Thursday, February 4, 2010

I'm sitting in the Media Center

and Laura's occupying the computer to my left. She's reading an article about Michelle Obama although moments ago she quipped to me about a self-help article promising to "better your couple's communication." Self-help articles confuse me. Only words comprise them, words that perhaps constitute ideas but are so vague that heeding the advice they present would be like downing six Tylenols upon development of a paper cut. I'm in pain, therefore I need painkillers. Sometimes, yes, but ibuprofen isn't going to solve everything, and I think it's the same with "self-help" books. We're not robots and following typed instructions on how to better ourselves is not as straight-forward and condensed as rewiring a circuit or changing the batteries in a remote control.

Of course we help others because we want them to succeed.
But I think there's greater motive, at least sometimes.
Helping others betters ourselves.
We help others, therefore we are.

We help others, to know that we are good people, good people who care about people other than ourselves.
Maybe indirectly we crave the positive light that inevitably reflects upon us once committing the valiant act.
Maybe it boils down to an inherent need to convince ourselves that we aren't completely self-concerned.

Does it?

I think silence helps sometimes.
We find comfort in physical touch that reaches deeper into our souls than any manner of oral assuaging possibly can.
Words are words are words.
We use them all the time.

This blog is just words, typed out by a machine, the only human touch the pads of my fingers. There's barely a human quality here. In this way, I am most likely a hypocrite. But I'm not great at giving advice. I find it difficult to relate to people when their problems so outnumber or overshadow mine, not because I don't care but because I don't know what to say that could possibly remedy a situation I've never intimately experienced.

I am good at listening. I think everyone is, and those who aren't would be equally capable of it if they wanted to be.
I find comfort in just spilling out everything I feel, often in incoherent sentences and fragments that only make sense when I finish emptying my overloaded head. Sometimes having someone else absorb everything you feel is the best manner of self-help there is.

What if self-help books just listened?
The pages would be blank and maybe made of sponge.
And we all could relate to what they offer.

I'm probably just crazy.


  1. You touch on a lot of good points here. If helping other people makes us "feel good," aren't we then just being selfish? This has bothered me...

    Also, I've been in the situation you described, faced with a friend's problem about a girlfriend/boyfriend/etc, although I can listen and empathize, I find it very hard to give them a solution to a situation I've never experienced myself. I try my best to show that I care though, and if I can't provide an answer, at least isolate possible courses of actions.

    But sometimes the best remedy for my problems has been an empty notebook and a pencil, similar to what you describe. I still prefer talking to humans though if possible... as if their understanding and compassion somehow verifies my own existence.