My father and I are staggeringly similar. My wife never quite understood it until she met him at my sister’s wedding. At the rehearsal dinner he and I had ordered the same thing, and could be observed pushing the same foods safely to the margins of the plate. We have a similar sort of dry sense of humor, although his is more seasoned by age and having grown up in an era that, frankly, had a more sophisticated bunch of comedians. We are both known to push the boundaries of our respective crafts (he makes Uilleann bagpipes), and we both have packrat tendencies. The similarities go on.
Without going too far into gory family history, my father and my mother divorced early in my own history, and he remarried later on. His new wife had a son in a previous marriage whom I had not met until last year around Christmas, when my wife (then fiancee) went to visit them. He had an intense personality, and on one evening he pulled out this movie he said we needed to watch. We hadn’t heard of it. It was called “The Secret”. I looked at the back and said, “This is a self-help movie, right?”
We couldn’t gracefully get out of watching it once it was on the table. My wife made a valiant effort and sat through most of it, but my father and I couldn’t take it. It was too ridiculous. We hung out in the kitchen and made snarky comments out of earshot.
It has long been my opinion, having worked in libraries and bookstores, that self-help books are 30% common sense and 70% bullshit. They prey on people’s lack of critical thinking and poor logic skills by putting in some things that almost everyone intuitively knows to be true, but rather than continuing in a logical direction, they spin off in far-fetched pseudo-scientific directions and new-age spiritualism. People who are taken in by these books will connect with the 30% and assume the other 70% is true.
So it was only fitting that this year I play a little (short-lived) joke on my father. I didn’t get underway until late in the season so I couldn’t get it to him for Christmas, but he appreciated it anyway. I bought a copy of the hardback version of The Secret from half.com — I think I paid more in shipping than for the book itself — and consulted with a friend of mine who is a professional bookbinder. She sent me some web tutorials for hollowing out books. I used a little from each and added my own little flairs to make the technique my own, but in the end I had a book that looked normal from the outside, but the inside was hollow.
Really, what better thing could you do with a book entitled “The Secret”?
But what to put in it? I took a walk to my local gourmet grocery and perused the chocolate section. I finally decided to take a gamble on a box of Lake Champlain Chocolates — a taste of home for both of us — that looked like it would fit. Not only did it fit, but it fit perfectly in all three dimensions, and the book closed seamlessly.
I wrapped it with unassuming wrapping paper and on the outside of the paper I wrote “This book CHANGED MY LIFE. I hope you will absorb its wisdom and share its contents with those close to you.”