Thursday, October 9, 2014
self-help ... the antidote
One of the articles I skimmed made what I thought was a pretty good point: Self-help books and articles and invocations all had one thing in common: By the time you finished with one of them, there was always another one waiting. Self-help might promise improvements, but there was never really enough time to enjoy the improvement because the improvement could always be improved. Self-help might point the way, but self-help was like chicken pox -- there was always a new place to itch.
Look at any religion or war or good deed or diet ... there was always something else to achieve and the self-help market -- from political endeavor to ending poverty -- was endless-endless-ENDLESS.
This observation did not suggest to me that improvements should not be attempted. Chucking the whole thing was a little too cynical and, in the end, unsatisfying, but what also occurred to me was this:
The matter of improvement was sometimes inspiring: It asked the question, "What if things were better?" and then formulated a plan of attack... endlessly. Sometimes the plan worked. Sometimes not. Usually, it turned out to be a mix -- some success and some failure.
But what occurred to me based on that aging magazine article was this: Asking what things might be like if they were "improved" would never elicit a satisfying answer until the matter of what things might be like if they were not "improved" was honestly and openly addressed. Heart-felt critiques are really not enough. If you never did a damned self-helpy thing, a single improving thing, a single altruistic act, would that be an excuse for not being happy?
It's not a matter of either/or. Lazy and energetic are not enemies. It's just a matter of honestly assessing the furrow anyone might choose to plow. Expectations are OK, right up to the moment when they disperse like woodsmoke ... and, well, the fire is still toasty, isn't it?