Breakthrough Baggage: How a winning formula becomes a strange brew

"It changed my life"

Your friend had been up against a wall until she discovered this spiritual program that helped her break through it. She was impressed--so impressed she subscribed to the whole program: the rituals, the grand assumptions, the preposterous theories.

Never mind how irrelevant they were to her breakthrough. Never mind how many other programs could have caused a similar breakthrough. Never mind how ripe she was for breakthrough by whatever means...

If you're famished, you're not a picky eater. If you're so hungry you could eat a horse, you don't look a gift horse in the mouth. That's why the hungry are the first eaten, the first to populate cults that take far-fetched beliefs on faith. The guru's popularity reflects less the quality of his answers than the yeaning driving his followers’ questions.

A breakthrough is a delicate thing. If you’ve had one, you don’t want to tamper with the formula because maybe you’ll ruin it. Instead you want to seal it so it keeps. You embrace, honor, and affirm it hook, line, and sinker. You testify to anyone who will listen. Maybe you promote it so others will benefit as you have, but mostly you say what you need to hear hoping to keep your breakthrough feeling fresh and strong.

Whole nations have experienced breakthroughs that turned them into missionaries for whatever it is they believed woke them up. They don’t take time to think about what did the waking up and what was just tag-along baggage. With the Nazi rise to power, many Germans were just glad to experience an economic breakthrough, and they were indiscriminately grateful to the political party that provided it.

Sometimes we don't kill the messenger; we marry him--and get his weird family in the bargain.

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