Slate turns 10 this week, and we’re publishing The Best of Slate: A Tenth Anniversary Anthology. In celebration of the book and the anniversary, we’re publishing (or, rather, re-publishing) a selection of pieces from the anthology, including this article. You can see a list of all the republished pieces, as well as everything else we are publishing in honor of the anniversary, here. This article was originally published April 29, 2004.
Do you need a guru? Of course you do!
But how can you possibly find the right one for you? After all, everyone’s a guru these days: In the diet guru category alone, you’ve got Dr. Phil, Suzanne Somers, Denise Austin, Dean Ornish, and Kathy Ireland—not to mention such has-beens as Susan Powter, Richard Simmons, and Dr. Atkins. The guy who used to be a football coach now calls himself a “defensive guru.” Just try to find someone who has appeared on Home & Garden Television, the Food Network, or the Oxygen Network who is not a guru.
Nor is it clear what exactly a guru does. A guru isn’t a Svengali. A Svengali knows you intimately, controls you, whereas you follow a guru from a distance. A guru isn’t a god: She might be spiritual, but she would never engage with something so controversial as religion. A guru isn’t an entertainer. He doesn’t want to bring you pleasure; he wants to change you. A guru isn’t a consultant, either. You can get good advice from anyone: It’s charisma that makes a guru’s advice persuasive.