Year B Proper 25 Mark 10 2012
From Self-Help to God-Trust
It is always the longest, most solidly stocked stacks in any bookstore - the "self help" nonfiction section. Maybe it's a holdover from the old American adage of "pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps." We'll use some "self-help" suggestions offered by others only as long as we get to pick and choose what kind of help we'll consider acceptable, only as long as we are still ultimately in charge of the direction and duration that the "help" we seek takes.
"Self help" books, whether they are focused on helping us learn to navigate the tax code, or the web, or an emotional "web" brought on by an illness or unemployment, a death or depression, still let us selectively embrace the advice they offer. We can avoid some topics, or even skip whole chapters, if we find them too challenging or uncomfortable. "Self help" manuals let us selectively focus on only those parts of our self that we want to prune and preen.
If truth be told, every civilization has had some form of "self-help," even if they didn't have the same concept of "self" that we do. What moral improvement literature was to the 19th century, self-help books are today...