Posts Tagged ‘selfishness’

Well, the Christmas season is over and perhaps this should have been a post for before the Christmas gift giving season, but it’s a topic that came up a few times after Christmas rather than before, so I thought I would write on it now.

Christmas is the season of giving!  We get bombarded by all sorts of altruistic phrases, greetings, cards, songs, TV Specials, movies, plays, etc. all talking about the spirit of giving.  So what in the world could selfishness possibly have to do with Christmas?  Well what doesn’t it have to do with giving gifts at Christmas?

What am I talking about?  Well, let’s step back a second and consider some worn out Christmas clichés that people often bemoan this time of year.  How many times have you heard the line about getting a ‘tie again’? (or fill in any other item that you have too many of already and therefore don’t need)  Or worrying about what to get for someone that ‘has everything’ or ‘needs very little’?  How many times have you worried about whether or not someone will ‘like’ a present or even something as simple as whether or not it’s the right size/color/style, etc.?  And of course, since it is after Christmas, we are all more than aware of the returns and re-gifting that goes on, and most of us don’t want to find out that something we gave ended up there!

Well, if it’s about the giving, why should any of that matter?  Sure, part of the Christmas spirit is accepting any gift graciously and showing appreciation.  But I’m not speaking from the receiving side.  I’m talking about the concerns people have when gifting in the first place.  And the magic word is in the last sentence of the prior paragraph: ‘want’.  Most of us want to get something that the people we are giving the item to will actually like or be able to use.  i.e. something of value.

And value is the important thing to consider here.  Unless we are a completely braindead altruist, we are generally giving to people (or in some cases charities) that we value in the first place.  Our giving is an expression of our appreciation from us for the receiver in some way.  And we not only want to give them something, but we want that something to be of value to them.  We want them to like it, to be happy, to have something useful, to improve their life or their emotional state in some way.

Why do we want that?  Because of the value the person has to us.  Because it makes us happy in return to know we could do something of value for them.  And that is another important phrase: ‘in return’.  It is an exchange.

The spirit of Christmas does not have to be a notion of thankless giving nor should it be.  The act of giving, and giving real value – value that is important to the receiver of the gift beyond the act of giving itself is a selfish thing and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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Originally posted on Facebook Notes

OK, in case you haven’t figured out by reading my other notes, I love cosmology and ontology – i.e. philosophy. Question everything! To quote Aristotle, the “unexamined life is not worth living”. A subject that seems to keep getting bounced off me as of late is the concept of power, who has it, how they get it and what they do (right or wrong) with it.

One of the things that keeps bringing it up is the obvious, politics. I tend to examine just about everything and anything by breaking it down to basic truths. I tend to think it is a basic truth that any form of governmental control attracts and/or breeds within it power hungry people. And as they say, power corrupts. It’s just the nature of the beast. (although I am prone to disagree with this on face value.  Instead I think ‘the nature of power attracts corruptible men’.  And by consequence, ‘corruptible men should be granted as little power as possible’)

This led me to consider the nature of power and then in turn led me to the following conclusion:

No man has power over another without it being granted or taken and allowed.

Let’s start with the second part because the two concepts really have to go together. Once someone has power, the most likely means to get more if they are corrupt is to take it. If they have no power in the first place other than what was granted to them by someone (or a group of someones), then the only way they can take power unwillingly from one of those someones is for the rest of the someones to ‘allow’ them to get away with it.
But of course the easier way to get power is to have it given to you. This led me to another consideration. What is the easiest way to get someone to give away power? There’s one simple answer that repeats itself throughout our society and history:

convince them that there is something greater then themselves or their own self-interest

Without drawing specific conclusions on whether each is right or wrong, good or bad, we can see examples of things deemed ‘greater than one’s self’ in everything from religion (god) to environmentalism (earth/nature) and even collectivism/marxism (the state).

As a note in conclusion, all of this sounds kind of selfish – well guess what? it is! But it does not have to be a denunciation of the things we find good in any or all of the above. After all, ideas do not gain support if there is not some truth or good in them.
So how can you put your own self-interest before everything else and still exist in society? Simple! Simple because it is in our self interest to maintain and improve our environment, it is in our self interest to be on good terms with our neighbors and for our neighbors to share a similar social and financial status (not identical, but similar). I could go on, but I think you get the idea – self interest does not preclude being a good citizen, good neighbor or good patron to our world – but denying self-interest is the quickest way to grant someone else (potentially tyrannical) power over you.

