Friday, September 10, 2010

Despicable Me

Despicable Clark. That's right.

Okay. That's too strong. Of course it is. I posted that little note about feeling selfish, etc. Several of you true-blue friends chimed in to say encouraging things. Thanks. It meant a lot. Really.

I still think there's an element of truth in what I wrote though. I don't mean to get all philosophical on all-y'all or anything, but I think most of what most of people do boils down to a kind of self-interest. Call it enlightened self-interest (as Voltaire and others did), but it's still quite a bit about "what in it for me?" Right?


Here's an example. I'm contemplating taking on some different responsibilities in my department. The person who holds the position now believes that the holder of the position should teach only comp. I love teaching comp, but I don't want to let go of my lit teaching. Rather than thinking of the ways in which teaching only comp would be good for the department and for students, or thinking about how teaching comp and lit together while holding the above-named position makes sense for the department or for students, I'm thinking only of my selfish desire to continue to teach lit. See? It's all about me.

Or, here's another...

Let's say that the person who cleans my office is something of a jabbermouth--- loves to hang out in my office and chat while I'm trying to work. Let's say, also, that I find out that this person lives alone and his/her only companion, a faithful dog, has just died. Out of a sense of ... what? ... duty? I decide to spend a little more time each day talking to this person. Am I doing that because he/she needs the chance to talk? Or am I doing it so the person will continue to do a bang-up job on cleaning up my work space? Or to keep him/her from taking my Hot Tamales? Or ... What is my motive?

One more,

Do I serve in my church calling (or my community volunteer position) because I have a genuine desire to be of help to and to make the lives of others better, or am I doing the things I do in that setting because I want people to like me or to say nice things about me or so I can put those things on my next rank advancement application (which means more $$ if I succeed in advancing in rank, and everything is about money, right?)? What is my motive?

I know, of course, that our motives are marvelously mixed. We do things for all kinds of crazy (and sane) reasons. I guess I'm just trying to examine what I do and why, and trying to think more about how what I do creates happiness or sadness, offers opportunities or shuts them down, for the important people in my life.

So I'm selfish, but I'm trying to be enlightened. Does that fly?


Mark Brown said...

Hmm. Well, I guess when you put it that way, it seems you are selfish. A giant, selfish monster of a man. I'm horrified.

(Just kidding.)

Seriously, my selfishness kicks sand in the face of your selfishness.

Patricia Murphy, a resident of said...

I think that of of the downsides to teaching is that we (yes I mean I) want to be so damn other-regarding all the time, what with the community building and the classroom decentering, that we are always questioning our motives. Sometimes it's not selfishness; it's just not always pure altruism.
Brown, you got that right.