Virtue of Selfishness

For those who can identify the title, it is derived from Ayn Rand’s pocket sized book. I admit that I had an Ayn Rand fan boy phase during my definitive years. After I read fountainhead, I realized that if I continued to foster my character based on her caricatures I would either become a full blown asshole or worse a Wall Street banker.

P.S: A note to the readers who don’t know me, I am not a Wall Street banker.

I was consistently impressed by her sheer genius of objectivizing everything. Every emotion had an objective reasoning behind it and the faster you identify it the easier life becomes for you. They say that the key to solving most of the problems is realizing that there is one.

Most of my blogs have a structure where I draw out examples from my school days. It wasn’t a fancy one where they would teach you music appreciation, arts or high level programming. However it was incredibly competitive. Students made conscious decisions about who they chose to hang out with. The nerdy ones were in a group as they thought they could gain from group study sessions.

The socially gifted hanged out together as being in the center of a circle of friends assuaged their egos. And even the lonelier and weird ones hung out together to protest the conformity. And I identified with each group in one way or other. But because I didn’t find them mutually exclusive, I was a misfit.

Our society wants us to become considerate individuals but reality paints a disappointing picture. We are taught that at a very young age that everything out there is all about competition and winning. From getting a good degree, to a job to even a spouse it is all about how to get the best for you. And In USA they take it to another extreme where they don’t embrace failure. Everyone gets a medal for running a race, which I think is the other extreme. Learning that it is okay to fail at something is one lesson which I wish I had learned at a young age.

I hail from a common middle class family, I would be considered successful if I was rich rather than happy. I personally don’t have a very high regard for wealth. I am a trifle uncomfortable when one’s achievement is solely measured by their bank balance. Don’t get me wrong I am not a hippy and I do have hedonistic aspirations to gain material wealth. But at the same time I realize that, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my success if I wasn’t happy.

So I practiced being indifferent. There was so much misery around me that I knew if I kept attaching myself to the things around me, I would be part of the malarkey. Here is where logic came to rescue, I stopped empathizing and looked at problems with an outlook to solve them. I have a huge tiff with the word “Feel”. I really found it to be redundant, if I look at a kid who has a scraped knee; I would rather give him first aid than feel sorry for him. So this attitude helped me tremendously as it helped me coast through irritable company.

We are taught to be competitive and that one shouldn’t trust others easily. Is it because a lot of us are victims of trust abuse? Or is pathological distrust considered as a sign of maturity?

Indifference taught me how to cope with loneliness. I would not empathize with myself or become depressed when I was lonely. I looked at it as a problem which I could solve. To give a very personal example a year ago I spent what I would recall as a very depressing birthday.

I was inches away from being fired at my GRA due to a misunderstanding, I was unemployed and going through a terrible break up. I was feeling pathetic; I decided to get some Chinese food along the way. On my way I saw a homeless guy. I didn’t have a lot of money, but I did want to do something. So I gave away my dinner to him. He didn’t thank or smile at me. He took it and dived in.

When I came back home I felt a lot better about myself. The takeaway is that I didn’t help the guy because he was hungry. I helped him in an attempt to see if it would make me feel any better and it did. This had a profound impact on me. There is nothing wrong in having a motive behind anything and everything you do. As long as you don’t achieve what you want, you will always be unhappy. Think of selfishness as an insurance policy to protect your dreams.

Unconditional love is the biggest lie that we have out there. As literally unconditional is a condition by itself. So when you have such an objective outlook towards life, it is very efficient but life certainly loses color and spontaneity. I can’t recall the last time I felt outraged or tremendously happy. Life has been a succession of platitudes.

During the past year or so I have been at the receiving end of unbelievable generosity. I’ve been continuously invited to so many dinners, friendly get together where people who I have barely met treat me as a part of family. Friends have shared their deepest insecurities with me to get closure. People who I’ve left behind, string comfort laden words to inquire about my well-being.

Even for a guy as cynical as me, it tugs my heartstrings to be subject of such love and respect.

I ceased to be emotionally bonded with people as I find emotions and relationships as double edged swords. When I was in love things were tremendously strenuous. There were rapid troughs and heights in emotions which defied reasoning.  I think it’s this emotional instability which gave birth to the cliched phrase “I don’t want anything serious right now”. The fear of being hurt has reached endemic proportions.

I don’t see people my age fall in love as easily as they used to just a few years ago. We have this small mental checklist which we try to map to people who we feel we like. If it matches move ahead if not maybe they are not the right one’s for you. Since when did love become a grocery list of requirements? Yes, we are collectively much more successful than we ever thought before. But if it comes at the cost of neutralizing one’s ability to love fearlessly is it really worth it?

I am in a limbo of whether to let go of my selfishness which has been a great servant to me to tread into such melancholic depth.The question is, is selfishness a virtue worth protecting?

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14 thoughts on “Virtue of Selfishness

  1. That blog seems to have emerged from deep recesses of the soul… Selfishness is a beautiful trait that’s often mistreated… Stay sharp, stay selfish..

  2. Now you know, why I insisit that mys students share the textbook in the class, when some one doesn’t have one! Good text!

  3. You must stick to your selfishness! There’s much an altruist like me can learn from this post. Enjoyed reading it. 🙂

  4. It was like you were speaking my mind. And as u pointed in your comments – travelling through that path of selfishness is draining. I have also been one of the Randians 3yrs back & I think I am on the same path like yours. THough I would like to break some ice in ‘Love’ part of my life – I am too selfish in that area. Always ducking such opportunities to mingle.
    Going through the post again. 🙂

    • To be, or not to be, that s a personal choice. Note that selfishness is essentially a love for yourself, which could also be a double edge sword, it is in the end just a choice on love.
      By the way, selfishness is not the only insurance u can have, but absolutely the cheapest, just be aware of the potential hidden cost.
      In the end of the day, it is all up to u.

  5. Indifferent, Untrusting, Lonely misfit – check, check and check! I am still victim of these and many more such legacies my parents passed on – Non-confronting, non-feeling, nonsense 🙂 They are mostly in dilution now and would take years of therapy for complete successful ablution. 🙂

  6. Liked the post, liked the way in which it was written that one could hold a string or two to identify themselves with one or two phases of your life. I have had lonely birthdays (except that I have always hated my birthdays, maybe that’s the reason), but it was while in school – like in 8th-9th grade and I think I was mature enough to understand and jot down those thoughts of losing the bond towards “feel” and being selfish into my diary which when I read it now, seems like a mirror to your post albeit the grammar and the big words and of course now everything – train of thoughts butchers the idea of this response.

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