As Tricycle approaches its 25th year, I find myself thinking back to the discussion I had with Helen Tworkov, Tricycle’s founder, when she asked me to take her place in August 2001. I was perplexed, wondering why she chose me and whether I was up to the job. She pointed out that it was a relief to her that I didn’t imagine I knew everything or even precisely what to do. She also gave me two bits of advice: get a thick skin and remember that it’s an editor’s job to help writers do their best work.
It’s this latter bit of advice that has been most helpful. The skin thickens on its own. But being able to support contributors, to work with them, to help them get where they want to go even if they aren’t yet clear about where that is, has been the most rewarding part. The skills and knowledge one develops on the job all go into that.
A friend recently said that everyone needs someone to believe in them. And it’s with great gratitude that I remember that someone believed in me. The bond such a trust forges runs deep, and it’s very like the bond that can develop between an editor and writer. There is an implicit agreement to press on with a piece despite the sometimes stormy exchanges the editorial process engenders. We believe in each other.
In this issue we present a section on the relationship between Buddhism and self-help, which in many ways makes me consider the very relationships I describe. I have no quarrel with self-help. Some years back, Jacqueline Stone, professor of religions at Princeton University, was clear that Buddhism has traditionally been thought to bring the full range of life’s good things as well as enlightenment: “Historically, most Buddhists have simply regarded worldly benefits as existing on a continuum with spiritual benefits,” Stone answered when Andrew Cooper, now our features editor, asked her about this, “including the ultimate benefit of Buddhahood.”
Practice can bring its own immediate rewards. It takes a lot just to take care of oneself, and we need all the help we can get. If a Buddhist practice brings much-needed relief to anyone who suffers, that is a significant thing. But as the special section came together, it reinforced something else for me, too: that sometimes the best way to help oneself is to help others, and to believe in them. Any spirituality that leaves that out is trying to fly with one wing.
As you look through the issue, enjoy the many wonderful pieces we’ve gathered on self-help and Buddhism, and be sure to delve into the riddle of what self it is you’re trying to help. From longtime Tricycle contributor Sallie Tisdale’s delightful “Self-Care for Future Corpses” to philosophy professor Clancy Martin’s understanding of self-help as a “noble faith” (“It’s All for the Better”), there’s plenty to chew on. But perhaps section editor Alex Caring-Lobel best sums up in his intro what I’m driving at: “If Buddhism can help us to see beyond the self, ushering us out of our shared isolation, it might be exactly the help we need.”
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