The Need for Help

“I am affected not just by this one other or a set of others, but by a world in which humans, institutions, and organic and inorganic processes all impress themselves upon this me who is, at the outset, susceptible in ways that are radically involuntary.  The condition of the possibility of my exploitation presupposes that I am a being in need of support, dependent, given over to an infrastructural world in order to act, requiring an emotional infrastructure to survive.  I am not only already in the hands of someone else before I start to work with my own hands, but I am also, as it were, in the ‘hands’ of institutions, discourses, environments, including technologies and life processes, handled by an organic and inorganic object field that exceeds the human”

  • – Judith Butler –

Howitis - Beckett


He cried, it cried, I cried.  But help, it will not come, for me.  And why should it?  Who could owe me assistance, and why?  And what would it benefit another? Even how might the crying become?  Often silent, unheard; a gesture or tone; a constant “I am unable to do this alone.”  There’s no reason.  No reason that someone might help me.

Help has come.  Many times, and that greatly.  Otherwise I would not be alive.  Irrational, inconceivable, as ‘last measure,’ – the cry’s been expressed, even shouted or posted: “I need help or we will not survive!”  And it’s come.  Never “I.”  The yelp always weighted with “we.”  In deep over my head as a man, as a father, a worker and thinker as well – always “help!?”  Needing contact or touch or attention.  Needing hearing or care or advice.  Needing teaching, protection, support.  Needing money or sitters or transport.  Needing food.  Needing shelter.  Such needs.

I need help.  “I.”

Whatever effects or affects, I believe that I do try to help.  To have food for my children, and beds.  To respond to emotional traumas, disturbs – to hear and attend and comply.  To love others embodied and minded.  Within (my) reason, I do what I can to assist, especially those gathered about me.  I experience my’self’ as RESPONSE-able – once engaged there’s a sense that I must.  Some say that we choose to do good – but I question.  Many insist we always have  choice, yet I seem unable to abandon or neglect, unless, perhaps, my “self” or theoretically.  I am prone to the “people are people” – shaped by time and engagements – to behave in the world as they are, and continue the way that they be (in small measure).  The issues of scale and of time.  We do what we can to survive.  Some prone to survival of others, some not.  Depends on the value of “self,” so it seems.  I help, which develops that value (I hope).  To think I might matter, be dependable/depended on, be important – to someone, somewhere, at some time. Survive.

And I notice myself ever howling for help.  Help!?   As I age, I distinguish the needs.  Need for contact and talk – to think and to feel; needing help with evolving demands.  “Man,” “parent,” “student,” “professional,” – all extensions of what I once was – just a “human.”  I can’t even survive being that, let alone all these complex designations.  Artificial “helps” like alcohol or nicotine, religious belief or “self-help” seem to do as much harm as relief.  As babies and aged we are weakened…our “primes” occasioned by a nexus of supports.  In our weakness, we comprehend need(s).

I need.  “Help!?”

Without knowing what it is or might look like.  I know that I’m drowning.  I age.  I know no one owes it, the benefits would have to be rationalized.  I fail.  I can’t go on.  I must go on.  I go on.


You must go on, that’s all I know. 

            They’re going to stop, I know that well:  I can feel it.  They’re going to abandon me. It will be the silence, for a moment (a good few moments). Or it will be mine? The lasting one, that didn’t last, that still lasts?  It will be I? 

            You must go on. 

            I can’t go on.          

            You must go on. 

            I’ll go on. You must say words, as long as there are any – until they find me, until they say me. (Strange pain, strange sin!) You must go on. Perhaps it’s done already. Perhaps they have said me already. Perhaps they have carried me to the threshold of my story, before the door that opens on my story. (That would surprise me, if it opens.) 

            It will be I? It will be the silence, where I am? I don’t know, I’ll never know: in the silence you don’t know. 

            You must go on.          

            I can’t go on. 

            I’ll go on.

–Samuel Beckett, The Unnameable


6 thoughts on “The Need for Help

  1. Yea, with Beckett there was always this doggedness in despair, a sense that even if I want to end this, I want. Why? Because – there is no reason, no sufficient reason to not go on, so I’ll go on. To persist is reason enough. Despair is enough. Life’s own doggedness is enough. We’re condemned to existence, to persistence. Butler was too influenced by Foucault’s notions… the sense that the ‘I’ is trapped in the network, bound to the institutional fabrications that make and unmake us, enslave us in our illusions of freedom. Freedom is another word for slavery she tells us. To be aware of one’s machinic existence. For Beckett the will-to-life is stronger than thanatos…

"A word is a bridge thrown between myself and an other - a territory shared by both" - M. Bakhtin

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