Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Break from the Bible: I've got a secret that will fix your life!

A common phenomenon: a kind, caring person meets someone in distress. The kindly soul hears the basics of this person's distress and immediately sees a way out of it. Often the solution is something along the lines of "Adopt my philosophy of life, and you'll be fine." Based on the kind person's knowledge--which is often scanty, having just met the person in distress--this is really a great solution. After all the kind person's philosophy of life works for him or her, why shouldn't it work for his or her new friend in distress?

The problem is that the person in distress can't adopt the kind person's solution. And to make matters worse, the person in distress usually can't explain why he or she isn't jumping for joy and running off to implement the kind-intentioned but unimplementable advice. One who has a deeper understanding of the problem and the personality of the sufferer would see what's wrong about the solution. But the good Samaritan cannot. And the damsel or dude in distress can't explain what's wrong.

I was once the recipient of such well intentioned and unappreciated advice. It was given to me by someone to whom I affectionately refer to as "my shiktzeh." She had it all figured out. I should start living in the moment and relish meeting new people and experiencing new things. And if I'm stuck in traffic with an obnoxious carmate, I shouldn't sit and stew. I should say, "Great! I have another opportunity to get to know this person and understand a new perspective on life! Joy!" I shouldn't just eat ice cream. I should savor it, feel the taste, and smell the texture. I should really eat it. Then every meal becomes a treat and life becomes paradise. This is great advice. It worked for her. But it doesn't work for me. But I couldn't explain to her why it wouldn't work for me.

Yesterday I met a damsel in distress. I instantly saw how she should get out of distress. Although I didn't notice the coincidence at the time, the advice I gave her was basically "Live your life exactly the way I'm living mine." I couldn't understand why she didn't lap up my advice hungrily. And even more amazingly, I couldn't understand why she couldn't explain to me what was wrong with my advice.

What's the lesson? Don't think you know everything. Recognize that you cannot understand someone else's life just by chit-chatting with them for ten minutes. You probably don't understand even your own life after all these years.

32 comments:

  1. I kinda like your cynical, very real take on life.

    I hope you don't become one of those fluffy people... it doesn't suit you.

    (Yes, I am preaching, but mostly cuz I know your response will make me laugh.)

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  2. my fan: please pretty please with a cherry on top can you give me a hind as to who you are?

    C: I'm not advocating fluffiness. I'm advocating not offering advice to people you don't know well.

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  3. I pictured you saying this as I was reading it...

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  4. I did too. My life philosophy is too difficult to explain much less impose on others. I still offer unwarrented advice though. Oh and usually there is a another reason why they cannot change or define their issue that they are not telling you. J

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  5. Sometimes if you let someone ramble about their problem long enough, they eventually come to a solution themselves.
    But yes, very wise.

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  6. I just realized that might sound like advice, sheesh.

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  7. Yo man, pretty well said and well written.

    My two cents: כתוב בסוף יומא על הפסוק דאגה בלב איש ישיחנה- אל תקרי ישיחנה, אלא ישיחנה. מלמדנו שתועלת יש בשמיעת דאגותיו של אדם לחוד, ולא צריך רוב יועץ.

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  8. 'don't judge someone until you have walked a mile in their shoes. Then you are a mile away, and you have their shoes.'

    Don't give someone advice until you have lived their life.

    Unless you are a really close friend, and the advice was asked for. And even then, be careful, lest you say the wrong thing and have them blow up at you.

    Oh, how golden silence is.

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  9. j: you're not that big on giving unsolicited advice.

    Sarah: I'm talking about advice on major life issues, like dealing with a abusive parent or chronic psychological illness. Usually undirected rambling won't resolve much.

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  10. Ah, true that. The ice cream threw me off.

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  11. ice cream? How did that throw you off?

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  12. Although my shiktzeh discussed the frivolous activity of eating ice cream, she was really speaking about how one ought to approach life in general. One who savors one's ice cream has learned how to savor life--or so says she.

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  13. Sounds like a smart shikseh.

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  14. i dunno. she might be. but she's a pain in the butt, b/c she's always giving unsolicited advice.

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  15. Yes, yes, yes, I understand. But savoring life doesn't conjure the image of abuse or mental disorders. That's all. I highly approve of ice cream.

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  16. Well, according to my shiktze, my troubled past has made it impossible for me to savor life. Hence the need for ice-cream therapy.

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  17. Well as long as it's chocolate ice cream. But avoid strawberry flavors, the psychological damage is pretty bad.

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  18. Your gums are pink. I bet your brain is too...

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  19. no they are not. they are red.

    and who would no what their brain looks like unless they chop open their head. and by that time it is too late.

    no, pink is ugly and girly.

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  20. If i recall correctly, the ice cream therapy was with vanilla ice cream on top of warm pear cake.

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  21. btw, she's named Dominique after Dominique Francon from the Fountainhead, which I have just started reading based on your (and her) recommendation. It's pretty good.

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  22. Her parents must be pretty big fans of the book. I'm glad you're enjoying it.

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  23. Atlas Shrugged is better. And she is smart.

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  24. sometimes advice is very helpfull

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  25. This shiktzeh is smart? You say that with too much confidence. Have you ever met her?

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  26. Well then dowy, I think i have it all figured out how you can fix up your life, rake in the cash, and get engaged within a month. Shall I share the secret with you?

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  27. oh e- please do share it with all of us, since it seems to have worke so well for u in your life.

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Forth shall ye all hold.