Autonomous Fingers (Hooray for Selfishness!)

There has been some debate over whether true altruism can exist. While we may help others with no promise of reward, our race tend to look with admiration on selfless behavior. The fact that we identify selflessness as a desirable trait causes any seemingly selfless act in which we engage to find reward, be that reward external in the form of praise or monetary gain or internal via an increase in perceived self-worth. Many of us like to see people of the world in black and white. That is, we like to see “good” people and “bad” people. To be able to identify oneself as a “good” person is a very desirable ability. This makes the helping of others a fairly rewarding experience.

But what if we are all one? What if selfishness is the truly righteous path because the helping of others is the helping of oneself? I believe we act like autonomous fingers, often never understanding that we are not alone, but a part of the whole. If the hand refuses to feed the mouth, the whole body dies. So why not be the change we want to see in the world? It’s not selfless or altruistic. It is selfish. And that is a good thing. Empathy is a natural part of human existence. To the mirror neurons in our brains, your pain is no different than my pain.

What we view as selfishness, the caring for one’s own physical self, is short-sighted. One who cares for only him/herself doesn’t see that we are all one. But enlightened selfishness is necessary for our survival. Enlightened selfishness recognizes your pain as my pain. Enlightened selfishness says it is my responsibility to help you because we are one.

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