Sunday, June 8, 2008

selflessness



There is a fellow out there in the world and I am his bête noire. Perhaps I was naive but I never had myself pegged as one to end up so designated. But it seems it's my lot. Over at smokingmirrors my least utterances reduce him to a caps-lock apoplexy. Truthfully I do not read him. I blink to see if I'm copping it yet again and then move on. But this blink is enough for me to know that I am the antichrist's cousin once removed, guilty of worshipping the false idol of selflessness. Or somesuch.

But forget that, the purpose of the exercise here and now is to clear up 'selflessness'. It's not hard because there's really nothing to it. Let's just say it's as simple as you want it to be. All a person has to do to be selfless is to do something for another that is not self-serving. Sharing food is perhaps the single most human expression of this. Otherwise one might help an old lady to a chair, a mother with her pram, or friends move house. If you expect something in return you don't get it. This is simple, simple stuff and I don't doubt that those reading here, do this kind of thing every day. In embodying this, not only will you make the world a better place but, believe it or not, you will find true happiness.

This is the simplest definition of selflessness and it is not wrong. If you like this definition and choose to lead your life in this fashion, I say, long may you live.


Or if you wish, we can take it further. Actually let's rewind. To say that performing acts of selflessness will bring happiness is somewhat simplistic. If doing things for others brought 'happiness', people like Gandhi would have been reduced to a puddle of orgasmic delirium. Somehow I doubt that this is an accurate description of him. What if I was to suggest that acts of selflessness don't bring happiness so much as they dispel unhappiness?

What unhappiness is that? It is that universal unhappiness that things are other than we would wish them. Buddha called it 'dukkha', which is to say suffering, which is to say desire. No human is free of this desire that they might feel better, look better, be more successful, be more famous, have more stuff, blah blah blah, ad infinitum. This desire is all in your head sure enough. In a discussion of selflessness, which is what we're having, it is that which defines you. It is the self, the sense of 'me'. Those who embrace desire embrace the self and are sensibly called 'selfish'. Those who let go of desire let go of the self and are thus called selfless. These are the people who share what they have, who help the old lady, the mother, the friends, or like Gandhi, devote their lives to freeing a people. Even if they don't mentally articulate it, this is how it works.

Believe it or not, this diminishment of unhappiness is readily apparent whenever you meet the selfless who devote their lives to others. You'll notice not that they're madly happy, but that they possess a calmness, a placidity. What you will see in their face is the absence of unhappiness, of desire, of the self. These are all the same thing.

This is a definition of selflessness taken one small step further. But it's actually no different to the first one. But whatever, if this is how you define your selflessness it's all good. Hats off to you.


Or we can go further, and take that final step to the metaphysical. If you're with me so far, it seems that who we are - the self / sense of desire - is actually a discussion of how we relate to the world (which is to say that which is not us). Is the world there for us? Or are we there for it? Do we make ourselves greater by taking from those not us? Or do we lessen ourselves and give to those not us? The answer is obvious and not the final step here. The final step is to wonder how far the diminishment of the self can go and what that means.

Can one shed all desire? What happens to the self? Does it disappear? Does a person who does this disappear? Are they no more? Ayah! Scary stuff. Who wouldn't fear this? Who would wish to cease to exist?

Funnily enough, no such thing happens. In fact it's the precise opposite. Those who take from others do not become greater. They actually harden into black holes of negativity. They become a dense speck of hatefulness. Those who give of themselves expand. It is they who actually become greater. They radiate love. Where this path leads to is that old chestnut of becoming 'one with the universe'. This is what Buddha became. He cast off desire, fear, and all delusion of the self. He ceased to differentiate between himself and that which was not him. And anyone can achieve what he achieved. Anyone can become Buddha.


If you think that this last bit is bullshit, that's fine with me. Take the second meaning instead. Or the first. It doesn't really matter. It's certainly not worth having an argument about. The important thing is that there is nothing to fear from selflessness. In whatever way you view it, it cannot lead you astray. None of these definitions have anything in them to cause unhappiness, ill will, or any form of negativity.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

nobody, re first paragraph
Purely by acknowledging this apoplexy gives it power. It has none; it's waste, effluent, feces.
Let it pass. It is really something that requires no input from its (perceived) prey.
Acknowledgment in any form is a presumption of existence - it has none.
Why give a turd substance? Accept it for what it is - rejectamenta?
Tony

Anonymous said...

nobody re the last paragraph
Argument is superfluous*; discussion is not.
This apoplexy wants no discussion all it wants is argument.
I reiterate
Purely by acknowledging this apoplexy gives it power. It has none; it is waste, effluent, feces.
Let it pass
Tony
*Many thanks to the Daleks (over the years)

kikz05 said...

mornin noby:)

nice one:)

by the latest over at les' place, it would seem i've been designated 'schizoid minion' to your bete'noire.

Penny said...

"Those who take from others do not become greater. They actually harden into black holes of negativity."

I actually know people like this, and thinking of one in particular.... me, me, me, me,it's always about them ,no matter what.

There is no sense of appreciation and nothing is ever good enough, woe is them...

I have to stay away as I feel drained of energy around this one.

but to end on a postive note.


the most basic and i think easiest act of "selflessness", is to smile and say hello or nod to everyone, everday..

With this simple act of a greeting you acknowledge the presence of another human being,and it is always appreciated.

Like Namaste.

Which to me means, the spirit in me, greets the spirit in you

I do this everyday, I say hi to everyone, and smile, and people really enjoy it.

It does make the world a friendlier place.

the Silverfish said...

