About once every decade, I go down to my local bookstore to scan the shelves in the psychology aisle and simply let the titles speak to me. These rare excursions are not meant for shopping or browsing. As a book store junkie, I shop and browse often enough, but scanning and waiting for an insight is a special activity reserved for special occasions. I suppose if I were more systematic in my observations, I might be able to discern the Zeitgeist of every decade from the titles of the books on offer, but I go more out of curiosity and an impish sense of fun than from any serious scientific purpose.
So, one day last month, with the clock ticking on the second decade of the twenty-first century, I found myself in front of two five-tiered bookcases labeled “Psychology” and two more labeled “Personal Growth.”
After about 20 minutes with my eyes glazing over, a clerk asked if I had found what I was looking for. He seemed to be an earnest young man, leaning forward as he spoke and offering to help me with my search. Like all the employees of the store, he wore a short lab coat over his clothes with a plastic name tag pinned below his left lapel. His name was Siggy.
Thank you, I replied, but I’m just looking and waiting.
For a message, I clarified. I believe that if I look long enough at these shelves of psychology books, an insight will come to me. It may not be “How We Learn,” but it works for me.
Well, isn’t that interesting? Don’t most people learn by actually reading the books?
“Everything in Its Place,” Siggy, Everything in Its Place. You see, I believe we are all “Connected” and that we can learn a great deal by simply being “Quiet” and waiting for new insights to “Flow” from our silent meditation. It’s “How Psychology Works.”
That’s sounds pretty mystical to me, said Siggy. Are you talking about “The Buddha Pill?” “Can Meditation Change You?”
I’m sure it can. The way I see it, “You Are Not a Rock,” and you have the power to change yourself. There are many ways you can do this and meditation can help.
At this point, I thought I saw Siggy gulp and “Blink” hard. Oh, he said, I’ve been through a lot of changes and I’ve learned all about “Inventing Ourselves.” “The Secret of the Teenage Brain” made a big difference in my life once I learned what it was and how to use it.
Good for you, I can tell you value “The Evolving Self” and that you’re well on your way to “Emotional Success”.
Well, I’ve been lucky, said Siggy, lucky to have had some good “Mentors” who helped me to become “Mindwise.”
Mindwise is important. Without that, you run the risk of being “Duped.”
Not me, replied Siggy, there’s too much of that stuff going around these days, people getting Duped all the time, and do you know who I blame?
No, Siggy I don’t.
People in power who use their influence and power for” Evil,” not good. “The Science of Evil,” now there’s something psychologists should be working on. Psychologists should be studying what makes some people disregard the dignity of their fellow men and women and use other people for their own selfish ends. It makes me really mad. I could go on all day about this. “I Can’t Just Stop.”
Well Siggy, we have been studying that for a long time.
We? What? Are you telling me you’re a psychologist?
Yes, Siggy, I am. Don’t let the t-shirt and flip-flops fool you. I’m a mostly retired psychologist. With that disclosure, I thought I saw Siggy start to “Sway,” as if overcome with a strong emotion or an insight of his own.
So, you know everything in all of these psychology books?
No, Siggy, I don’t. I’ve learned a lot in my career but not even a fraction of what’s in all of these books. I couldn’t even tell you “What the Dog Saw.” I have many a “Blindspot” and I’ll be the first to admit it. I come here all the time and I hope to be “Smarter Next Year.” For instance, I’d like to learn about “The Invisible Gorilla.” Can you help me with that?
Look, sir, I’m just a bookseller and you’re the psychologist, but I can tell you there are no gorillas here. Can we change the subject? Maybe you can help me with a personal matter. Do you think it’s possible for me to find “Love in 90 Days?”
Yes, Siggy, I do but I’ve also learned that sometimes the best advice is the “Advice Not Given.” But, what the heck, you’re a good kid, and I’ll tell you this. You can’t hurry love Siggy. Diana Ross said it a long time ago, and it’s still true today. You just have to wait.
Who’s Diana Ross?