Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Selfishness Inside Out

There's a subtle difference between true selflessness and selfishness worn inside out.

There are lots of people who wear their selfishness inside out. I will give examples of two such varieties. That'll clarify.

One. Over nice people. People who always are eager to pay all bills, carry all loads, do all things, and give you public praises for things you haven't done. I feel these are people who subconsciously feed a deeply engrained feeling of superiority which makes them feel that charity is the best expression of love. Don't they understand that pride is one of deepest characteristics of all humans? Don't they understand that people wish to pay too, they too wish to carry their own loads, they too are noble enough to do a favour or service without truly expecting radio announcements being made about their greatness? Sometimes, I strongly see a link between this and certain forms of charity. Some people, absolutely self-centred, proud and immodest in their personal lives often indulge fiercely in activities of charity. I feel, such charity does more harm than good. An integral part of charity should be a modesty that only true love for the subject, and not mere condescending pity, can infuse in the acts of charity. I had read Tagore's novel Gora long time ago, and this very philosophy was central theme of the novel. Material charity comes from many sources. But to wash the offers of charity of the stains of false-pride requires a purity not available to many.

Two. Unharming people. People may want not to harm others for two reasons. The first kind, they truly feel others' pain and wouldn't like pain to befall anyone because it pains them as if the hurt were their own. These are authentic spiritually elevated people. They are rare. The second kind is those who don't want to be a reason for anyone's harm. The roots of this feeling lie in a deep rooted insecurity about being implicated for any crime, not in their real concern for someone's pain. These people would go out of their way to prevent themselves ever becoming the cause of someone's inconvenience. Sometimes, if you are at the other end, you will distinctly sense the extent of their inverted selfishness in that they will not appreciate that you too are capable of some good-naturedness and don't mind a bit of trouble for your friend. But they will avoid letting such situations come as if that'd give you some weapon of offense against them.

True selflessness doesn't make one more charitable. It makes one more harmonious with himself and others. Selflessness is the breaking of the walls between me, they and the whole universe. Selfishness is the drapery worn by the self to segregate it from other entities. Worn whichever way, it always accentuates the divides that our small minds have created.

This blog is an untidy vent to feelings that have arisen from recent personal experiences.

Related links:

Justifiability of Kindness


Pritesh said...

I completely agree Sujit! This is a very beautiful post! Very thought provoking! I know of many who do charity because they feel the inferiority of the people they're doing charity to! Almost as if they're doing a favour to them.......

Anonymous said...

Good one ! :)

"Selflessness" is sometimes an external manifestation of insecurity. When insecurity is even unawarely attended to - it trickles down to selfishness.

Ignorance of the demarcation between the both. I personally think, it is ignorance of the insecurity that balloons the whole act. often have I done that when I was ignorant about the same !! :)

Anonymous said...

"Selfishness is the drapery worn by the self to segregate it from other entities. Worn whichever way, it always accentuates the divides that our small minds have created."

Written beautifully.

Sambaran said...

I got a bit confused by this post. I can recognize the points made about insincere charity and insincere praise etc. However can not connect that with selfishness, that too 'inside out'. Got confused.

Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti said...

Hello Sambaran,

There're two central points being here: '(1) Either consider me one with you, or do me no favour. (2) Be not so apprehensive of being a trouble to me if you believe in my love for you.'

A self-respecting creature needs 'dignity' as much as he needs food etc. A good thought that can be taken from this piece to always parcel that bit of modesty with whatever good one does to anybody. That modesty will help the recipient preserve his own dignity.