Thursday, March 16, 2006

Love thy Selfless - Part 1

Selfless acts are all we see on TV for redemption.  And we are supposed to love ourselves?

Modern psychology tells us that we should love our own self and that means to take care of ourselves… indeed, no one else will do it for us.  (This presents an interesting dilemma, but more on this in a minute.)

Then God tells us to love thy neighbour as thyself, but we seem to stop at love thy neighbour and work exclusively on that part.

The sentence could go both ways: love the neighbour, as you would love yourself, causing no harm etc… or

Love yourself, in a manner similar to loving the neighbour.

The difference is subtle, but it is there nevertheless.  In the latter, selfless is a matter of devotion and vocation.  In the former, being selfless means you are sublimating yourself to the neighbours needs.

This is usually completely misunderstood, especially when neighbours aren’t involved.

I think we need to define self “ish” first.

We have the 800-pound man who wants the government to pay for his stomach stapling operation.  This is wrong on so many levels.  For one, he is not allowed to accept himself as is, morbidly obese people are frowned upon by pretty much everyone. For the other, he puts the burden of blame, and a heavy one at that, on society for his condition.  And finally, he isn’t loving thy neighbour because he wants to stick thy neighbour with the bill.

With this example, I have to wonder if some of his self-worth is based on how much others take care of him?  

This equation is so simple, it’s hard to grasp.  “I am worth the amount of selfless acts that I garner from others.”  Seems logical, although completely bent.  Unfortunately, it’ll hold water, and lots of it.

For sure, parents tell their children to eat their veggies and fruit instead of chocolate bars and marshmallows. This is even enforced in some dire cases.  

One would almost think that this is how you teach a child to take care of himself.  


What really happens is that the parent is taking the care, but the child only sees disgusting food to be scarfed down.  As soon has the child gets a chance, its back to candy because, so very obviously, these are the things that make the child feel good!  The chemicals involved in complex carbs and chocolates are an insanely powerful force to be reckoned with, but that’s another blog entry.

What have we learned?  Health is completely meaningless to a child and is not a valid care-taking imperative.

But the child learns quickly that chocolate is the key to self-serving goodness. Hmmm. Kinda puts a new spin on child obesity doesn’t it?

Barring health issues, this shows that the child is obviously equipped with self-love.  Damned the little rug rats!

Somewhere down the road sublimation occurs and we are then taught to reel it all in and start thinking of others.  Sharing, compassion, mingling, not beating the shit out of little Steven… the list goes on.

Haplessly we delete the child’s self-focus in favour of anything but.  We certainly don’t want to raise selfish children.  By god they must be taught to share… dammit!

Low and behold, some become selfish and self-centred anyway.  “But where did we go wrong?”

It’s not that we went wrong.  It’s just that we have no clue as to what is right.  We have no easy dogma to understand, no clear example.  And we wind up with 800 pounds of anger.

Now about being selfless.  It’s a much easier angle

All we see are examples of selflessness on TV and in movies, indeed in church and in our everyday teachings.  This is the dilemma.  The route to salvation, if any, is apparently through selfless acts towards others.  This would make for a formidable society if everyone subscribed to it, but reality is much harsher.

But we do have the ever-present movie examples: be selfless and you will be loved, good things will happen to you.  

And when they don’t?  When you’ve been selfless and still get screwed?  When you’ve been kind and generous and got nothing to show for it?  When you are wasting away in a mental asylum, depressed out of your mind, completely worn out from trying to provide for others?  Good feelings about the selfless acts you have done will not pay the heating bill, nor bring back your sanity.  Time to move to someplace warm, I guess…
Or maybe this is betrayal.  The example you have been provided your entire life has now betrayed you.  It really wasn’t the solution.  It was actually a way of manipulating you.  Maybe being selfless is all about slavery in favour of the selfish?

Holy crap!

But then, when good things do happen to you, it usually because someone else was selfless towards you!

Doesn’t that beat all, eh?  

(…and you thought I was being too cynical there for a minute, didn’t you?)

On the flip side, I have not seen many mainstream examples of selfless acts towards oneself.  It’s just not done, not systematically.  And certainly never in a good light.

That’s the crunch, isn’t it?  

I caught a chunk of Oprah’s TV show where a courageous young lady was in the spotlight about cutting herself, because she was abused as a child.  A likely, if rather extreme, reaction based on self-mutilation to try to atone for self-hate.   She finished the interview with “I am <her name>”.  I smiled immediately and thought to myself: this chick got it!  But this simple phrase dumbstruck the audience so much that she had to say it again only to get a reaction.  Beautifully simple!

So she’s advocating self-love of some kind.  What does she know?  What has she figured out that we haven’t… or maybe we have and just don’t know.

She needed an intervention to sort her ass out.  Sometimes these work, sometimes not.  In her case, she was open minded enough to listen, to understand, to accept and then take charge of herself.  Oddly enough, at no point did she get selfish.  

In this particular case, she was totally victimizing herself, which makes things easier for us outsiders.  It also means she wasn’t wreaking havoc upon others, which we would simply have condemned out of hand and tried to lock her up.

So it is that many people, including her boyfriend intervened with her, on her own behalf.  She isn’t cured, not by any stretch of the imagination, but she is now accepting her problem and furthermore, she is doing something about it.  She hasn’t cut herself in six-months.

You identify something you should improve on, and go about doing it… That’s really taking care of yourself.

I’m thinking she is now, and will continue to be a formidable human being.  Why? Because if she has the capacity, the courage and the gumption to find and address her own problems then there is truly nothing she cannot do.

The next question to ask inside each of us: what’s an issue and what ain’t?


Post a Comment

<< Home