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When Selfishness is Selfless

Several thinkers, both ancient and modern, have thought, written and taught on the best way to live life. Should we live it selfishly or should we live it selflessly?

Come to think of it.

If you choose to live life selfishly–that is, if you amass wealth without spending a reasonable fraction of it for others and if you acquire knowledge without enlightening others from your vast repository of knowledge–you’ll eventually die, and your wealth and knowledge with you. Pointless. You’re like a seed that fell upon a rock, which an hungry bird feeds on at dusk and excretes at dawn.

On the other hand, if you choose to live selflessly (that is, for every dime you earn you spent a reasonable fraction on improving another’s wellbeing and for every knowledge you acquire you invest a reasonable proportion in enlightening another’s mind) you’ll eventually die, but the little crumbs of wealth and intellect that fell from you along the way as you journey in life will live after you as seeds in another’s life, germinating into a full tree with a potential of feeding even more people than you ever envision.

At the end, your selflessness will pay off as posterity begins to write your name with permanent markers on the white board of time, and every lip keeps pronouncing your name in passionate reverence many years after your assumed death. This is more like saying that you give off your life so you can have it back. This is what I call the principle of selfish selflessness.

Everything about you is at the same time not about you.

Pause. Ponder on that. Now continue.

It’s your life, but it’s our life too.

Live with a consciousness of this and you’ll have a full-filled life drawn plainly before you.

Now having stated this, I love to remind myself that selfishness and selflessness are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are necessary companions. As a matter of fact, for example, one of the commandments is to love your neighbour as yourself. This command is on its surface, a call to be selfless, but beyond the superficial interpretation is a revelation of selfishness. Anyone who obeys this command does so selfishly, anyone who obeys any command does so selfishly.

Disobeying a command calls for the wrath of the commander and so any thinking, self-loving, selfish person will definitely follow the commander so as to be safe from the possible wrath. Now, to love your neighbour as yourself is a command to be selfless but anyone who obeys it must do so with a mind of selfishness which originates from an unwillingness to be punished.

Because the chemist in me will often bend towards the mathematical side of things, here’s a mathematical representation of this argument:

EQ. 1. Love your neighbor = Selflessness
EQ. 2. Obeying Command = Selfishness
EQ. 3. Love your neighbor = Command
Recall from EQ. 2 (Obeying Command = Selfishness)
Therefore, Selfishness = Selflessness.

These two simply work hand-in-hand.

To be selfless you must first be selfish.

To be selfless with your money you must first be selfish in acquiring it.

To be selfless with your time you must first be selfish in making sure you use it to accomplish what you want to with the day before giving away the rest.

To be selfless with your love you must first be selfish in loving yourself and making sure your needs and wants are taken care of so you can be happy taking care of others.

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