Somewhere along the way a very simple unifying principle finally began to make sense: fulfilling one’s needs. Till now, I had rejected it. Why? Because it went against my prevailing belief in altruism. It seemed “selfish” and wrong. But altruism involves a certain hubris in assuming what is best for others, which is disturbing at best and downright destructive at worst.
I think at the end of the day, we have a whole bunch of values in front of us: responsibility, truth, courage, duty, etc. All philosophy springs from which of these we consider of paramount importance.
- Earlier my ideas were simpler: I wanted to be “nice/kind”, and basically be irreproachable in all respects. Those are what I’d now call my schoolyard ethics. Naive and too simplistic.
- Then came the time responsibility was my ideal: one should take responsibility for oneself and one’s choices and make the best of any and all situations. My late teenage ethics. I went overboard on that one! Not everything and everyone can be controlled and taken responsibility for.
- Another I heard thrown around a lot was courage: “It takes courage to open up to people, to be vulnerable to another, to be open to new things, to face one’s fears.” Here, the implication was that something was the right thing to do because it “required courage”. My temporary young adult ethics. Simply an excuse to do what I wanted to do then.
Having tried all these, I think fulfilling one’s needs is a simple and amoral principle when one needs (ironically) a moral compass. For one, it simplifies my increasingly complicated relationships into simpler, understandable terms. And secondly, it’s all about balance, choice and responsibility. Currently, my preferred set of values.
Failure is nature’s way of saying: “Don’t do that!”
Makes sense. And applies to pretty much everything from academics and hobbies to ethics and relationships.
There is no such thing as altruism.
It took me quite some time to accept this. For ever so long, I struggled with the idea. I resented it, feeling that now life made even less sense than it already did.
There was a time when altruism was quite an ideal of mine. It directed several of my actions and my views. Naturally, the notion that it does not exist meant a lot of rethinking. It left me with a whole body of thoughts and ideas which no longer had any basis.
On the other hand, the concept of altruism has some glaring holes. Using it as a touchstone to judge the small questions of daily life was rather confusing. Add to the volatile mix quandaries of giving and taking in a relationship, and you can get set for a long and tiring wild-goose chase.
It is the morality of altruism that men have to reject. – Ayn Rand
Now this is venturing into controversial waters, but I have more and more begun to accept this way of thinking. Not quite as boldly as her, but by recognising that no action is purely altruistic. And more importantly, that this is OK!
Okay, so altruism is dead. What then?
(to be continued..)
End of the interim. The soon-to-be-old has finally become the old.
It’s a new world – it’s a new start,
It’s alive with the beating of young hearts.
Finally time to move forward, no longer restrained by the last tired strands of the past.
And suddenly the world is all brand new.
It’s good to be young and carefree with life stretching ahead, full of possibilities and surprises. Odd how small things can change everything. Just yesterday, it seemed dreary and worrisome.
Everything’s back in its place, where it will stay – at least for a little while.
And that’s all I need.
Probably this has happened to most of us at some point or the other.. I still wonder what one calls such an exchange, and particularly the understated response. Most often such things are petty, and hardly worth a second thought. But when a pattern starts to emerge, perhaps it is indeed time to give it a second thought.
It begins innocuously with random generally-unpleasant people who make rather a habit of such things. Who cares, right? So one shrugs it off and all is forgiven, even if not exactly forgotten.
And then slowly, so that one hardly notices, it begins to seep into other parts of life. One makes excuses:
- “Oh I didn’t want to make a scene.”
- “I don’t want to be petty.”
- “It’s too small a thing to bother about.”
- “Not like I care anyway.”
Until one day you realise that it has become a habit to not voice any disagreement or even justified anger. You might even believe that you don’t feel it.
That, I do believe, is the definition of DOORMAT, not NICE.
Time to make some changes!
It is puzzling – shall I look at yesterday, today or the ever so many tomorrows? The answer by reflex is, “Today of course!”
But that is by far an over-simplification. People change. Yesterday has an effect on today, and today is tomorrow’s yesterday. And yet sometimes, they are disconcertingly separate and independent of each other.
So many questions about life, about everything. Why did you say that? What were you thinking when you did that? What do you feel about this? How can you see the same thing and call it something so different? And yet, all of a sudden they just fall silent. I still remember, they still make perfect sense, but the urgency and need to know is gone. Only to wake again importunately (and inopportunely).
Sometimes everything seems so – woozy, when nothing seems to move forward. There are only cycles of all the things you have felt before. Stuck in an unreality that is your reality. At such times what does one do? Sit in silence awhile and hope it passes? But even this is better than nothing. Which is what remains if you try to ignore it.
Change itself is not hard, it’s the interim that drives me crazy. The expectation of change and uncertainty about the present (the soon-to-be-old) all fuse together into a glorious melange.
Life does go on, sometimes even happily. And one tries to maintain that illusion in the hope that if you pretend long enough it’ll become true. Which it undoubtedly will.. only when?? Can’t I do something to hasten that?
I know a hundred ways of love, and each one makes the loved one rue.
Quoted in Sleeping Murder (Agatha Christie) by one of the characters, it somehow resurfaced so many years after reading it. There is something very hauntingly lovely about it.. And very often true. On this overly commercialised day, it is inevitable that one thinks about love with a little emphasis on romance, whether to find the whole concept ridiculous, or partake in it enthusiastically.
Most people have their definitions of love, but I can only say again: “I know a hundred ways of love..” I do prefer of course that loved ones not rue it!
When I think of love today, I remember Agatha Christie and L.M. Montgomery more than anything else – the days I reveled in their books and believed wholeheartedly in every word. I was a die-hard romantic, yet curiously untouched by and oblivious of anything close to it in real life, ensconced as I was in my dream-world. Once upon a time I had it all figured out. But now, I am no longer young enough to know everything!