Tuesday, June 13, 2006
From the bookshelf
Despite the fact that most of my working day revolves around books, I still like to read for pleasure. You may have heard of Chicken Soup for the Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit. This is the classic anthology of inspirational stories, which has been spun off into numerous follow up books, videos, albums, and so on.
You may not have heard of author David Fisher's parody, Chicken Poop for the Soul: Stories to Harden the Heart and Dampen the Spirit. According to the blurb, its contents include the story of "Step-Mother Teresa," who turned a Calcutta orphanage into a sweatshop, and "The True Meaning of Love," which is about romance from the point of view of a stalker. Beneath the twisted, satirical humour of this book are some pointed jibes at the self-help/personal empowerment movement. Both of these things appeal to me. Laughter is a gift from God, and scientific research affirms that regular laughter is beneficial for one's health.
I don't have much time for the self-help movement or motivational speakers, who travel the world giving (usually) expensive seminars on how to achieve success. Why do they confine their speaking tours to affluent first world countries? What about the slum dwellers of Manila or the refugees of Darfur? Aren't they also in need of personal empowerment?
Rather than paying an exorbitant amount of money to attend one of these seminars, given the choice, I'd rather make a donation to an aid agency or some other worthy cause. In any event, how do you define success? Based on the worldly definition, success typically means achievement in one's career and the acquisition of material things. While there's nothing inherently wrong with this, we need to remember that these things are temporal, and they can't be the sole focus or motivation of our lives.
A church in my local area has this message on their billboard: "Live today in the context of eternity." We would all do well to heed this profound wisdom.