DVD club." For only $21 a month you get a hand-picked selection of what one enthralled member describes as "meaningful, spiritually-evolved films." Even Deepak Chopra has endorsed this DVD club, so you know it’s the real deal.
I believe Simon is on to something. After What The Bleep?, The Secret, The Celestine Prophecy, the aforementioned Dogma, and now Conversations with God, it’s pretty clear that Spiritual Cinema is a shoe-in for the next big wave in filmmaking – bigger than Bollywood, even. Not surprisingly, the adult entertainment industry has plunged into this genre as well, and you can already find numerous "Spiritual Sinema" selections at your local 24-hour newsstand.
By the way, according to the CWG movie website, the movie was filmed over the course of five weeks "in and around beautiful Ashland, Oregon," which is where Neale lives. Coincidentally enough, this is also the home of noted channeler and JZ Knight wannabe Swami Blonde, the lady with the splotchy forehead, whom you met earlier in this blog. There must be something very holy about Ashland. I bet the real estate prices reflect it.
At any rate, Neale Donald Walsch is on an apparent roll. He continues to produce his books, CDs, DVDs and other materials, is deeply involved with his nonprofit ReCreation Foundation, which, near as I can tell, exists mainly to promote CWG, and he is one of the most in-demand keynote speakers in the world. He is now considered an expert on everything from relationships to the future of the Planet Earth. And now there’s this movie, sure to be a big hit, due in no small part to the fact that I am promoting it by word of blog. It seems there’s no stopping our Neale.
There is, however, one potential glitch in his perfect life: a recent lawsuit that could have ruinous consequences. Kept hush-hush until now,* the litigation could conceivably bring the Walsch empire crashing down.
In late August, God sued Walsch on several counts, including invasion of privacy, unauthorized publication of private conversations, and numerous inaccuracies (particularly in the volumes, Marriage To God and Temporary Separation From God). God is asking for an unspecified amount in damages, as well as generous royalties from all CWG books and auxiliary products, and 50% of the profits from the film. Since logistical difficulties prevent God from managing funds in the physical realm, She/He/It has stipulated that damages and royalties are to be paid directly to the Cosmic Connie Foundation, care of this blog. Stay tuned here for updates** on this potentially devastating lawsuit.
Meanwhile, I’m off to buy a lottery ticket. God told me to. At least I’m pretty sure it was God, because when I asked my Buddy Christ Bobblehead if it was, he nodded and gave me the thumbs-up. Hey, I've got it made.
*And, it might be argued, it’s hush-hush even now, since only three or four people read this blog, and they’re not talking. Sorry, Neale; I guess you’re going to have to rely on other everyday folk for your movie’s publicity blitz after all.
** If I feel moved to provide them.