How about help? You can only help yourself if you admit that you need help. And we all need help in an roundabout way, because we need people. Even shut-ins like myself (especially shut-ins like myself). But what is it about the idea of self-help that is so elusive, so prickly, while the idea of doing better, feeling better, looking better is considered an ideal. I think a lot of the disparaging looks given towards self-help come from the quiet confidence of having simple answers. I completely get it. The real truth about being a human person in this beautiful chaotic world, is that we quite simply don't know what's going on. Every day we learn more and more about the science, the mathematics, even the social tendencies of our great smashed up globe and the fuzzy little people on it. And every day we learn how much we cannot know. And yet the upturned noses towards self-help heroes are particularly problematic when we look at the open-armed embrace of the newest, bestest diet that stigmatizes food, offers work out short cuts and promises to save you time and money. ITS SO EASY. These are two sides of the same coin it must seem. But I must beg to disagree.
A few years ago, I picked up a little project called 100 days of happy, or some such thing as one would take in a stray, with care without knowing why. I may have even written about it here before. The project consisted of taking a picture (or in my case, writing a few hundred words) of/on something that makes you happy, for 100 days. I can go on forever w/r/t the elastic nature of the word happy, but it is a good cue for writing. And as it were, I've been thinking about the word happy quite often recently. In Mike Mill's new film, 20th Century Women the mother's response when asked if she's happy is (to paraphrase) "asking if you're happy is just a great shortcut to being miserable." The punchline is sharp and wry and it says a lot about the character delivering it. But as I get older, I find myself a little more in line with that sentiment. Obsessing over happiness is not directly related to finding contentment (obsession does not tend to lead anywhere warm and safe). The hounds hunting happiness are not necessarily there to help you look down and examine what you have, and often the hunt for self approval is actually about others. To jam one more quote in here, let's hit up the father of our national parks, Teddy Roosevelt who called comparison "the thief of joy."
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