Help : The Original Human Dilemma

This new book by Garret Keizer, who lives in Vermont, was featured this week in our local weekly, Seven Days.

I look forward to reading this book. It is about how people deal with wanting to help others, how people deal with being helped by others. It is not a book that is set out to answer questions, but to analyze this issue.

I am sitting here filling out paperwork and contracts, doing data entry, thinking about my work and in the meantime, I wonder why I do this stuff instead of hopping on a plane to Haiti or whereever I can to help people in real trouble. Every time I open up my web browser there it is (I have cnn.com as my home page). How do we manage to go about our daily lives. Certainly it is a form of self-preservation. It is a constant struggle for me as someone who is highly empathetic to other people’s troubles.

I recently read a description of a character in The Secret Life of Bees who is empathetic to the point of having created for herself a wailing wall to deal with her uncontrollable grief when she hears about the hardships of even perfect strangers. Things like reading in the newspaper about a car crash where people were killed. Thank goodness this person lives in the 60’s where she is protected from the onslaught of news that we have today. I completely understood this character and saw that she does not have whatever key it is that most of us do have to protect ourselves from internalizing the pain and suffering of others.

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