In 1998, my awarding-winning journalist husband, Benjamin, interviewed Dr. Wayne W. Dyer for Cleveland Life, an African-American magazine published in Cleveland, Ohio. In light of Mr. Dyer’s recent passing, I thought reprinting the piece would be a touching tribute to a man who helped so many of us – and has gone far too soon.
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A MOMENT WITH… DR. WAYNE W. DYER
By Benjamin Gleisser
In the early 1970’s, nobody wanted to publish a slim volume written by psychologist and social worker Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. But Dyer believed in “Your Erroneous Zones” so much, he published the book himself and sold it out of the trunk of his car to bookstores and anyone else who happened by.
Dyer revolutionized the self-development field in 1976 with the publication of that book. Since then, the novelist, philosopher and self-help guru has authored many other volumes. Surprisingly, he enjoys a commanding following in the African American community. On many people’s bookshelves, you’ll find Dyer’s work sitting beside books written by Les Brown and George Fraser.
Cleveland Life talked with Dyer by telephone from his Ft. Lauderdale home.
Q: Why are you so well-received in the African American community?
Dyer: I don’t know. I think of people, not races. There’s just one race: The human race. When I hear people talk about the “black community,” then I know we’ve still got a long way to go. The kinds of things I talk about aren’t unique to any race or regional group. Put simply, we all have the power to attract the kind of life we want to live. It’s common sense. I don’t proselytize; I talk of health and well-being. You are a product of the choices you’ve made in your life.
Isn’t cultural pride a good thing?
You should honor the body you showed up in, not the color of your body. Cars don’t care what color the garages they stay in are painted. We have to learn to leave behind our tribal consciousness, and be independent of those in our immediate surroundings who tell us how to act. We’re people of soul and spirit. When we stop looking at each other as races, cultures and religions, then our racial distinctions will disappear.
How can we make that happen?
If we’re going to make something work, we’ve got to look at ourselves and stop looking for excuses. “I’m the oldest child,” or “I’m the youngest child,” or “I’m like this because my parents don’t have money.” Too many people are just paying attention to what we can see with our eyes, and not what we are on the inside.
But you were born white. Might you think differently if you were born black and experienced racism, or if you were denied admission to college because the playing field wasn’t level?
Maybe you’re right. I often wonder if I would be able to say these things had I been born differently. How would I view life if I was a Jew in a concentration camp? There’s an enormous number of people who have been abused, but I still believe that what matters is we’re all one people, and we need to realize this so we don’t return to previous self-destructive behaviors. See, we have a tendency to go back to things we want to avoid. It’s like yelling at your kids to get them to stop yelling. We need to practice more love, kindness and spiritual forgiveness.
What holds us back from achieving that goal?
Laws, for one thing. Laws make discrimination possible. I’m so irritated when people talk about what’s going on with the President and they say it’s wrong because “We’re a nation of laws.” You don’t just follow laws. Look at Rosa Parks. She had such a visionary consciousness. At that moment when she said, “I won’t go sit in the back of the bus,” so many movements were born – civil rights, feminism, ecology, consciousness enlightenment. Everything grew out of that particular moment, because she refused to follow an unjust law.
Is rap a detrimental influence?
I think it is. Anything that promotes violence, sexual promiscuity, smoking or drinking is bad, because it contributes to breaking down the love we have for each other. Kids see so much and they hear the music over and over. They don’t make the distinction of the value of human life. But I don’t know if outlawing it is better. We need to get God back in our lives.
With all your notoriety, how do you stay humble?
(Laughs.) I have eight kids and they don’t listen to a thing I say. To them, I’m just daddy. Nobility is being better than you used to be, not being better than anyone else. I always forget that I’m famous, which surprises me when someone recognizes me in a restaurant and asks for an autograph.
Tell me about the last time you wept.
It was over my 14-year-old daughter. I saw her slipping. She had experimented with drugs and I was very concerned about her health and what her experimenting would lead to. I was talking about her with my wife and I suddenly got very tearful. My daughter couldn’t believe I took her problem that seriously, and she didn’t realize I loved her that much.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I like the pleasure I get from listening to shock jocks like Howard Stern. And I love Chris Rock – he puts me on the floor. I enjoyed the movie “There’s Something About Mary” and my mother-in-law was horrified. I am a peaceful man. But I also like bathroom humor, I guess. I don’t take myself too seriously.
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