The self-help movement is pandemic in this country. The yin-yang of this movement is that:
The yin means we're not responsible. The yang elevates attitude over achievement. Empowerment is attained by buying the book, workshop, seminar, or therapy services of that particular self-help guru. If you don't buy into the movement, you're in denial.
It's time for an odyssey
In the words of Tennyson's Ulysses, calling his comrades to one great, last heroic adventure,
Come, my friends, 'tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Let us, my friends, start a movement the likes of which hasn't been seen since this country was ruled by parents with
Instead of "Don't Sweat the Small Stuff–It's All Small Stuff!" our movement's mantra will be "Sweat Everything! It's All Important!"
Henry David Thoreau got it. He said,
"Life is in the details."
Hank understood that if you stop attending to the small stuff—stop observing it, sweating it, waking up in the middle of the night with dark bat wings fluttering in your chest over it, you might as well get a lobotomy. Sure, you might be happy but that's way overrated—and watch out for the drool.
Embrace Complexity and Nuance
What is all the brouhaha about Simplifying Your Life ? Our movement can tell people how to simplify their lives. Quit buying books that have one sophomoric, organize-your-life tip and a Feng Shui curlicue in the middle of a whole page, surrounded by barren space begging for some passion, chaos and paradox.
Everyone's got a First Amendment right to sell pabulum. But if you're touting how to rid your life of unwanted clutter and waste so there's room for true meaning, how about only using the amount of paper actually needed to contain your profundity? Do that and our lives will be simplified when the book that costs $10.99 is reduced to a five-page pamphlet. Less labor cutting down trees, fewer trees consumed, less space taken on bookshelves and in landfills.
While we're simplifying, take a look at the book Don't Sweat the Small Stuff—It's All Small Stuff . The first two chapters are just 1 ¼ pages each . The rest of those ¼ pages of text that were once a living tree are blank .
Even on the "full" pages, there's more margins, double-spacing and, in this case, Feng Shui diamonds, than there are printed words. Now that's small stuff! That's thought reduced to a miniscule level.
What's so great about a simple life, anyway? Simpleton means "fool." And that's exactly who those simple authors are marketing their simple books to—in-between wheel barrowing their money to the bank.
Instead of Simplify Your Life, our movement's mantra will proclaim Embrace Complexity and Nuance!
What's the brouhaha over happiness?
Now as I read it—and it doesn't take long—simplifying your life and not sweating are supposed to bring you happiness. What is all the hoopla over happiness ? Talk about a sacred cow that's been milked and should be slaughtered. Right up there with building self -esteem, which is now part of our public education curriculum.
Setting aside kids who are being neglected or abused—and they're not buying self-help books, they're too busy trying to survive—kids don't need to be taught self-esteem. They're born narcissistic, which is why they have to be socialized.
What we need to teach our kids (and adults of arrested development) is a sense of duty, and then ensure they have meaningful work. Forget even ensuring meaningful work. Teach them a sense of duty and they'll find meaningful work–if we haven't simplified it all away and sated their appetites with happiness.
"Stress Less" is meritorious?
In 2001, the Girl Scouts introduced a "Stress Less" badge. According to the Girl Scout Research Institute, Junior Scouts 8 to 12 years of age are under tremendous pressures these days. So they're earning points by practicing (remember–it's not about judgmental notions of mastery and achievement) things like:
Sounds like fun, which is A-OK. But as a stress buster the organization might want to return to its oath:
On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country
To help people at all times
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.
and design activities around that.
Small wonder law enforcement can't fill positions given the school curriculum and extra-curricular emphases of our children and the pervasive adult self- help books, mantras, slogans, and gurus.
Instead of Don't Worry , Be Happy, our movement will march to the cadence of Be Concerned, Do Your Duty–Serve Others.
Rabindranath Tagore, Asia's first Nobel Laureate in literature, got it.
I slept and dreamt that life was Joy.
I woke and saw that life was Duty.
I acted, and behold, Duty was Joy.
The self-help movement is selling simple, un-sweaty, visualized happiness and self-esteem. Our movement will bring back the joy of sweaty, exhausting, hard-fought and won duty. Just think of the stir we'll cause with the originality of basing a self- help movement on personal accountability and responsibility to others.
We can do it
Margaret Meade, one of the most famous anthropologists in the world, said
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Join me. Make your life and your children's lives into stories of duty, passion, complexity, nuance and service. Perhaps we'll wake to a changed world. One with untold numbers standing in line for the privilege of answering one of the highest duty calls–police officer.