Book Review: You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought (2002)

A book for people with any life threatening illness… including life
by Peter McWilliams
Review by Brian Wright

You Can't Afford the Luxury of a Negative ThoughtThanks to some interaction on Facebook and MySpace, I’ve discovered a whole new subculture of Peter McWilliams devotees that I had never imagined.

It was in 2002, in Anaheim, CA, I witnessed David Nolan[1] tearfully address the Libertarian Party National Convention on the subject of Peter’s lifelong struggle against tyranny—Peter died 6/14/2000, murdered by federal drug officials. I was equally moved by David’s tribute to this wonderful man, recalling David explaining that Peter never felt hatred toward his legalized killers. That experience, followed by reading Peter’s book lambasting “consensual crimes:” Ain’t Nobody’s Business if You Do, led me to regard him as one of the leading icons of the freedom movement.

Peter is a fellow Michiganian, born near Detroit in the same year I was: 1949. He attended Eastern Michigan, then began a lifelong affair with what I’ll refer to as “writing and spiritual development.”[2] His “self-published 40 books” is impressive. In addition to these Life and Love series of books, Peter was well regarded for an introductory work on personal computing: The Personal Computer Book (1982). He was also in the media from time to time, appearing on Oprah Winfrey, Larry King, Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael, and the old Regis Philbin Show.

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In 1994, after battling and conquering his own depression, Peter co-wrote a book with Harold Bloomfield, M.D., How to Heal Depression. This book was followed by Hypericum (St. John’s Wort) and Depression. These books show how depression can be cured through natural means. You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought was first published in 1988, as part of the “Life 101” series, clearly intended to deal with negative thinking of a general audience. Though it does mention depression and provide some definitions: mainly holding that depression is a medical condition corresponding to a screwup in one’s neurotransmitters. [McWilliams goes on to claim that modern pharmaceuticals such as Prozac deal with depression effectively, and that Hypericum (St. John’s Wort)—widely used in Europe—is a marvel.]

Negative thinking, on the other hand, can be addressed in the conscious mind with a wide array of learned behavior. The book falls short of being a full success system (say, like James Lee Valentine’s MillionaireX7 program), mainly because it is not a deep systematic book. What Peter has done is stay toward the lighter side, offering digestible chunks of advice and observation that, nonetheless, lead the reader in a positive direction. Although he suggests the essentials of a success system (identifying dreams, values, goals, and action-steps)—in entertaining, usable practices— the idea of the book seems to be mainly to familiarize the reader with the language of leading a joyful life… not to be a rigorous manual.

What you get and what you appreciate most with this little gem is the life-affirming, humorous, deeply comprehending personality of its author. Even though there is a sequential structure and flow, you can start your reading at any point, read a few pages, get some words of wisdom and inspiration, then repeat. As a complement, Peter includes a generous helping of fitting quotations—indeed, I find McWilliams one of the better quote gatherers in the universe. Let me offer but a few of the 50-100 I’ve tagged:

Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day. — Thomas Jefferson

The music that can deepest reach,
and cure all ill, is cordial speech. — Emerson

Beware! To touch these wires is instant death.
Anyone found doing so will be prosecuted.
— Sign at a railroad station

The sound of her silk skirt has stopped.
On the marble pavement dust grows.
Her empty room is cold and still.
Fallen leaves are piled against the doors.
How can I bring my aching heart to rest?
— Han Wu-Ti, 157-87 BC, on the death of his mistress

You grow up the day you have the first real laugh… at yourself. — Ethel Barrymore

The man who is tenacious of purpose in a rightful cause is not shaken from his firm resolve by the frenzy of his fellow citizens clamoring for what is wrong, or by the tyrant’s threatening countenance. — Horace, 65-8 BC

Martians build two immense canals in two years:
Vast engineering works accomplished in an incredibly short time by our planetary neighbors
— New York Times front page headline, August 27, 1911 (illustrating the importance of not believing everything you read in the papers)

He brings up so many pearls, I’m including them in my own compilation of quotes for my writings. Typically, the authors of these quotes—from Shakespeare to Woody Allen—hit the mark dead solid perfect. And Peter’s own words are full of pith and substance; I’ve likewise tagged 25-20 excerpts from the text portions. Peter shows a phenomenal awareness of every self-help idea that ever came down the pike, such as this passage which is reminiscent of The Secret and its Law of Attraction.[3]

Tens of thousands of cancer patients, whose cancers have been in “spontaneous remission” for years, know why [their cancers went away]. They changed their thinking, and the thinking changed the course of their cancer. — page 66

So that’s my review of this sterling self-help companion. Anyone would do well to order the hard copy and keep it constantly on one’s bedstand, read a few pages every night… or morning as the case may be. In many ways, Negative Luxury is Peter McWilliams’ self-portrait, the “music that can deepest reach, and cure all ill, cordial speech” from his person to our persons with conviction in his heart and a twinkle in his eye. Sort of a casual love sonnet to the human race.

Thanks, pal. And comes the revolution we promise to keep your noble love in our hearts as we round up the evildoers who did you dead, gut-shoot them with a .22 pistol, and film them dying, writhing in agony on a concrete floor while your speech to the 1998 Libertarian Party National Convention bathes them in 80 decibels of continuous sound, 24/7, from a 100-inch television Hi-Def screen. Just kidding. (We may not keep that love in our hearts.) 🙂

[1] David Nolan, founder of the Libertarian Party, died, I’m sad to say, only this week, November 21, 2010. I knew David through regular email-correspondence, and remember him in particular for this warm homage in Anaheim to a fallen hero.

[2] From the Wikipedia on Peter: “…he read widely and was a fan of Paul Krassner’s periodical The Realist and Albert Ellis’ rational emotive therapy. After experimenting with yoga and LSD he also did group therapy with Melba Colgrove. McWilliams began transcendental meditation with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and wrote both The TM Book (by himself) and then later TM with Harold H. Bloomfield, M.D., leaving the TM organization shortly after introduction of its “TM-Sidhi Program.” He was active in Erhard Seminars Training with Werner Erhard whom he greatly admired and also Stuart Emory’s “Actualizations” LGAT before meeting John-Roger Hinkins in the fall of 1978 and its “Insights” program. He wrote nearly 40 books that he self-published under the names Versemonger Press and Prelude Press.”

[3] The Law of Attraction holds that as you imagine or think, so shall it come to pass. That is, that thoughts have the power to influence what happens to you in life.

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1 thought on “Book Review: You Can’t Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought (2002)

  1. he use of St. John’s wort dates back to the ancient Greeks. Hippocrates recorded the medical use of St. John’s wort flowers. St. John’s wort was given its name because it blooms about June 24th, the birthday of John the Baptist. “Wort” is an old English word for plant…*`..

    Cheers <

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