A small percentage of earthlings are completely content. The rest of us are not. We may not all be in agony, but we nevertheless are troubled or dissatisfied in one way or another. We do not ask for or expect total relief. Many seek that solution via religion, alcohol, sex or other alleged cures, but seldom find it for long.
So where does that leave you, me and other sensitive souls? What is it we want that would make our lives supportable, or more so?
I’ll tell you. We want to be soothed. We search for soothiness.
The word “soothe” comes from Old English roots that mean to comfort, placate, put to ease — not permanently, but at least for a while. An infant cuddled in its mother’s arms will have achieved soothiness.
A whirl through Wikipedia reveals that “soothiness,” with an “i” added, gives the word a psychological quality, as opposed to “soothness,” which can trigger images of silk or polished wood.
Of greater consequence are the questions “What do we do to achieve soothiness?” And “How do we know when we get there?”
Simple: we ask the practitioners what they do, and how they do it. I’d bet we’d get a few hundred answers. Such as:
“Give me two quarts of ice cream, and go away.”
“I turn off my cellphone, computer and TV set for a whole day. Or maybe five.”
“I boot up all the Seinfeld reruns I can find, and just sit there laughing.”
“I count the many blessings I’ve had, such as refusing to marry any of the candidates. Except for Charlie. He’s the guy snoring on the sofa. When he’s awake, he’s a riot.”
“Music — almost any kind, but classical and golden oldies are what quiet me down the most.”
Full disclosure: This column was the result of my recently running across a paperback book written to help persons who have problems with food, eating habits and weight management. Titled “50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food,” the book’s author is Susan Albers, a clinical psychologist who has written other books devoted (in my opinion) to the search for soothiness.
Among her 50 suggestions on how to outwit relying on food to escape tensions, boredom and other delights of living are:
Working out a gym; writing down memories of relaxed, peaceful times; focusing only on the present; knitting; opening your computer and invading cyberspace; using the buddy system to help fight your common problem; getting a massage; and daydreaming.
None of these and similar suggestions are products of genius. Which means they can be applied to all sorts of personal tensions and daily dilemmas. Today’s world is filled with situations that cry out for soothing solutions, and (to use one of Al Jolson’s lines) we ain’t seen nothing yet.
As I read today’s news headlines and the predictions of scientists and other pundits, I’m persuaded that tomorrow’s major questions will cease to be “How shall we save the world?” and/or “How shall the human race save itself?” Instead, a universal cry may well become, “How shall each and every one of us retain our sanity as the earth’s cosmic curtain slowly comes down?”
Forming our own soothiness solutions won’t stop Armageddon (or whatever it may be called). But it could help us spend our final hours or days feeling like perceptive, defiant, God-designed creatures instead of quivering clumps of abandoned organisms.
Bob Driver’s email address is email@example.com.