Review: Steering by Starlight

March 16, 2011 Comments Off on Review: Steering by Starlight

I cannot bring myself to say the title of this book out loud to people who I want to respect my intelligence, but it might be the closest to “not obnoxious” a self-help book has ever been. It does ask you to put up with silly metaphors, but it’s better than impenetrable philosophical jargon, and about halfway through you’ve stopped paying attention to them because the advice Beck is using them to give feels real and true, and hopeful. The whole book is a validation of my recent obsession with self-examination and dropping whatever doesn’t “work” for you. She includes a lot of success stories and a lot of exercises that you can do, even if, like me, your initial reaction is “Pf! Right, like I’m going to think real hard about everything I hate about my job.”

I do appreciate her sense of humor. She does the genre writing well, and she is more often actually funny than not, which is also a break with self-help-book tradition. And she hits a good middle ground between sensible Harvard graduate and New Age loony—just when she’s going a little too far in one direction, she’ll pull it back. And she believes what she’s saying. In fact, I think the greatest proof of her earnestness and her faith in her methods is her infrequent accounts of events that aren’t meaningful to the reader, or at least to me, but that are presented as if they are. You don’t write with such awe about something unless it meant a lot to you, and it’s reassuring to feel that she wasn’t just writing the book for the money, out of some cold-blooded scheme to manipulate her readers long enough to make some money off ’em.

And—dammit, I feel inspired and instructed, in spite of my best efforts. Weird. But, I guess, the point. I’m a little dazed and I’m having a hard time enunciating what I actually liked about her advice, but I’ve been drifting towards “trust your gut” judgment for many years now, and I guess that was the book in a nutshell. First, learn where your gut is, then learn how to listen to it, then learn how you can obey it, and so on, but that’s the idea. The only thing is, as I mentioned in an earlier post, it’s not helping me much at the moment, because I’m desperately grabbing for a job to hold me long enough to look around and figure out where I’m going. There was a brief flare of hope when she was talking about how, if you really do have to do something that feels unpleasant (like looking for a job?), then there are different ways to go about it that will probably help you chill out. But the four she described were a little unclear and none of them really sounded like me, so that part was a bust. But there are a lot of cool stories in the book, and it gives you (or renews your) faith in synchronicity.


Here is my plan for life […]: “I exist in perpetual creative response to whatever is present.”


Remember that all things which happen
To you are raw materials
Endlessly fertile
Endlessly yielding of thoughts that could change
Your life and go on doing forever…
So fear not, my friend.
The darkness is gentler than you think.

—Ben Okri


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