4.08.2012

Other-Help

So many of my favorite people in the book blogging world - Ms Amy, Ms Nymeth, and Ms Debi, for example, and others as well, some more qquietly, some more subtly - have made comments lately that pointed at a feeling as if they are not contributing enough to the world, that they wonder if what they do 'matters', somehow. And then, somewhere else today I saw something that talked about the 'self-help' industry, and I thought about that feeling. Its one I'm pretty familiar with myself.

So, here's the question. The point of self-help is to help us accomplish our goals, right? Self-help is all about helping us lose weight, helping us get ourselves closer to our idea of the divine, helping us make ourselves happier, helping us understand ourselves, to learn to do great things. I don't say this to denigrate these ideas. I am in favor of great things. Great things are great.

But, the people I've loved most in my life have often never done great things, because often enough they were not helping themselves. They were helping others. And helping others is a very difficult thing. While there are plenty of places to do it, there are few that tell you how. And its tremendously dangerous - I've hurt more than one person I've tried to help in my life. And, in its best form, at the end, you yourself have accomplished nothing. But the people who have this skill, to me, are my favorites.

Statistics, achievement, fame, and 'success' do not, ever, effectively measure how much we help other people's greatness, they can only hint at our own achievements. To all my favorite people, I want you to know, that you are greater than you think, greater than anyone can possibly explain to you, greater than you will ever be awarded for, greater than any of the rest of us deserve.  The greatest of the great are measured by the greatness that others around them achieve. So many of my favorite people speak often about how much they love and admire their own friends, how they are often amazed by how much their friends achieve, by the amazing things they do, by the marvels they create. If you know people that you love and admire, and they seem to be better, more beautiful, more loveable, every year, perhaps, friends, you are a bit to blame for that.

6 comments:

Chris said...

Beautiful post, Jase :) I hope you know the same about yourself as well…You are a much better person than you probably give yourself credit for as well. I know that you've helped me through more rough times than you know you have.

Trapunto said...

Hi there! Long time no commenty. Your link to Ms Debi seems to go to Ms Nymeth's blog.

The point of *most* self-help literature is to help us accomplish our goals--that's the kind that makes me feel kind of icky after dipping into it, usually in the form of a book removed from the piles of hoarder crud landsliding through my mother's living room. She loves those books completely unironically. Actually, it's the same feeling I get after reading a really contententless, ad-dense glossy magazine in a waiting room.

But I think the other kind of self help literature is more like self-first-aid. What's it called? First responder? Where the first person who sees a car crash is legally obligated to stop and offer aid? That kind makes more sense to me because everyone is their own first responder. Sometimes only responder.

Jason Gignac said...

Mr Chris - Thank you, it is kind of you to say so. :)

MS Trapunto - It should go to a comment, thoguh, that Ms Debi left on Ms Nymeths blog? Hrm...

On the subject of the two types of self-help, thats a very interesting way to subdivide them - the problem, to me, would perhaps be that the First Responder books are so frequently marketed to people who have already been hit by a truck, you know? Books about, say, dealing with strife in your marriage woudl perhaps be better read by people who are just getting married, but I would suspect that the market that they ar most aimed at is people already sliding towards divorce. In a sense, this is one of the dangers of self-help, that there is very little responsibility inhernet in them (its the same reason that I have trouble thinking of advice columns as much more than a guilty pleasure). After all, fi the patient dies, the self-help writer need only say 'well, clearly they just started treating themselves too late, and were too weak to apply the treatment'.

And, I suppose, I would love to learn better how to be a second responder, for others. And there are very few books on that.

Not that there aren't ANY good self-help books, or that I'm panning the whole idea thereof. I've read a few that I really enjoyed and thought could be useful if I weren't so lazy.

Trapunto said...

Second responder--I have actually noticed a few of those lately, but almost always in the form of books for parents, on how to help their children. The others are for grown children, to help aging, ill, parents--intended for situations where they reached the point of need to exercise some guardianship.

Jason Gignac said...

Intersting. I suppose maybe this is my natural cycnicism, but my impression of parenting books in the past is that they often end up simply being 'How to Not Feel Bad About the Lackluster Parenting Job You're Doing', or else, they're not self-help at all, they're more 'How to awesome, if you're me, and in my exact situation, and willing to ignore the aspects of my life that I have to ignore to continue to reassure myself of my awesomeness. Or how to feel personal shame at your lack of my awesomeness'. But then, I'm not exactly deeply versed in books on parenting. Maybe I should be...

Trapunto said...

*laughing*
You have read more parenting books than me.