Note To Younger People:
Toward A “Wise Selfishness”
Dear Younger Friend,
You are welcome here. The issue of our mortality is not a distant one, something we need not deal with until the end of life. It has a profound impact upon us at any age, deeply influencing our relationships, sexuality, work, friendships and overall experience of life.
We believe that this website is of particular relevance to you, as you make choices now that will affect your life ever-after. Yes, when we are 18, 20, 25, our life seems to stretch out forever before us, with all the time we need to experiment and live. But yes, many of us now in our 60s and 70s look back, feel our lives have passed in an instant, and that we wasted much of it. And yes, there is a great danger that this will happen to you.
We have no idea and no advice on what career, relationship, family of life-path you might consider following.
But we are absolutely certain that your will have a fuller and richer life if the choices you make now are informed by the reality of your eventual death.
Look around you at the adults you know. Chances are that most of them rarely think or talk about their death. And chances also are that most of them are leading safe, secure lives of routine, involving a great deal of vicarious experience through TV-watching, identification with sports, celebrity or political figures, and seem to lack the light in their eyes, energy and thirst for experience that they, like you, felt in their youth.
Are the two related? Can denial of death have anything to do with the secondhand lives that most of us lead? We shall describe here how it does.
Our opening perspective here is one of “wise selfishness.” We believe that at this point in your life that you have no obligation to anyone but yourself to become as truly alive as possible. Only when you have first developed yourself can you truly be of service to others.
And this website will describe three basic journeys to developing yourself: the personal, societal and spiritual. It is, we suggest, important to undertake all 3 journeys over time if you wish to reach your full potential to be truly and fully alive. It is to contribute to society, for example, not because you have a moral obligation to do so, or because your teachers, parents or religion urge it upon you, or because you want to be important and/or have the power to help others. No. It is important to contribute to society because a part of you wants to, and you cannot be truly and fully alive unless you develop that part of yourself. Wise selfishness.
In suggesting you be “selfish”, we also suggest you do so wisely. It is not a wise selfishness to smoke or otherwise abuse your body, treat people badly, or seek careers that offer security at the cost of meaning. On the contrary. It is self-destructive. It is a wise selfishness to truly understand how your own “selfish” interests are best-served by developing yourself psychologically, creatively, through social service and political action, and spiritually.
The key to taking these “hero’s journeys,” in our view, is daring to feel pain in order to remain truly alive. You have grown up in a society that is organized around helping you avoid emotional pain, but at a cost of deadening your ability to feel. As increasing numbers of people commute between soulless offices and comfortable homes where TV-watching far outweighs meaningful conversation, people are “content” in ways that were not possible a century ago. But they are also FAR less alive.
A basic truism applies: one cannot cut off painful feelings without cutting off joyful ones as well. The key to a wise selfishness is having the courage to face emotional pain so that we can also experience a deeper joy, love and aliveness. And the deepest emotional pain we must face in order to be fully alive is our sadness in knowing that we will one day, far sooner than we like, lose every person and every experience that we value in this life.
And ironically, if you are selfish in this way, it will be of the greatest benefit to society. In fact, it may be that only if you and enough of your generation are willing to face your pain about dying that you will come to love life enough to do what is necessary to save the increasingly threatened biosphere upon which you and your grandchildren depend for life itself, and to reduce violence and poverty as well.
It may well be that your generation can only be saved if its members identify more with humanity as a whole than with your nation, religion, ethnic group, gender or class. This shift in consciousness may be required to build the new global order, and concern for the biosphere and the poor, upon which the future of humanity depends.
And it may be that key to developing this new global consciousness is for your generation to stop denying death but rather to use it to truly come to love, appreciate and wish to preserve life.
You are welcome here. Please share your stories and experience of life with us. We older folks need your daring, creativity and imagination to inspire and make more meaningful the years that remain to us.
We at TrulyAlive.Org