When I lay awake at night pondering my naval and the wider universe, I often question the motivations of humanity and I recently came to wonder whether we give of ourselves because we are truly selfless, or if there is more to it.
What is it that motivates us to behave in certain ways?
What is it that drives us to hurt or to help others?
Would you help a homeless person in the street, without a second thought?
These are just some of the questions that I ask myself in the dead of night. The questions that keep me from sleep.
Am I a good person because I am a good person? Or, am I good because it makes me feel better about myself?
Selfless or selfish?
We do things under the illusion of selflessness but even the greatest philanthropist will describe the sensations of giving to others as being gratifying in some way.
Which, in and of itself, is a feeling about self.
Given this, is it possible that every time we do something for someone else we are getting a kick out of it; increasing our endorphins, leading us to want to do it again?
This act then becomes an act of self fulfilment and self indulgence and consequently not an act of selflessness.
We feel good when we do things for other people.
Therefore, by definition, all acts of selflessness are in reality acts of selfishness, based on a narcissistic, self perpetuating, and completely delusional sense of sacrifice.
A person may be writing a book on self help in order to spread the word about the latest and greatest gift to humanity they have invented, unearthed or learned.
But, is their motivation to give the world enlightenment, as the Dalai Lama does, by giving away their knowledge everyday with no physical, emotional, or financial reward.
Or, is their motivation to share their knowledge with the world in order to feel good about their contribution to humanity, to feel the tingle of knowing they have helped someone, or to receive financial reward for their efforts in writing a book.
If we were truly selfless, we would send out the information into the wide blue yonder and not care if anyone reads it and not look for comments and not receive personal gain in anyway for our contribution.
We would not feel anything about it we would just do it.
The sheer fact that we do feel things, that we do want to know if we helped someone, makes the act of giving self indulgent.
It is OK to be selfish, just be honest about it.
Yes it is important to help people.
Our world would be an even sadder place if we did not have philanthropic people out there donating their time to charity or assisting the starving countries to find clean water and grow crops, or those who offer someone a warm meal and a place to sleep.
I am just asking the question;
Is it selfless or is it essentially narcissism and self indulgence, camouflaged by a smoke screen of humanitarianism?
You have to admit it. Think back to a time you assisted someone. (hopefully it was not that long ago).
Perhaps you participated in an ‘act of random kindness’, or perhaps you gave a spare room in your house to a young person who was homeless.
Sure you did it out of compassion and a sense of social responsibility.
But did you get a nice warm fuzzy feeling from your charitable act?
Did you smile and feel that you might be helping this person get on their feet and change their life?
Did you feel good? (at least at the beginning).
So, was the act about the young person or was it about you?
My guess is it is both.
I am certain that in a great many situations helping someone does not make you feel better, because their circumstances are so bleak that it breaks your heart.
But I am certain too, that in a great many cases we help people because we think we should, because we feel a social obligation and because we get a personal kick out of it.
Again, I would like to reiterate that I am in no way suggesting that we should not help people or animals.
Selflessness and selfishness in my mind are circular, a self perpetuating cycle of give & receive.
I am just investigating human motivation and I feel that throughout our lives, from birth, we are trained to do things for reward.
We are given treats when we are good.
We are told Santa will come if we are good.
So we are conditioned to do good in order to get a reward.
We are all Pavlov’s dog.
Let me know what you think. Think about acts of random kindness…are they selfless? Are they really random?
Until next time