Self Help

SUZANNE HARRINGTON: Thanks Friedrich, for the nihilistic self-help

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Given how we are all snowflake ninnies now, offended at everything as the world convulses around us, maybe we could do with some help. Self help.

No, not Jordan Peterson shouting at us to pull ourselves together, or Eckhart Tolle urging us to stare into a flower. Not Deepak Chopra or Pema Chodron or Tony Robinson or any of them. Let’s have a self-help quiz. Who made the following statements?

Never trust a thought that occurs to you indoors

Stop liking and sharing. Stop adding bunny ears and filtering your selfies so that your face looks like it is made of cream. Stop killing digital mercenaries with digital weapons in digital warzones. Go outside, even if it’s raining. Stride forth. Bring a dog if you have one. Walk until you have some thoughts worth having. Only then should you go home.

Possession usually diminishes the possession

So you queued all night outside the [insert global mega brand] shop, so that you would be first to unbox their latest [insert made up gadget name] and wow your friends with your acquisitive techie cool. Except now that you possess it, it’s actually a bit meh, and you’re already wondering when the next upgrade is due. See also: toys, 5pm Christmas Day.

Convictions are more dangerous enemies of truth than lies

A lie can be disproved (that big red Brexit bus with the astronomical sum painted on the side of it) but a conviction (that Brexit is an excellent idea involving “taking back control”)

cannot. Convictions are embedded. Like gastric bands, but more difficult to dislodge.

There are no facts, only interpretations

Not to be confused with fake news, or its snootier academic alter ego, viewpoint diversity. Interpretations are more subtle. (Although facts exist too. Sorry, but they do. The sky IS blue.)

Become who you are

Sounds simple, right? So why do we have to go to India to find ourselves, when we are right here all the time? Probably best to ponder this one outdoors, in the interests of migraine prevention.

To give birth to a dancing star one must first have chaos within

See above.

What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger

Not a karaoke ballad for angry women on their fourth cocktail at a divorce party (although it could be), this snippet of self-help is older than self-help itself. To reluctantly misquote Rolf Harris, can you tell who it is yet?

Of course you can. It’s Friedrich Nietzsche, the dead German philosopher who went mad and had his nasty Nazi sister rewrite all his stuff to make him look like a fascist. (He wasn’t).

The subject of a meaty new biography, I Am Dynamite! by Sue Prideaux, Nietzsche is now my go-to for self-help. Instead of repeating affirmations about trusting the universe, I now shout ‘God is dead!’ everytime I ponder the futility of existence. Works a treat. Thanks Friedrich, for inventing nihilistic self-help. We could all do with some.

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