Shel Silverstein: Storytelling Extraordinaire! And… Relationship Therapist?

The other day, I was perusing the archives of Brainpickings.org, when I came across a piece posted discussing one of my favorite tales by Shel: “The Missing Piece”. I had remembered reading this as a kid, but man, reading it 12 or so odd years later, I was in for a pleasant surprise.

Some people think children’s books are only for the kiddies, but alas! This is not true. Authors that write these stories, whether it be Marc Brown, Robert Munsch, or even Shel, are actually published teachers.

The best children’s books aren’t written for children: “They are enjoyed by children, but they speak to our deepest longings and fears, and thus enchant humans of all ages. But the spell only works, as legendary children’s book editor Ursula Nordstrom memorably remarked, “if the dull adult isn’t too dull to admit that he doesn’t know the answers to everything.

I absolutely love the simple message behind “The Missing Piece” because it covers a growing misconception in today’s society that I notice all the time among my group of peers — the idea that one needs a partner to feel “complete” and to fill the void inside. For a long time, I believed it to be true as well. As humans surrounded by social norms and the constant noise of interaction that lead us to compensate for our internal pain through distracting ourselves with the company of others, we are extremely vulnerable beings. While few of us actually admit it, we are lonely and always looking for ways to make ourselves feel better.

It took me years of mistakes throughout my teenage years and still going into my young adult life to realize how important it is to understand yourself as an individual as you grow. Relationships should contain two that compliment and support each other’s growth process as their own separate whole. Maria Papova, the author of the review, shares a great message from Antoine De Saint-Exupery:

“Love does not consist of gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”