(Friday Filosophy 6/30/23)
Happy Freakin’ Friday!
Greetings from the 305 where I've returned, but still sending you much Aloha. This is my weekly postcard to you with a question, topic, or challenge to contemplate. This week let’s talk about selfishness.
I believe selfishness is your moral prerogative. Not just your prerogative, but your sacred responsibility. But if you’re like most people, the word itself makes you feel guilty. Ayn Rand wrote a collection of essays in a book titled, The Virtue of Selfishness. When asked why she chose to use a word that threatened so many people, she replied, “For the reason that makes you afraid of it.” It’s been more than 50 years since then, but people still react the same way.
Like Rand, I sometimes use the word selfish to describe virtuous qualities of character. The dictionary definition of selfishness is basically concern with one's own interests, without regard for others. It means, I value myself first, regardless of what anyone else thinks. Notice that there is no good or evil implicit in the definition. That, 'without regard for others' does not mean that you are doing harm to others. It simply means that you are well adjusted and sensible enough to meet your own needs first. Now of course that’s not what most of society would have you believe...
They tell you that your moral imperative is to put the interests of the many before the interests of the one. That you should sacrifice yourself for the greater good. This idea is very dangerous to your self-esteem and your life. Relinquishing your happiness for the sake of others, known or unknown, verifies to yourself, and others, that you are small and unworthy of even your own attention. It’s actually anti-humanity, and it makes you mentally ill.
Your own survival and pursuit of happiness must form the foundation of your value system.
To make your life, by your own means, towards your own standards, and for your own enjoyment. Anything less than that is harmful to you. That’s because anything harmful to the individual is actually detrimental to society as a whole. If you want to help the poor, downtrodden, and exploited, start by not being one of them. If you aren’t getting your own needs met, you probably won't be very helpful to anyone else.
That doesn’t mean you won't sometimes put the needs of others above your own. Hopefully if you're a new parent, you have an aging grandparent, or simply have a friend going through a rough patch, you're willing to sacrifice for them. Hopefully you also want to leave the world at least slightly better than it was when you entered it. But I would argue that you do those things for selfish reasons – namely the joy it brings you. And that's okay.
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