We all want to help other people. We all want a sense of purpose. Both of these things can give pleasure, peace, and meaning to our lives, but only in reasonable moderation.
Sometimes trying to help other people, or stick with what we think is our purpose in life can lead to nothing but misery. That’s what the popular character Mr. Meeseeks from Rick & Morty represents for us. He is our good intentions gone wrong. He represents the personal hells we sometimes find ourselves in when we thought we were being a good person, or fulfilling some sort of destiny.
It feels good to help in tangible, short-term ways: pick up a prescription for someone, cover a shift, bring food, listen.
Sometimes, often in codependent relationships, desperation can set in for both parties when simple answers aren’t available, or when attempts at help have actually made things worse. Most problems don’t have easy fixes, they are tangled and deep, and that’s kind of heartbreaking and terrifying. It’s hard to be in a place where we can offer some kindness and comfort, but can’t cure a friend’s illness, we can encourage one child, but can’t save every child. We give to charities, but don’t always know how these gestures are being used. We can devote our whole lives to a single cause, and still only make a small difference. Sometimes the differences we make when try to help are net neutral or net negative.
Mr. Meeseeks is the existential exhaustion of giving all you ever had, and finding it’s not enough. It’s all so much more satisfying when problems are small and amount to letting someone borrow a pencil or making someone a cup of coffee. The task at hand completed, our little Mr. Meeseeks inside gets to disappear until he’s called again. Usually, we’re the ones who call him, and despair when we set him on impossible tasks.
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