I Feel Better Already

I went to Marianne Williamson to be healed, not that I thought there was anything wrong with me, particularly. But I felt an emptiness in my life that mere material possessions could never fill-or if they could, I'd have to be richer than David Geffen, who is probably the richest of the many unimaginably rich and successful people who have sought guidance from her. If Williamson-Hollywood's hottest nondenominational preacher, writer and philanthropist-could help give meaning to the existence of Raquel Welch and Cher, I assumed no life was too empty for her to improve. Surrounded by doubt, I longed to hear from someone whose faith was so strong that she undertook the most daunting spiritual challenge of our time, officiating at Elizabeth Taylor's last marriage.

I found her last week in Philadelphia, where she was promoting her new book of postfeminist musing, "A Woman's Worth." This may be the first book of inspirational wisdom ever rejected by a wholesaler on the ground that the cover (a languid seminude by photographer Joyce Tenneson) was too racy. But with 425,000 copies in print it was already No. I on the Times best-seller list last week (in the category of "Advice, How-to and Miscellaneous")-a position held for 23 weeks last year by Williamson's first book ' "A Return to Love." "A Woman's Worth" is also mostly about love, which Williamson views as the key not just to personal salvation but worldwide redemption: "Some men," she writes, "know that a light touch of the tongue, running from a woman's toes to her ears, lingering in the softest way possible in various places in between, given often enough and sincerely enough, would add immeasurably to world peace." That's the kind of spiritual advice you don't get every day, no matter how much TV you watch.

I especially wanted to be healed by Marianne Williamson because I suspected she had me in mind when she called the current age "one of the most mean-spirited times in American history." The audience of some 400 women, several dozen men and me shifted uneasily in our seats as she went on to decry the "knee-jerk reaction to put people down . . . the press, God bless 'em, talk about being watchdogs, but who's watching them?" I knew that she was unhappy with some of the stories that had been written and broadcast about her in the past year, criticizing her temper, her allegedly highhanded dealings with the boards of her charities (which provide services to AIDS patients in New York and Los Angeles) and even calling into question her moral authority as the 40-year-old, never-married mother of a 3-year-old daughter by a man she won't name. But I wasn't interested in her personality. I wanted her message.

And I learned some things, although I'm not sure they're going to be all that helpful to me in my life, after all. Williamson celebrates an intuitive, emotional and passionate mode of thinking that in my field goes by the term, " sloppy." "We should be able to talk in circles and not apologize!" she exclaimed. Looking in her book, I found plenty of examples. For instance: "There's a new breed [of men] forming . . . They are quite young, some of them, and they are older also"-a thought so perfectly circular that it reduces to zero. She writes: "Women must stop trying to be good enough, except for God"-which implies that God has standards to be met. But no: "People judge us; God doesn't. When we listen to God, it's very clear to us that we're more than good enough already." In other words, you don't have to try after all.

Honor thy spirit: To be fair, I may have been the only one there who didn't get it. Everyone but me seemed persuaded by her analysis of the drug problem: "The problem in the world is not so many people intent on doing Williamson evil, but so few people intent on doing good." Only one other person was less than completely satisfied with Williamson's explanations. "I try to honor my spirit every day," a young woman complained from the back of the room, "but it's so difficult to practice my truth."

"Like-minded people are magnetized into our space," Williamson reminded her.

"Yeah," she persisted, "but in everyday life, you deal with so many people who are not magnetized."

I thought I knew just how she felt. And so when I asked Williamson what advice she had for a middle-aged journalist with magnetic problems, I took careful notes. I need "a higher sense of purpose, a spiritual evolution. A breakthrough to realizing what you're really on the planet for."

"The society we grow up in promotes an orientation toward life which is loveless," Williamson went on. "Middle-aged crisis is a time of disillusionment. A realization that just making enough money won't do it for you."

Which I think contains a lot of wisdom.

Of course, it would be a lot easier to accept if I had as much money as David Geffen.

I Feel Better Already | News