Several years ago Rhonda Byrne wrote a book called The Secret, which basically re-packaged the words of Christ, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Of course this idea goes back much further than the Bible, back to the first philosophical musings of humankind. For the mind is truly a mysterious and magical force whose energy has re-sculpted the world’s history again and again and may yet lead to our ultimate destruction as a species.
Cinderella is about wishing – that is to say hoping, desiring, longing for, envisioning, affirming, etc. It’s about the energy inherent in an all-consuming desire and also about the constant, always present, possibility for change.
In the late nineteenth century a quasi-philosophy called New Thought began to arise out of the great spiritualist movement that swept the newly industrial western world. It arose as a reaction to TMI and too much technology, too fast. It continues to this day, transmogrified into a fusion of world religions and historical esotery we call New Age, though even that term is becoming a little shop-worn.
Say what you will about it, enough experiential and anecdotal evidence has occurred over the centuries to make “the law of attraction” as Byrne’s calls it, one of the enduring belief systems we humans hold in common cross-culturally. Hence the great durability and popularity of the Cinderella story.
And why not? The world is scary enough and in truth we are almost powerless. This story tells us not to despair in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds because we can affect outcome with the power of mind. Even if that isn’t the case, the one truth we can count on is the consistency of change. Everything changes all the time, both incrementally and in giant leaps. The possibility for alteration is always present.
The vehicle of change differs widely in Cinderella stories from around the world. In France we find a fairy Godmother, in Germany a tree, in Egypt a bird and in the Far East a red fish. My mixed-media collage carries all these symbols in the branches of its “Giving Tree.”
The Giving Tree refers to a story by Shel Silverstein; a moral fable that explores what happens to a giver who gives too much and to the child who continues to take forever. How much is enough? Does one really need three new ball gowns? The question highlights the avaricious implications inherent in The Secret’s philosophy.
The Giving Tree took off and sold like wild fire, translated into eleven different languages. In 2013 Parent and Child Magazine listed it among the top 100 children’s books of all time. Obviously, it’s appeal, like Cinderella’s, is universal. Personally, I find the book dreary and disturbing, but I think the two trees are joined at the root.