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I stumbled on this old posting earlier tonight on one of the Objectivist groups I used to frequent (dated 3/22/2004):

What a day I have had. I just finished reading “We the Living” on the same day I got a notice that I was not going to be called back for an interview on a job I was seeking that I ‘thought’ I was well qualified for.
So here I was commiserating over the melancholy end of that Rand novel and even feeling guilty in a way. I took great interest in the subject in that I am a fan of Rand, a life long objectivist (even before I knew there was a word for it) and due to the setting – as my mother’s family was from around the borders of Poland and Ukraine and fled for the U.S. around the time of the Bolshevik uprising.
While I found myself feeling getting angry in this here election year to hear all the pretense of class warfare against the backdrop of the ‘true’ suffering portrayed in this excellent portrait of a post proletariat uprising, as aforementioned, I found myself guilty that – even though the characters are of a work of fiction, they no doubt represent a real time, a real place, of real suffering and real individuals who probably met the same fates and burned with the same desires. Yet here in my life, with no true suffering to compare, “what have I done to live up to their example? To ‘live’ as they lived? With the desire and burning for living as the essence of their being?”
I know, you are thinking, ‘what does this have to do with a posting in a dating forum or a rejection email about a job? Well, serendipity has a sense of Irony. I just left a job which lasted for 5 months. Prior to that, I was a victim of the .com crash and was essentially unemployed for 25 months with nothing but a few contracts and some fortunate circumstances to help me survive. Heretofore whenever I received a rejection, I just moved on to the next job.
At the same time, when someone would ask me “how are you doing?” my answer was almost consistently “I am surviving” – and that was more telling than any casual observer might ponder to understand, if they should care.
So, today, amidst reading the final chapters, I receive the rejection. For the first time ever I asked them for an explanation of why they were not interested in having me back for a second interview. In the meantime, I finished the book through tears and anguish and joy and confusion. I was emotionally wrought by the time I was through and left …. well, just in a daze of thoughts, emotions, sad yet reflective. And feeling guilty! Feeling guilty and questioning myself if I have, if I do live up to those objectivist principles I hold so dear.
That was until I got home. An email response awaited my question. Paraphrasing, he said in essence that they were very impressed by my skills and experience. That they thought I would be very well qualified… technically… for the task they had in mind. But then he went on to describe how I was too ‘domineering’ – in essence too independent and self-motivated to solicit a desire to have me back.
I have been grinning like a Cheshire cat ever since. So many rejections over 25 months and I turned to myself to find ‘fault’ – this may only be one representation of one employer, but I know it likely is akin to many over that period – over periods prior and jobs I left or was asked to leave. I am too into ‘I’ to be attractive to the corporate collective.
Sure, I will still seek work – and I have decided to also seek more opportunities where I am not dependent upon or accountable to someone else’s whim. I went to the store after reading the email, almost dancing on the way. Someone at the counter who recognized me as a ‘regular’ there, asked me “how are you doing today?” Without hesitating I told her with a smile too big for the question asked and said with great enthusiasm “I am alive! My dear, I am alive!!!”
So tomorrow will be a busy day as I set some more wheels in motion to take care of those mundane material needs, but for now I set forth to search the net for places where like minded folks may be hanging about.
Out of sheer disgust, I went into my normal ‘chat’ venues – more to mock them – and asked “so who wants to talk about objectivist philosophy and the epistemological review of their application in the real world?” Some guy answered that he has an 8″ penis and someone else mentioned they wouldn’t mind meeting a 14 year old boy! Ahh the internet!
So here is where I ended up! Sorry if I rambled on, but I felt it was important to describe my mindset before asking if any females out there understood. If any would like to talk more about what it’s like to be ‘alive’ as I feel at this moment!
Let’s be selfish! ‘I’ would love to hear from you if you understand….

Just for the record, I am now working for another company doing computer consulting and I have consequently been placed onsight with that very company. I can see now they were right – I would have been way too self motivated for the work they do which amounts to little more than assembly line programming from cookie-cutter program code. It seems I won’t have as much contact with that coding environment but will instead be working as a middle-person between project managers of two different companies. It’s a curious turn of events to say the least…

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