Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I Will Not Be Broken

Jerry White tells a the most awe-inspiring tale of survival in his book I Will Not Be Broken. However, that is not the main point of his book - he shares his insights and quotes many others who have likewise known and overcome great adversity. This is not your run of the mill self-help book and is definitely about inspiring and leading by example.

That said , I find very it difficult to relate to his recommendations for others trying to cope with and survive tragedy in their lives. One of his central premises is the need of what he calls "social oxygen" to prevent us from suffocating in our own victimhood. True, pain and misery when dispersed widely enough hurts a lot less than something strictly one to one. Therefor war, famine and other socio-political upheavals while impacting entire generations do not make individuals feel like they were singled out for punishment - there are far too many victims of tragedy for them to luxuriate alone in their self-pity.

But personal tragedies like loss of a loved ones, function of body parts, emotional trauma, terminal illness or a sudden and precipitous loss of wealth is not quite the same thing. Our friends, family and neighbors still have normal lives and enjoy all the things that we once had and no longer do. It becomes that much harder to "move on" or consider our situation in the larger context of the millions of others who have far more difficult lives than we do. Human beings are naturally inclined to keep up with the Joneses.

Unless they have renounced the world or are a great spiritual elevation at least, most people tend to set their sights towards the bigger and better deal they find around them. The McMansions in the suburbia are not built because the homeless guy living in a cardboard box is the gold standard. To that extent, any survival strategy that does not look inward and help us realize that our pain and suffering is of our own choosing and therefore fully expected and deserved is likely to fail. It is asking people to work against their basic grain.

White's story will be reassuring to only those of us who already have compassion in their hearts and are able to see the big picture in their life's darkest hour. Those blessed with that kind of perspective would be in no need for a Five Step guide to help them cope. That leaves us with the vast majority of those who are in dire need of help - the people White's book aims at helping.

They are angry, bitter and suffer from victimness simply because they think their suffering is unique because they themselves are unique. It does not help them to know that there are many other in much worse shape than they are - doing so invalidates the very basis of their self-righteous suffering. Had that not been the case, we would not be such insatiable consumers of products and services that scream "I".

1 comment:

oneandonly said...

I liked this part :
"But personal tragedies like ... keep up with the Joneses. "