Wednesday, November 15, 2006

It's easier to mind your own business

"Living apart and at peace with myself, I came to realize more vividly the meaning of the doctrine of acceptance. To refrain from giving advice, to refrain from meddling in the affairs of others, to refrain, even though the motives be the highest, from tampering with another's way of life - so simple, yet so difficult for an active spirit."
- Henry Miller, American writer (1891-1980)

So here'e the thing, Henry. By living your life without caring about the lives of others, you live alone. You live a selfish and egocentric existence. You become a taker rather than a giver.

I'm not certain why someone thought it wise to immortalize this quote, unless it was to justify his or her own selfish motives.

There is no question as to the validity of Miller's claim. The easiest way to not offend anyone, to not have anyone attack you, to "live in peaceful existence" is to allow everyone to be the way they want to be.

But what if that way is self destructive? Should we allow someone to take illegal drugs that will damage their brain, cause them and their loved ones much personal grief, shorten their life and cause a series of breakins or robberies to pay for the drugs?

Should we allow people to join severe religious cults that will in effect imprison them and brainwash their minds? And not interfere with the systematic destruction of some people by others?

Would it have been acceptable to Miller that Hitler's Nazis committed genocide on a massive scale, or that it happened in Rwanda, Bosnia or other places since his death? That would involve leaving Hitler and his ilk to live their lives their own way. Hands-off for Miller.

If you were systematically harming yourself and thereby causing severe psychological and financial harm to your family and loved ones, would you insist on your right to destroy your life slowly and harm the only people who care about you?

Henry Miller may have been an outstanding playright, but he was not a well-loved man. He gave up on trying to help people. Most people who met him in his later years found him annoying.

Perhaps he rarely experienced meeting people who really wanted and needed his help.

As Andrew Carnegie said, "There is no use whatever trying to help people who do not help themselves. You cannot push anyone up a ladder unless he be willing to climb himself."

But some people genuinely want to help themselves. Some can't do it alone and some don't know how to do it. Miller would have missed those people.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems, striving to show how to recognize those with their green lights on.
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