Why is our culture so obsessed with ownership? We see something that is beautiful and we “want it”. It is not enough to enjoy it; we must have it.
Surely, the most beautiful and precious things in our lives are those we don’t—and can’t—possess. The wind, the trees, the sky. The air we breathe. The sunset reflected over a crystal lake. A perfect moment. The unconditional love of a precious friend or the love between child and parent. The hypnotic notes of a musical piece. The exhilaration of having achieved a dream.
altruism for some sort of selfishness, as some scientists and anthropologists suggest. The reward of “feeling good” when you have contributed to someone’s betterment and/or made the world a better place is a universal acknowledgement that you are following a true path—God’s path—one that promotes universal beauty and love. This is the opposite of selfishness (whose serving of self at the expense of others is a soul-emptying gesture). The key is whether the act is at the expense of others or to the betterment of others, regardless of whether it is at the expense of oneself or how it makes one feel. Altruism does not presuppose personal suffering. This is because altruism enriches the soul. Selfishness does the opposite; it empties the soul. When someone acts out of selfishness, she ironically achieves the opposite of her intent. She is poorer for all her riches. She owns so much but true riches elude her. This is because you cannot own happiness. You cannot capture it and keep it in a cage. You cannot buy it and own it. Ironically, happiness, like love, comes by giving it away. This is the secret of true altruism. And it is something that other animals already “know”.
Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit www.ninamunteanu.me. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for more about her writing.