Sunday, May 17, 2015

Self-help in All Things Unselfish

I had a huge realization today. Like...a big one. It's been brewing for a couple weeks now, since I started reading F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Short Autobiography. That man is a genius. Disagree as you may, but his writing is blowing my mind right now.

Back to my realization.

I thought I could only find "help" in self-help books. They are called self-help. And I want to help myself, so it makes sense why I would gravitate to that genre of books. But in reading A Short Autobiography, I see that the best help can be found when we look outside ourselves, when we accept that we are fools who make silly mistakes, accept that we are flawed. Self-help books, not all, but many, are so very selfish. It's all about healing your heart and your mind and your past and your future. Self, self, self. And these books tell us that we are smart and good and idealistic, moralistic, fantastic. But what if we were to accept that we're just not those things? And instead of spreading this self-help mentality, you plant your mistakes so those after you can pick the flowers they find most beautiful and throw out the rest, instead of trying to believe they are inherently tremendously, wonderous human beings.

I'll tell you where I'm going with this. In FSF article "Wait Till You Have Children of Your Own", he speaks of this mentality. Instead of building oneself up so he can be an example to his children, FSF argues that you tell your children not to look to them or their elders "who know better" and thus deserve respect. Here are some excerpts that I found intriguing:
There are three who believe the children should be an improvement on their parents, who want their children not to follow blindly in their steps but rather to profit from their mistakes. (pg. 73)
Before a man is thirty he has already accumulated, along with a little wisdom, a great quantity of dust and rubbish in his mind, and the difficulty is to let the children profit by what is wise without unloading the dust and rubbish on them too. (pg. 73)
We don't need to perfect ourselves to be great mothers and fathers, older brothers and sisters. Keep your flaws and make them apparent. Do not hide them thinking this will keep your children from being flawed. But don't "unload the dust and rubbish on them" as FSF says. It's a fine balance.
Never had faith in the destiny of man reached such a height as during the nineties--seldom has it ebbed so low as it has now. (pg. 73)
I like this sentence because it shows how our centuries are almost like mirrors. Do we not think our own decade has been so high and so low? Generations separate us, but our thinking is shared.
...that's the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool. (pg.74)
I laughed when I read "beautiful little fool" because there is a book about this point in time called Beautiful Fools. I wonder if the title was derived partially from this article. FSF goes on to say that this is a pessimistic view and we do not want our girls to be beautiful fools.
...that isn't at all what his own father said to him way back in 1896. The older man probably talked something like this: "I want you to be a success. I want you to work hard and make a lot of money. Don't let anybody cheat you, and don't cheat anybody else, or you'll get put in jail. Remember, you're an American and we're much better than any other race, so just remember that everything we don't believe right here in this nation is pretty sure to be wrong. I went to college and I ready the papers, so I ought to know."
You recognize this? It is the philosophy of the nineteenth century, the philosophy of personal selfishness and national conceit that led to the Great War and was indirectly responsible for the bloody deaths of many million young men. (pg. 75)
I ask you, "Do you recognize this?" Time and age move forward, but the seeds we plant harvest either flowers or grow into weeds in the yards of future generations.

There are several more pages of excerpts that speak to these same concepts, but honestly, I'd like to stop here and leave you with this. I still need time to digest myself. This article challenged my own thinking, thinking that I've held for years. And this article has helped me far better than many self-help articles and books I've read.

I've known for a very long time the thoughts held and words spoke by my mother were a bunch of quack. I've known she was dysfunctional once I realized I was dysfunctional because of her, and I lived in a dysfunctional house in which I was the scapegoat. She reflected her attitude and opinions on me. She wasn't the bitch; I was. She had to walk on egg shells; not me. She knows better than I because she's been on this earth longer than me and she brought me into this world in which she knows so much about. Had she thought, "I don't want my daughter to believe what I believe. I want her to form her own feelings about herself, about others, about where she fits in to this world." Instead, she unloaded her dust and her rubbish that was unloaded on her by her parents.

But I'm stopping this cycle. I'm taking this article to heart and you can agree or disagree with FSF's words or my agreement with his words. But this article speaks to the cycle of my own family, cycles of generations as far back as can be fathomed, cycles that have been passed on by my mother's mother's mother's mother. This is not to let my father escape without cyclical dysfunction. But I grew up with my mom's bullshit therefore I'm talking about her bullshit.

I'll share more excerpts in posts to come. In the meantime, I encourage you to get F.Scott Fitzgerald: A Short Autobiography. The articles in it are fantastic. If you disagree with the excerpts I have included above, this is even more of a reason to read A Short Autobiography. FSF will challenge your thinking and what you "know" to be true.

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