"Job, I have to continue a few thoughts that are on my mind before we get back to the question of the way you were restored in ch.42. Here is the dilemma or problem that bugs me today. I am bothered by a reality that no doubt is true but which I cannot seem to accept. I call it the dilemma of utility. For most people it is not a dilemma at all; it just bugs the heck out of me, however. Here is what I mean.
There are all kinds of messages out there in American culture that you should just do what you want to do--that when you truly discover your "passion" in life and pursue it, that money will not be a problem, and that somehow, with some kind of Adam Smith's "invisible hand," there will be a kind of invisible force matching your desires with peoples' needs and prosperity will result. Everyone will be happy. You will be in a "win-win" situation. You will have recognized your purpose in life.
When I explained this philosophy to a friend of mine, his response was, "that is the philosophy of those who have a large trust account." Another friend said, "That is fine, Bill, but ultimately people will recognize you if you are doing something useful for them. They don't have time or interest for disinterested investigations. They want someone to solve their problems, and their problems are mostly very practical problems--lawsuits that impend, getting someone to pay child support, figuring out how to get along with kids, worrying about dealing with a bureaucracy, etc." So, my philosophy, which I have imbibed from some kind of people who get paid to mouth banalities on TV or in self-help literature, has been met with skepticism by my friends. This leaves me in confusion, Job, and I want to bring the confusion to you.
So, what shall it be, Job? I would love to be able to sort this out, but here is my fear. I will share it with you directly. My fear is that I cannot any longer do things for people that they will find useful. That is, the voices in my own mind, urging me to "look hither" or to "pay attention to X" are now so strong that I can barely hear other voices. Of course, I listen very well, and I am very interested in stories of people, their trials and losses, their victories, their interpretation of texts, their "take" on life. But when someone suggests that I might want to "do X" for them, it is as if a cloud comes over my vision, a narrowing of my intellectual space results-- a constriction in breathing, a sense that life will enter into a dark tunnel. I think my reaction is twofold: first I will really not be able to give you what you desire and second, if you want it, why not provide it for yourself? I think those two reactions, Job, show that I have completely misunderstood crucial basic lessons in life.
So, maybe I am doing all this writing because I have failed in the attempt to be useful to people. I think I tried to be useful for 25 years, but nothing worked. I wouldn't be the first person who chose an alternative career because the "first choice" didn't work. After all, wasn't it Woody Allen that said that being a comedian is no one's first choice?
But it is not as if I cannot help people. I have found in the last month that my advice both to my mother and brother on insurance law-related issues or general legal issues was, at least to them, quite useful. It is just that I seemingly freeze when I have to give advice for money. I know, for example, that the most recent projects for which I have made some money have been quite disappointing to the people who have hired me to do the work. I think the reason is that I cannot imagine myself into their situation with enough conviction to provide them a product they need. Or, alternatively, when I am providing it, I am saying to myself, 'my reality is so different from yours that I really can't even imagine yours. I don't think I will be of much use to you.'
So, I think this is my dilemma, Job. I would like to be useful to people, but I have just about given up hope trying to be so. I think the only thing I really can do in life is to interpret texts (and occasionally give a zinging review of a movie, a book or a cultural phenomenon). But who wants that? So, I continue to walk in quite a fog bank, Job, feeling pretty clueless as I live. Clueless but fascinated by life and people and ways they construe things.