My goodness that Apollonian feller sho nuf do use som powerful big words over at Les's place wen he go's about slam dunkin Ya'all an callin Yuh a varmint fairisee an all.

Gawllies even wen Yuh don't say nuttin at all it jus makes him so dern mad I swear he'd eat a hockey puck, that is ifin he was a Canadian he might chew on a hockey puck, but he is nowhere's close enuff to heaven to done do that, be a Canadian that is. As it is I methinks he jus chaws on rat turds foatin in the bilge on that ship o fools that he seems to sail on.

Good post by the by.

genedios said...

"...nothing to fear from selflessness."

Are you nuts? There's no money in it. How in the hell would the international monetary system operate if everyone was running around being selfless?

True selflessness scares the sociopaths at the top of the pyramid for one reason: they don't understand it.

Good essay, as always.

nobody said...

How marvellous,

It's the weirdest thing putting your thoughts into a public domain. Sometimes you do it and are met with a resounding silence. Sometimes it means something, sometimes it doesn't. And sometimes it's just a time lag, ha ha.

Otherwise, as a fellow who ponders every word, I decided that that second full stop over at Les' was worth doing. Certainly it was a repetition of the first gag, but it was also a full stop, as in, that's it, enough. I declare here I will no longer bait or be baited or any other goddamn thing. Whatever Les does is fine. Whatever the aforementioned does is fine. No skin off my nose. This is no comment on others who may wish to engage. In much the same way I can see why Les gives him space, I can see why one would engage him. I did it, just like you all. But now, I choose not to.

And kikz, wear your schizoid minion label as a badge of honour! What am I again? A drunken pharisee or something? Ha ha ha ha.

And gene, you're on to something there. My thoughts have been running in that direction lately and one way or another it'll be the next piece.

Thanks all.

nobody said...

BTW silverfish, I really grooved on your bird stuff. You have buzzards at your house! That's fantastic. I was so envious. Hey, ever thought of getting into the Tibetan funeral business? Ha ha ha.

Anonymous said...

This is my favourite selfless item (this week)
Opportunity missed.
If this bloke is not a thug, he's missing some good job opportunities.
Tony

nobody said...

He certainly looks the part doesn't he?

Otherwise I'm certain he's right in suggesting that the waiters and bar staff have let their power and prestige go to their heads. That's what happens when you tell someone he's in charge of the eight tables on the left hand side near the balcony - they start threatening politicians! When the revolution comes, those dictatorial waiters and bar staff will get theirs!

Ha! As will I apparently, over at Les' place, ha ha. And how were you all described? Poorly, I'm sure.

For the record, on a good day I get a hundred hits. On a bad day about thirty. Mostly it averages fifty or so. I know I should be puffing myself up but I was never that sort of fellow. And you'd really have to wonder if the vitriol was worth it, and if there weren't more worthy targets, ha ha. Apparently there aren't. There's Jews and then there's me.

Since we're not exterminating people, merely expelling them, perhaps we should expel me too. Oh wait, we did. I'm in the antipodes 10,000 clicks from anywhere.

Well that was certainly effective. Everyone may now rest easy.

Penny said...

ok, either I am completely not getting the concept of selflessness, which i highly doubt, but then who knows, or some have a sense of humour that is foreign to me, not wrong, just different, less I offend anyone?

The news story in the club?

facetious?

and I checked out the blog, to see what exactly was going on, with this person, appalonian?

Indeed he has a 'thing' for nobody, why nobody, surely you have done something?
You seem the troublesome sort, what with all your pornography ponderings?????
;-)
kidding!

Maybe he is just the jealous sort?
Maybe he thinks you possess something he wishes was his?
not necessarily a physical object, I mean, a way of communicating, a sense of humour , I dunno?

I think you should look at it as flattery.

Anonymous said...

You do realize that Les writes at other sites as Appy, Appolonius, Apollonius, etc.
As a writer he is prolific.

nobody said...

Les as Gollum is it? A man split in half with two conversations in his head battling it out. That's the only way to make sense of your comment. And I don't buy it.

Nor are you actually selling it. You leave the suggestion there as the merest of assertions. One wonders where you're coming from.

nobody said...

Posterity Scriptum - Perhaps you're being legit and pointing out some curious fact that made you wonder. But happily I can sort it out. I had a chat to Les and yes he did post on other sites under those names. And no, he is not THE ap that so endlessly amuses us. That particular ap turned up afterwards and was immediately the source of some confusion as to why he'd chosen that particular name.

Otherwise if you just run with your intuition, or turn it around in your head, or otherwise view it from any angle, it just doesn't fly.

Wayne said...

Ciao nobody,

I just found your blog, and I like the way you write. I often visit Les Visible's blogs, too. Re the concept of self, I recall Huston Smith comparing monotheism, polytheism, and mysticism.

Monotheism: There is one God.
Polytheism: There are many Gods.
Mysticism: There is only God.

I find it useful to remember that there is at most one Self. Daily perceptions may vary. One could also say truthfully, "There is no self, and there is no other."

If indeed this reality is a dream in the mind of God, then we're home, and always have been.

Thanks for writing, carry on...
Wayne

nobody said...

Ciao Wayne,

Thanks mate. Funnily enough my favourite pieces here appeal to the least people. So for me, it's nice of you to pop in on this one.

I'll never forget the feeling when I realised that I didn't need to believe in things. Such freedom! See if you groove this thing I wrote about nihilism. Or maybe this one, Darwin v Buddha.

Otherwise, pop in anytime. Yoroshiku.