Getting dirty: What is real help?

What is real help?

In the past few weeks my friends and I have been engaged in a conversation about the idea of help, helping people, and what that really means. I see the word thrown around a lot, and it is very fashionable for people to donate their time, and or money, to a cause that moves them. Sometimes it can be very sincere and authentic, and other times some millionaire might give $10 a year to some cause they don’t really know anything about, and walk away feeling like a hero. Technically, this is still help, and however detached from the problem, still helps.

One of the conclusions we came to, is that people love to help, particularly when it does not endanger them, or is of no great monetary cost, or does not get them involved in a dangerous situation. Carrying some groceries, giving someone a pat on the back when they are having a hard time, or lending them hundred dollars. These are safe forms of help, that don’t really endanger the person helping, or get them dirty for the most part.

Sometimes real help, is not so heroic or clean. Sometimes offering help can be downright lethal, or put you on the run, or in direct conflict with others in a situation you don’t entirely understand.
In this calling that we participate in, performing arts, creating art, and living in a threshold between dreams and reality as we do it, we attract all manner of people, many who come to feed off of us, our art, or the scene created around us. Some of these people can be dangerous. Some of them may be addicted to, or dealing drugs. Some of them may be outright full-time criminals is looking for victims. And still others, may just be confused people with an incredible gift for creating drama around them.
I have spoken before on the karmic responsibility of shepherding the crowds you attract, because you are in essence, somewhat responsible for what goes on in this scene that you create. There are a lot of limitations to this, but I think just being aware, is being responsible.

For example: you might draw a crowd that likes to party a lot and use recreational drugs. You may invite a friend who has never experienced such a crowd or lifestyle, who suddenly launches into a major drug binge, jeopardizing their family, work, and status and community, who is now coming to all your gigs to meet other people and get high, or drink, or engage in other self-destructive activity. Many would say that this is not your problem. While I would agree, that it is not your problem technically, it is also technically a problem you had a hand in creating, and are therefore responsible for the part you created.
Helping somebody like that with their drug problem, or at least bringing it up with them, and checking in with them when they come to your gig or show, or telling your other friends, who party regularly to stop giving them drugs and alcohol. This is just one example.
Pretty involved, right?

Through Exactly my point.

Real help, often does not offer you the opportunity to just drop some money and walk away feeling heroic. It means that you demand someone go to the clinic to get checkups. You help them file a restraining order against another person you know, or know of, who is stalking, or abusing them. You help counsel them on how to get a new apartment, room, or place to live. You hold their hand and walk with them when they are suffering from bouts of mental instability, or when their mental health is in question, and they’re having an episode.

This is real help. It is not clean, not glamorous, not easy, and often very private, so afterwards, there will be nobody around to pat you on the back and tell you what a great person you are for helping somebody else. In fact, there will often be people around asking why the hell you are helping that person, or trying to publicly or privately, ridicule or shame you for giving help to them in the first place. I think it is for this reason that so many people complain about not getting the help they need, when really serious stuff happens. Help can be costly.
To further complicate the subject, it has been my experience that people who often ask for help, needed it less than those who have not let on, or revealed to you, that they are in trouble.

Also, sometimes the firm “no”, and refusal of help, can be more helpful, then the help that is being requested. This is paradoxical, and confuses people often. Particularly those who just ask for assistance. Breaking the negative pattern, sometimes requires that you deny somebody the help they have asked for. This is another form of real help
But the benefits of helping somebody else can be incredible. I myself have been through many of the situations I mentioned before, only to discover that somebody I didn’t even know cared about me that much, went way out of their way to get involved in my life, when it was messy as hell, to give me guidance and support. Artists can also be tremendously prideful, and we are Masters of putting on airs, publicly stating that we need no help from anyone, while secretly we drown in one bad situation to another.

Actually helping someone deepens your experience as a human, expands your mind in terms of your relation with people around you, gives you a greater sense of your position in the community, your ability to change outcomes, and also can be incredibly instructional, as a manual on how to stay out of trouble. Most of the people who I have seen in serious trouble, including myself, did not just wake up one day in a state of chaos. More often than not, I believe it is a slow, deliberate, subconscious march, and subtle self-sabotage, combined with some poor habits, and some bad luck. If you add drugs, alcohol, and other addictions, to the picture then things can really become explosive. I’m sure you reading, have experienced one side or the other, either in dealing with people who were going through these problems, or dealing with them yourself.

This is some of the kind of stuff we write about. The kind of stuff we sing about. Action. Adventure. Clashes of ideas. Dangerous situations. This is life.

Rolling up your sleeves, and getting down into the dirt, is one of the fundamental tenets of real help, and a real world, with real situations, that have real repercussions for everybody involved.

Help is a power, and a blessing. One to be used wisely, and with a great deal of thought.


All rights reserved, Piero Amadeo Infante, for the Tao of Gigging, 2016

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