Sunday, February 9, 2014

Self-Help Books as Wise Help

Self-Help Books

I love inspirational books like the The Power of Now and Women Who Run with the Wolves. I enjoy reading wisdom worth passing down.  I even feel as if I have changed afterward or that I struggle to change myself afterward. They put me on my guard, and I try to follow their words, but then, after a few months, I backslide. My father said to me once in a dream that I was his most stubborn child. Perhaps I am; I know I only learn things from experience. I only know life lessons in my bones from living them. Only when the universe grabs me by the throat and shakes the snot out me do I change. Only when it applies vise grips to the thumbs of my ego do I notice it. Only when something shakes me to the core, growls and snarls at me with hair up and dares me to keep going on the wrong path that leads into its teeth, do I turn around and head another way. Only when I have fallen can I get up. It may be because of my First Nations genes. I was brought up to understand that only by experiencing do we truly learn. So, we make decisions, some right some wrong. It is how we learn.

A story that exemplifies this is about two Native American men in a boat, one old, one young. The old man knew the river well, each stone, each gill. It was the young man’s first trip down the river. As they paddled along, the old man looked up. He saw the younger man was taking them right into some rocks, but he said nothing even as they headed straight for them. "Why?" one may ask. The boat might be damaged. They might capsize. Why not say something? Because many things may or may not happen. The only sure thing was that if he spoke, the boy would never become an old man who knew the river so well, each stone, each gill.

So, where does that leave books that inspire? I think of them as the wise help in Joseph Campbell's stages of the Hero's Journey. They may appear with a word, a phrase at a critical time in our lives, an insight that will help us on the path. I do not think any words can take us all the way, but they can shine the light when we are ready to go through the next door. They can give us hope when we lack it. They can illuminate the troubled path behind us so that we can see our suffering for what it was: an obstacle on our way to betterment. So, read books, watch movies, look for omens, for words of guidance. Someone who has gone before has left you help along the way. It is only waiting for your eyes to find it, your ears to hear it, your mind to grasp it.