I had a girlfriend once who was self-involved to a comical extent. I endured my situation as a satellite in orbit around her singularity for about a year before I realized that she wasn't just going through a phase. The girl was entirely oblivious to anything that didn't serve to further her own comfort. I thought her mean-spirited at first but eventually came to realize that she was caught in a vicious cycle.

Acting overtly on your own behalf engenders a similar reaction from the people around you. Her aggressive nurturing of the center of her own universe was based on the fallacious assumption that everybody else was doing the same thing. She saw a selfish soul behind every pair of eyeballs because they were righteously wary of what they saw in hers. The poor girl was trapped in a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Our little thing reached its logical conclusion the day that I was forced to confront her flawed perspective head on. I requested a simple act of oral pleasure that young lovers routinely enjoy and she responded with a five-word rejoinder that rings in my ears to this day.

"What's in it for me?"

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A benevolent spirit and the willingness to be consistently kind are learned skills and contrary to some ten thousand years of social conditioning. I'm in my father's debt for whispering this secret to me at an early age. A person with less fortunate parentage will scrape and claw for each of life's crumbs and walk away empty as often as not.

As children, most of us were told that it's better to give than receive but the trite truism fell in the same drawer with Santa Claus and The Tooth Fairy. If I had kids I would try to teach them that the aphorism is literally true despite all evidence to the contrary. In my overly simplistic worldview it seems obvious that selflessness is ultimately selfish.

From the moment we exit the womb we are hard wired to attend to our own interest but I believe this instinctive imperative is obsolete and counter-productive. Our physical survival depends on a certain amount of rational self-interest but our evolution as a species demands a larger view.

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My father taught me to be a selfish son of a bitch in the most insidious way imaginable. He proved, by example, that if you give more than you take in every situation the benefits and benefactors begin to multiply exponentially. Before long you will be surrounded by an advanced breed of human being who reflexively strives to do the same.

In his own childhood he cultivated an odd custom in the shadow of his missionary parents. For them it was easy because their job demanded that they give more than they take; he would have to be a self-made man. He was made to understand at an early age that this life was more difficult for some people than others so he developed a mechanical compassion for his fellow man.

His parent's mission was in South India in the 1930s and as a child he watched famine take Indian lives in the tens of thousands. I would think that gradual starvation is a really nasty way to die and I can only guess that it isn't much fun to witness either. Fate alone determined that he should be born with a full belly as a birthright so he decided it was all that he'd claim. He made a simple, child-like promise to himself and his God that he would give back anything that he was given beyond his daily bread.

I stand to inherit nothing from the selfish reprobate because he will leave this life with empty pockets.


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