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The Best Advice
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The best advice about I can give you about taking your sorrow public is: “Don’t.” Of course, giving you this advice is a paradox because, if you do take your sorrow public, people will unceasingly offer advice. You have a wound, and advice is often full of salt as well as sugar and spice.

Perhaps you are a masochist, and so then, my advice too is misplaced, obliquely proving my point. If you want more suffering, taking your sorrow public is quite effective in gaining more pain, if pain is the gain you seek. “No pain, no gain.” More good advice, they say.

Most of us are not masochists, for better or for worse. Since we all wound each other so continuously, maybe it would be easier if we all were lovers of self-pain. But that would be another story, one that certainly has wonderful elements of a tragicomedy. But that fanciful story would simply be another distraction from the actual task at hand.

Which is, your sorrow, and what to do with it. If you are lucky enough to have close friends, close friends who have experienced similar to your sorrow that has no home in the public, you can gingerly feel your way through what it is they can provide. But be careful. They too have sorrows buried, unconsciously guiding their course in ways that may be full of unintended chimeras and idealized self-serving needs. The best advice I have ever heard about advice is this: “Don’t give advice unless you are there to pick up the pieces.”

In other words, even the best advice has fall out, and should any part of meddling in the life and process of another go awry, which you can count on happening sooner or later in all and any of the domains of human experience, you have to be there to assist in any collateral damage that may have been caused. Not because you are at blame, or at fault, but because we are all ice bergs.

Even with our friends, we think we know what we are looking at, as we examine the tip of the iceberg. We attempt to gain purchase into being helpful by using what we think we know about them, and even if we get to the top of their storied promontory, without slipping on their ice, we have a vista that looks out only over a blank sea. We are not seeing them, we are seeing our own projections onto the tabula rasa of a disturbed and churned set of waves.

Below the sea, where the much greater mass of the iceberg lies, that is where the greater part of the person exists. Their ancestry, their DNA, the roll of the dice into this Monopoly Game called survival, their foibles and uncertain tread on the decision tree called life. We grow down and up at the same time. I suspect we grow down faster. We keep our sorrow from the public, and pain extends the creations of the underworld into marvelous and stunning formations down into the deep and deceptively calm waters.

The more I think about it, the more I question if I really want to go there at all. Do I want to give advice? It is as if I am in some kind of fragile submersible with some kind of academic posturing of authority about the nature of icebergs, and not only icebergs in general, but this particular iceberg which is groaning and cracking with change even as I extend my telescopic microscope from my craft, which risks being crushed like an egg under the pressure of too much “extrospection.” “Extrospection,” the attempt to apply introspection to the life of another, to pretend to have the authority, as to know what is next best for another human being, when, if being truthful, we know that we do not even know what is next best for ourselves.

Confidence is a form of self-flattery, the willingness to invest energy in a direction where we think we know what we are doing. In the end, we do best by doing nothing. “We need more people in this world who are doing nothing,” says Robert Thurman the Tibetan Buddhist Scholar. I think he is right. Until we meditate on our own iceberg, perhaps for lifetimes, if you believe in such things, could we even begin to know what is best for self and other, and of course they are mutually inclusive. Some small comfort there. But in the meanwhile, I’ll take my own advice. I’ll simply say I have no advice, even if you choose to take your sorrow public.

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