Friday, March 15, 2013

Fixing People

I've been hearing the phrase 'fixing people' a lot these days. But what does it really mean?

When I think of fixing, I think of something that is broken, something that doesn't work as it is supposed to be. For instance, the headlight of my car is broken. What does it mean? Well most likely the bulb is burned out (no pun), and needs to be replaced. So I grab the manual, look up how to access the light, and which bulb it needs. Then I go to the store and buy a new one. Actually I will buy two, because when one bulb is burned, the other one will probably go too, so why not replace them both while I'm at it.  Back home, I grab the manual again, open the hood, maybe unscrew a cover, and then I take out the old bulb, and replace it with the new one. And the other one as well.  Close everything up, turn on the lights, check, and if everything works fine I'm done. Clean up, and move on.

So there are two parts here.

  1. The first one is to realize that something is not working the way as it is supposed to be. It is broken. In this case the headlight of my car is not working. We all know how important the lights in a car are, so fixing it is a no-brainer, and needs to be done sooner than later. The key phrase here is 'as it is supposed to be'.  A light is working or it isn't, that's pretty straightforward.
  2. The second part is to figure out how to fix the light. That's straightforward too. Grab the manual and it is all described there. That's pretty easy too, it's a step-by-step plan and if you follow that, and not end up with some screws at the end, the light is fixed. The endgoal is defined, and you don't have to worry about it anymore until the next time the light stops working.

This is of course a pretty simplified example, and for bigger problems you may need to have to bring your car to the garage because they have the expertise and tools to do it. I'm sure the garage also has their step-by-step plan that they follow. And in the end, the final result is that the car is working as it is supposed to be.

Now, let's move on to fixing people.  Following the above analogy, there are two parts to realize:

  1. Someone isn't working as he or she is supposed to be. Now what does that mean, how do you measure that? Is there a blueprint somewhere that describes how a person is supposed to work, to behave, to live? Besides that person's DNA of course. I haven't found one yet.
  2. Ok, just hypothetically, let's assume that the blueprint for this particular person has been discovered. But now what? Where's the manual that describes how to fix the person? When I bought my car, it came with a manual that I keep in the glove compartment, but when I was born no manual was provided as far as I know.

(BTW, if your leg is broken, you go to the doctor and he or she will fix it according to a step-by-step plan, maybe after consulting Gray's Anatomy - the book, not the TV show. But that's of course not what this is about).

Now back to the car.  Last year, I wasn't happy with my car stereo because I couldn't plug in my iPod and listen to music and podcasts during my daily commute. So, I went online, did some research, and bought one. And guess what, it came with a manual that described how to install it!.  So installing it wasn't that difficult, and I can now play my iPod. Was it ideal? No, for my taste the buttons are too small, and I don't like the blue color, but I can plug in my iPod and that was the objective. So mission accomplished. Many people do modifications to their car either to improve the functionality, or just the way it looks.

These are all improvements or enhancements, or whatever you want to call it.

So when I hear the phrase 'fixing people', I think what is really meant is how to improve someone, how to enhance someone, how to make someone shine, etc. But again, where's the blueprint, where's the manual? Are these needed for personal enhancements?

Now I am not saying that because there is no blueprint and/or manual that people are not in need of enhancements, improvements, or even a new coat of paint. As amatter of fact, thank goodness there are no such things, live would be boring because we would all know what the outcome is.

I just don't think that 'fixing people' is the correct phrase to use, since it implies that a person is broken based on an imaginary blueprint, and there is a manual somewhere that describes how to successfully execute a repair.