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Selfishness and True Wealth


The man with the clear head is the man who … looks life in the face, realizes that everything in it is problematic, and feels himself lost.  And this is the simple truth: that to live is to feel oneself lost.  He who accepts it has already begun to find himself, to be on firm ground.

                                                                                                            –      Jose Ortega Y Gasset

                                                                                                              The Revolt of the Masses


The temptation to moralize is strong; it is emotionally satisfying to have enemies rather than problems, to seek out culprits rather than flaws in the system.  God knows it is emotionally satisfying to be righteous with that righteousness that nourishes itself on the blood of sinners.  But God also knows that what is emotionally satisfying can be spiritually devastating.

                                                                                        –      William Sloane Coffin

                                                                                                   The Courage to Love


The second most dangerous thing a person can do (anywhere in the world) – is to threaten someone’s life or well-being.

The MOST dangerous thing one can do –  is to threaten the life or well-being of a person’s loved ones.


This illuminates the nature of Human Nature.  We value OUR OWN life … AND (even more) we value the lives of those closest to us.


Self   AND   Others.     THESE are the Core Human Values   which are shared by people world-wide.


Robert L. Humphrey wanted to know the ‘Nature of Human Nature’  –  and so he took on this question as a lifetime project.  The above statements are taken from his book  Values for a New Millennium.


While (I think) we should allow ourselves to be illuminated by the lives, work, and decisions of people such as Mother Teresa, Jesus, and Albert Schweitzer (who perhaps managed to overcome their own selfishness)   we should acknowledge this “Dual nature of Human Nature” (Self & Other) is an accurate first approximation of who we are.

Selfishness is a basic ingredient of Human Nature … and is probably inescapable.   And surely – this is one of the things which make Human Life so (very) difficult.


Mortal man must face the incessant clamoring of an inescapable self for recognition and honor.  [The Urantia Book  –  p. 51:12]


I think most of us have noticed that there were occasions when our own selfishness and self-absorption have hurt someone close to us; and so we find ourselves stuck in a battle to keep our (natural) tendencies toward selfishness reigned in.

Also   there are some among us  who (finally) lost this battle.  Maybe they didn’t realize it needed to be fought.  Or maybe (at some point) they chose the ‘wrong side’.  And we have a name for such people.

          We call them ‘criminals’.                Criminality is basically  –   extreme selfishness, is it not?


For the most part we try to live life inside-out.  Being the devout materialists that we are, we imagine that Life HAS no inside.  We think that our lives will get better – when there is some change in our material circumstances ( –  get a high-paying job, or win the lottery, or get a new car, or whatever).  Which amounts to another error … underlying a great amount of unhappiness and disappointment.


The ‘prevailing wisdom’ tells us that we SHOULD make all the money we can … indulge our egos (etc.).  But just because such a course of (materialistic) action is well endorsed  – does NOT make it a True Path.  And if something cannot be lived, then it is not true.

One CAN, of course, become materially wealthy.  But as a path to Fulfillment  –  materiality will disappoint you.


Here is a comment (on this problem) which was offered by Albert Schweitzer –

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I do know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who have sought and found how to serve.”


So the ‘trick’ is  –  how to be of service … do something you love doing …and make some money doing it !


We can (and should) learn from Nature.


When another leaf grows out from a tree, it does NOT do so at the expense of the tree !

No.  Any leaf has its own life; and it receives much from the tree.  But it gives also.  It gives more to the commonwealth than it takes.  We may say this, because the tree is constantly growing (as well as maintaining itself).  And this growth occurs on the basis of abundance.  If the (many and various) parts were taking as much as they were giving, the tree would not be able to grow.


So –  giving is what makes a tree (or a world economy, or a local economy) work.


And it’s happening already?


If you could sit on a cloud (high enough so you could see people doing things; but you couldn’t see money) –  what would you see?

You would see people doing things for other people.


Money is not wealth.  Real wealth is taking care of each other.  And it’s clean air, clean water, good food, clothing, shelter, warmth, a loving family and a friendly community.  Health, safety, a good education, freedom, smiles on the faces of those you love deeply, time to enjoy life.  An opportunity to make the world better (for everyone).  A clean heart.


The notion that money is wealth  –  is what allows us to experience our lives and our economy as greed-driven.  If I think I become wealthy when I get paid (or otherwise receive money), then I feel that my greed and my ego are being rewarded and strengthened.  And when I have money, then I get to choose how that money is spent.  But still, thinking that money is wealth clouds the rather intense irony of the situation – which is –  that our economy, which is giving-based, can be perceived as selfish-based / greed driven.




I regard these 5 movies worth watching – as explorations into the nature of True Wealth :


The Milagro Beanfield War


Life as a House


Babette’s Feast


Enemy Mine


La Belle Verte


‘The Other Son’ (which I consider one of the best films of all time)  –  shows how the love of Family might replace Animosity / (our ‘Enemy’ Problem).


‘Black Robe’ is a good depiction of the White Culture and the First Peoples ‘bumping into’ each other.


‘The Mission’ well illustrates the ‘underneath war’  –  the Great War of Ideas.

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