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  • From a young age, we are taught that one of the greatest risks to our integrity and flourishing

  • is our own selfishness. We must - wherever possible - learn to think more of other people,

  • keep in mind how often we fail to see things from their point of view, and be aware of

  • the small and large ways in which we disadvantage and ignore collective interests. Being good

  • means, at its most basic, putting other people more squarely at the center of our lives.

  • But for some of us, the problem isn’t so much that we are heedless to this advice,

  • rather that we take it far too closely and remorselessly to heart. So mindful are we

  • of the risks of selfishness, we run into an opposite danger: an abnegation of the self,

  • a modesty that borders on self-erasure, an automatic impulse to give everything over

  • to competing parties, a shyness about pressing oneself forward and a manic inability to say

  • noor cause the slightest frustration to others.

  • And so, as a result of our talents atselflessness’, we fill our diaries with obligations to people

  • who bore and drain us, we stick at jobs that neglect our true talents and we stay for far

  • too long in relationships with people who deceive us, annoy us and subtly (and possibly

  • with a lot of sentimental sweetness) take us for a very long ride. And then one morning

  • we wake up and find that the bulk of our life is already behind us, that our best years

  • are spent and that no one is especially grateful for our sacrifices, that there isn’t a reward

  • in heaven for our renunciations and that we are furious with ourselves for mistaking meekness

  • and self-surrender for kindness.

  • The priority may then be to rediscover our latent reserves of selfishness. The very word

  • may be frightening, because we aren’t taught to distinguish - as we must - between bad

  • and good versions of this trait; between, on the one hand, the kind of selfishness that

  • viciously exploits and reduces others, that operates with no higher end in view, that

  • disregards people out of meanness and negligence, and on the other, the kind of selfishness

  • that we require to get anything substantial done, that lends us the courage to prioritise

  • our own concerns over the flotsam and jetsam of daily life, that lends us the spirit to

  • be more forthright about our interests with people who claim to love us - and that at

  • moments leads us to sidestep nagging demands not in order to make people suffer, but so

  • that we can husband our resources and in time, be able to serve the world in the best way

  • we can.

  • With a more fruitfully selfish philosophy in mind, we might fight to have an hour to

  • ourselves each day. We may do something that could get us labelled asself-indulgent

  • (having psychotherapy three times a week or writing a book), but that is vital to our

  • spirit. We might go on a trip on our own, because so much has happened that we need

  • to process in silence. We cannot be good to anyone else until we have serviced some of

  • our own inner callings. A lack of selfishness may be the fastest route to turning us into

  • ineffective, embittered and ultimately highly disagreeable people.

  • Hindu philosophy can be a useful guide here, for it divides up our lives into four stages,

  • each with its distinctive roles and responsibilities. The first is that of the bachelor student

  • (known as Brahmacharya), the second that of the householder and parent (Grihastha) and

  • the third that of the grandparent and semi-retired advisor (Vanaprastha). But it’s the fourth

  • that is the really interesting age in this context: known as Sannyasa, this is the time

  • when - after years of service to other people, to business, family and society - we finally

  • throw off our worldly obligations and focus instead on the development of our psychological

  • and spiritual sides. We might sell up our house, go travelling and wander the world

  • to learn, talk to strangers, open our eyes and nourish our minds. In the period of sannyasa,

  • we live simply (perhaps by a beach or by the side of a mountain); we eat basic food and

  • have few belongings, we cut our ties with everyone who has nothing spirit-related to

  • tell us, anyone who is on the make and in too much of a hurry, anyone who doesn’t

  • spend a substantial amount of their time reflecting on the meaning of being alive.

  • What feels insightful about this division of existence is that it acknowledges that

  • a Sannyasa way of living can’t be right for everyone at anytime - yet on the same

  • score, that no good life can be complete without a version of it. There are years when we simply

  • have to keep our heads down and study, years when we have to bring up children, and accumulate

  • some capital. But there are also, just as importantly, years when what we need to do

  • above all is sayenough’, enough to material and superficial demands, enough to sexual

  • and romantic entanglements, enough to status and sociability - and instead, learn to turn

  • our minds inwards and upwards.

  • Without having to don the orange robe favoured by Hindu Sannyasas, with perhaps few visible

  • signs of our reorientation to speak of, it is open to all of us to make a psychological

  • move into a more self-focused and inner age. We can convey to those around us that we aren’t

  • lazy, mad, or callous; we just need to avoid doing the expected things for a while now.

  • We need to fulfill our real promise by casting aside an idea that is only ever superficially

  • wise: always putting other people first.

  • Our perspective cards feature tools for a wiser calmer perspective on life, they help to restore calm and clarity even during difficult times.

From a young age, we are taught that one of the greatest risks to our integrity and flourishing


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為什麼我們要敢於更自私? (Why We Should Dare to Be More Selfish)

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    林宜悉 發佈於 2021 年 01 月 14 日