Black thoughts: positive-thinking guru Jack Black gave a 'positive thinking' seminar in the National Concert Hall last week

People get ready. Prepare for the upturn. It's a-comin', or so we're told. Last week Jack Black was in town to prepare followers for the end of the recession. Black is a personal development guru, the type of chap who assures patrons of his seminars that they can change their lives with a little prod from his good self.

His seminar at the National Concert Hall was run under the banner "Prepare for the Upturn", the pretext being that if you have the right tools when the recession ends, you will be in the fast lane to wealth, fulfilment or whatever it is you want. Not bad value for €55 a skull. And the recession is coming to an end. Black knows because he saw it on Sky News before arriving in Dublin.

Before we go any further it should be pointed out that Jack is not the Jack Black who's a zany actor. He's his own Jack Black, all the way from Glasgow.

The hall was over three-quarters full on the night in question, which is testament to the hunger out there for optimism, or maybe a reflection of the status of Jack Black. His services are much in demand, particularly in the corporate world. He is one of these gurus whom many followers swear by but, as with religion, you either get it or you don't, you either see the light or the darkness continues to envelop you.

Postive thinking

Black begins with: "The great gift of life is to think big thoughts and to get the strength to take action, not just dream." Hard to argue with that. He notes that he forgot the belt of his trousers when travelling over here. Is there a metaphor hidden in this instance of sartorial absent-mindedness? Black thought about that one on his way to the hall. "Maybe," he concluded, "the reason is you are going to have to hold yourself up." That much turned out to be on the button. For the rest of the evening he had to intermittently hitch up his trousers.

It's all about positive thinking with Black, which is hard to argue with. His schtick is focused on inculcating all that good stuff.

"Those of us who chose a positive path are in a minority," he says.

Negative stuff is out. Take, for instance, the Northern Rock bank in the UK, which collapsed last year. That was negative. Black blames the collapse on the BBC. A reporter from the station broadcast the early stirrings of a run on the bank and before you know it, the run was on.

"This guy," Black says of the reporter, "was the slimiest guy you could meet." Stall the ball, Jack. The poor fella was just like yourself, telling it as it is, except his job is to inform people about what is happening, not what they might like to happen.

In the same vein, Black is full of confidence that the upturn will come about, unless some "nutjob of a journalist" does something to scupper it.

He invites two men onto the stage and indulges in a spot of kinesiology, which is the science of movement. One of the two is a big lad, Graham, who holds out his arm and Black tries to put pressure on it. He fails. Then Black tries again, this time with Graham holding a cigarette between his lips. His arm goes limp. The introduction of a toxin took Graham's strength. "What if thoughts could be toxic," Black asks. Like toxic assets maybe? Bin the toxins within you.

Later on, Black moves onto stress-management. He references a Californian author Jack Schwartz. Then he tells us: "Did you know that Schwartz is Black in German. This guy is Jack Black" Thereafter Jack Black referred to Jack Schwartz as Jack Black, which was a bit confusing.

Whatever it is that Jack Black is flogging, loads of people want some of it. The patrons at the NCH gave him a fine round of applause, and seemed to be a little pepped up after their evening.

Adapting a life to induce positive thinking is a healthy thing in today's world. But what Black and his fellow gurus have tapped into is the self-obsession that is part of our times. Whatever happened to getting a lift out of doing something for somebody else, feeling positive by coming out of yourself through just giving? That's out of fashion.

Meanwhile, spare a thought for those of us diseased with toxic thoughts, unable to get a head around the wonder of Jack Black, a guru who prepares followers not for Armageddon, but for the upturn.