“Hi, my name is Lisa Jo Druck, and I’m a delusional narcissist.” That is not what the former Manhattan party girl who re-invented herself as a New Age spiritualist with the more glamorous alias, Rielle Hunter, told an all-ears Oprah Winfrey on her popular daytime talk show Thursday. But at least that would have been keeping it real in an interview between Oprah Winfrey and Rielle Hunter in which the word “authentic” was tossed around more times than a basketball at a Lakers’ game.
The overuse of the word authentic was an especially strange irony given that the Oprah interview revolved around Rielle Hunter’s secret affair with John Edwards, a relationship that was riddled with lies involving decoy cell phones, clandestine hotel rendezvous, National Enquirer leaks and an elaborate babydadddy cover-up.
Rumor has it that Rielle Hunter chose Oprah as the television vehicle to clear her name because the spiritual Oprah would “get her.” It turned out Oprah did “get” Rielle Hunter-or more specifically, she got her number.
At one point Oprah even referred to Rielle Hunter as “Miss Spirituality,” a label that Hunter seemed to take as a compliment but was more likely a subtle dig.
What was so obvious to Oprah and anyone else familiar with New Age concepts of spirituality is that Rielle Hunter’s belief system is to spirituality what Velveeta is to cheese. It may look like cheese and melt like cheese, but it ain’t cheese.
One of the first psuedo-spiritual statements that Hunter shared with an incredulous Oprah, who made scant effort to hide her skepticism, was that her main objective upon meeting Edwards was to help him become his most “authentic” self (another irony given that Edwards was campaigning to run for president, an endeavor that requires more phony packaging than that used to sell cigarettes).
Throughout her interview with Oprah, Rielle Hunter rationalized all of her and John Edwards’ (whom she cloyingly referred to as “Johnny”) selfish behaviors under the guise of living more authentically, conveniently forgetting that if what one authentically desires hurts other people it is more earthly and selfish than spiritual. For instance, I may authentically desire to possess my friend’s sapphire ring, but if I stealthily pocket it, I’m a thief-not a person living “authentically.”
It’s all about the process
As Rielle Hunter explained to Oprah: “I followed my heart, and I believe it was the right thing to do, which is weird. I get how weird that is-because I didn’t make a commitment to Elizabeth. I wasn’t the one lying, like, to her, and I was supporting him in his process-and his intentions never wavered. I knew that he wanted-he just had a really unique way of getting there-to live a life of truth.”
In Rielle Hunter’s spiritual universe, people do not own other people, so she could not steal John Edwards from his wife because Elizabeth Edwards had no claim on him (other than those pesky marriage vows, four children and a shared political career). While the paradigm of one person not possessing another has some spiritual merit, it is trumped by the more overriding concept of being loving and compassionate toward other people. Clearly, Rielle Hunter’s complicity in sneaking around with John Edwards showed no love or compassion for Elizabeth Edwards or the couple’s three living children, not to mention the millions of Americans who believed in and supported John Edwards’ presidential aspirations (and did not realize his idea of two Americas meant having a wife and a girlfriend). Surely even Rielle Hunter must have known that having an affair with a married politician was not the best way to attract good karma.
As Rielle Hunter will soon find out when her daughter Frances Quinn enters toddlerhood, our “child” selves desire a lot of things and do not like to hear the word “no.” As we gain maturity, we learn to self-regulate, a process that sometimes requires suppressing our authentic desires for the greater good of other people. In extreme cases, such as Mother Teresa, spirituality can even lead to living one’s life completely for the benefit of others.
Although I tend not to identify myself as a spiritual person, not only shying away from the woo-woo label, but also the self-aggrandized notion that I have special insight into higher truths, my belief system often aligns with those of many self-proclaimed spiritual people. As with any group, including Christians who have some rogue members who kill doctors who perform abortions under the guise of “Christianity,” there are “spiritual” people who use popular concepts of spirituality, such as authenticity, to behave in ways that harm others.
Whether such people are spiritual beings or charlatans is ultimately not for me to judge; but if Rielle Hunter comes back as a spider in her next life, I won’t be surprised.
The Oprah Show, April 29, 2010