Altruistic selfishness

LIO Organisation

25 April 2020

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We think we need to go to the guru, teachers and priests for the dose of wisdom, but every time we fly, a relative action, now, in pandemic weather, the dose of wisdom is served to us by flight attendants during the broadcast security message.

“In case of depressurization, the oxygen masks will come down from the seat above you. Secure your oxygen mask before taking care of the children in your care.”

When I first heard this, even before I had children, I was shocked. Come to think of it, it makes sense to take care of yourself quickly and then focus on your children. After all, you are of no use to them if you die, which could very well happen since you try so hard to put on their oxygen masks while you are unable to breathe. But it is shocking to receive official instruction to take care of yourself before anyone else.
The truth is that we rarely do anything without any gain or benefit, no matter how small and subtle. Making a donation to a charity makes you feel good. He who claims to be sacrificing a well-paid job to study medicine and help people, helps himself in particular. If we look at the monks we can think that they are the most altruistic people on the planet. They have sacrificed everything that happiness can bring us (personal life, property, sex) and in general control over our own lives. But they are there for the same selfish reason as we are in the world, they have decided that is the way to their happiness.
We do not realize or do not want to realize that we are selfish because we would ruin our precious self-image. You will never hear on the news that a man is to be admired for his selfish actions, and this prejudice, even if it is healthy, comes from fear. For fear that if we do not keep the concept of altruism sacred, then we will not give anyone two bucks – or, more importantly, no one will give us two bucks when we need it.

In the whole concept of self-action, of selfishness, is the ability to help other people. People help the less fortunate because that makes them appreciate how lucky they are. People put themselves at the service of others, because that gives them a meaning to their purpose in life. This does not reduce the quality of help, but simply recognizes something important that most people do not notice, namely: to do good, you have to be good, to give, you have to have.
Another concept, unachievable for a lot of people of overwhelming “altruism”, who refuses help so as not to bother, is the ability to receive. The moment you let yourself be helped, you are in fact the main donor of help. You are the one who helps because you receive. Receiving, you change someone else’s mood and self-image. You both win.
I’m sure you know the tragic story of the Titanic, but in this tragedy there was another deeper and harder to understand, the story of the California ship.
In 1912, Britain’s largest steamship, the Titanic, built by the White Star shipping company, embarked on a voyage across the Atlantic. The Titanic was the largest ship ever built and was said to be impossible to sink. However, in the middle of the ocean, the ship hit an iceberg and sank shortly after. Of the 2,000 passengers on board, too many lost their lives. Obviously, everyone mourned the loss of so many lives and an investigation was launched. The causes that emerged were multiple and stricter security measures were taken, much like it is happening in the world now. But the investigation then revealed another piece of information that few people know about.
At the time when the Titanic was sinking, at a fairly short distance there was another ship, called California! A vessel whose radiocommunication station was closed and which did not receive the help signal. As a result, the Titanic sank while another ship, which could reach it in less than an hour, saw its way unhindered, unaware of what had happened there. Here is the tragedy!
People who need help and people who could help, but because destiny decides otherwise, they are not allowed to help. Both sides lost equally.
We should learn something from this, right? While sailing the ocean of life, someone could be in danger and ask for help. Would we be able to hear him? Would we have the ability to help him? Definitely yes, as long as we sailed with all the stations open and the engines running.
The best thing you can do for other people is take care of yourself. In the dance of life, put on your oxygen mask first, then take a deep breath and help others. They will thank you for that.


Psychotherapist Iuliana Dumitru

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