People do everything for their own self. When somebody said this to me long ago, I had dismissed the thought as useless banter, completely convinced that all we do is not just for ourselves. There are friends and family and bosses who receive our love, attachment and services.
I have seen my aunt working all day, doing all household chores with a smile, answering all my innocent questions why she didn’t get any time to rest and why she doesn’t get tired! She didn’t seem to work for her own self…one more convincing thought that reinforced that we don’t do everything for our own selves!!
Probably I wasn’t mature enough to understand or I didn’t want to. She worked all day because she didn’t have a choice. She had to make her place in the family she got married into. Those were the times when women who thought for themselves; got kicked out of the house they were married into.
This thought reverberated in my mind recently when I went to see a very sick friend who could barely recognize me or talk to me. As she lay there, struggling to talk to me in unrecognizable syllables, I felt so helpless. To be honest, I felt most uncomfortable and wanted to get out of her room as quickly as possible. I asked myself…‘what am I doing here?’
The answers that I tried to draw out of me were quite surprising and enlightening. ‘It was my moral duty.’ ‘I wanted to show I cared.’ ‘It was expected of me.’
All of them connected with me! Had I done this for my pride, my own ego and myself, in order to escape my own distress? Did I visit her for my own peace of mind?
Was it what experts call ‘psychological hedonism?’
Eager to seek more answers I went to the ultimate savior – ‘Google’ and discovered that Thomas Hobbes, the seventeenth century philosopher believed that ‘our self-interest reigns supreme in all our acts.’
I have spent many days pondering, watching, understanding and analyzing…small children grab and push to get their little goals accomplished, they refuse to share and have to be repeatedly told that sharing is a virtue. Siblings vie with each other to prove their worth, probably impelled by an innate competitive spirit.
Sportsmen do the same and even can hurt the players of another team to win.
We donate only those things, which we don’t need. Even those rich who donate liberally to exemplify their generosity make it a point to highlight their kind acts in one form or the other. All charity is done to satisfy our own ego, to gain recognition, fame and respect.
Are empathy, compassion and altruism mere words, which may compel us to put up a façade of humanity to alleviate the agony of others?
All we do for others can be summarized under three headings:
- Moral duty, which we have to perform for our family and friends
- Expectations of others to show that we are successful and working
“There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that’s your own self.” ― Aldous Huxley
All spiritual gurus and scriptures tell us that attachments are mere illusions. The sooner we detach ourselves from worldly possessions, the better it would be!
This paradox of accomplishing and then giving up with a smile and satisfaction has always confounded me.
Just look within and introspect! Ask this question to your inner self: ‘what have I done for others?’ I know many answers would crop up immediately but consider before blurting out…was it selfless? Did you do any good without expectations?
I agree with David Hume, “ There is some benevolence, however small, infused into our bosom; some spark of friendship for human kind; some particle of the dove, kneaded into our frame, along with the elements of the wolf and the dove.”
We have been trying to evolve into better beings. Good thoughts do influence us. Positivity does bring the best out of us but we need constant reminders so that those elements of ‘wolf,’ which are kneaded into our DNA, can be kept under wraps.
Many questions remain unanswered. Let’s discuss them in the comments section.
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