As a kid, did you ever argue against what your parents said for the sheer fun of it? I remember we would play devils advocate on the playground, and this title was one of the things we discussed. If people get personal satisfaction out of selfless acts, they can’t be selfless anymore. Somehow, pretending to still be made all of it seem dirtier than not being altruistic at all.
Of course, these were musings of children’s, and I wonder why they stuck with me.
Selfless acts such as reaching out to the vulnerable, giving away money or volunteering are obviously inherently good for society. They are not ‘good’ because we get nothing out of them; they are ‘good’ because other’s get more out of them than we do. We often give up sensory pleasure such as sleeping longer or spending money on treating ourselves instead of donating it and so on.
I have been volunteering in a food kitchen during lockdown, and noticed that newcomers are excited to take photos of us working. On one hand it bothers me: in the 12-step program, selfless acts do not count if we tell others about them. On the other hand, they might spread the message, attract more volunteers, media coverage and donations, and look back on these photos with joy.
Most importantly, I wonder why I take it upon myself to judge others for taking photos when I take 30 selfies only to choose one to post.
My faith is incredibly dear to me, and even more complex. It’s my own personal blend of Buddhism, Christianity and meditation. I am never closer to my higher power than when I remember to forget myself. The self as a separate entity is an illusion, just like the barrier to our bodies are. A very early blog post explains this. Who is to say that my joy from helping out is not a reflection of the joy I caused?
From where I see it, true selflessness is not even posing yourself the question whether you’re being selfless. It’s not questioning the motives of the people who help you along the way.
And it’s definitely not writing a blog post about it.