The Origin of Egotism
The sky was murky and somber and the sea stormy and misty when I came down from my hill garden. The waves that crashing against the shore splashed drops of water to the roots of coconut trees, and some of them landed on the grass beyond. I gazed at the ocean and, to my surprise, saw a boat was passing by. The boatman must be crazy, I mused. Then, it suddenly turned its bow toward where I was standing. It was the boat of the Sandy Bay Resort, next three bays on the west side.
As soon as the engine shut down, a person jumped off the left hull; another off the starboard; and both of them tried to hold the boat steady. I heard some children crying and a woman screaming. The woman passed a little child to the left man and then she climbed over the hull. Once she was in the water, she yelled toward the boat. I saw another child, not much taller than the first one, try to straddle the hull, a dangerous move because the boat swinging wildly and the water must be deeper than his or her height. But the child was brave; the woman grabbed and passed him or her to the man. She, however, kept yelling. Two more children jumped into the water.
“Big waves. The children are scared,” Siti the woman said to me on the land, “we are going to the Resort on foot.” She works there as the cook together with her husband Inkong.
“Yup, too dangerous by the sea,” I said. There is a trail connecting my bay to the Resort. Then I recognized the left man, who is in fact still a boy; Ical, 13, a dropout from the primary school last year, works at the Resort too. He carried the youngest child, two year old, on his back; the Mom held the second youngest’s left hand; the other two children followed them climbing the east cliff next to my house. Though not dangerous, walking back in the darkness with four young children is not easy because of steep and slippery cliffs.
Looking at Siti, 30 year about, her children–she has another child at home and had two dead ones, total seven births–and Ical (he were supposed to sit in grade 7, but now works for $35 per month to help his father to feed his five younger siblings) reminds me of the Selfish Gene. Richard Dawkins, the author, judges our gene selfish for the reason it cares nothing but replicating itself to the offspring–as many as possible–of its host. It forces humans by convention into “mindless marriages” that bringing offspring into an already over-populated world. It doesn’t care of the suffering of the host from having too many children and too little money; neither it cares the destruction of the Earth from the impacts of overpopulation.
Could having selfish gene be the cause of our selfishness? Obviously not. If we rebel against the gene by deciding not to have children, we are still selfish persons. Then, what make all of us selfish? One dawn I found the culprit: the Selfish Mass.
Forest or garden? It is the after breakfast question every morning. The answer depends on the time I wake up—between 3 and 5:30—and the rain. If it has rained heavily during the night, the choice is easy: a good opportunity for planting, weeding, and shading; if it has no rain for a week or longer, the forest is a better choice to work in: less slippery to extend my trail.
This morning I choose the garden, but it is still dark outside when I have finished my breakfast. I pick one flashlight, walk out by the beach to the east corner, climb a few rocks, and stroll along the edge of the east cliff to the rocky promontory. I sit on my meditation plank placed on some dead branches one meter behind the cliff edge.
The sound of ripples splashing the big rock under the cliff—the water surface is still below its flat-top—perfects the tranquility of the morning. On the horizon, I see three tiny white lights on the Reef Five. The fishing boats, they must have been there for the whole night. From the brightness of their lights, I am pretty sure they use either dynamite or cyanide to catch the marine creatures because traditional fishers only use flashlight.
Life is not easy for the people here; catching fish with nylon and hooks–they do not use fishing pole—is still productive and sufficient to support the household. It is greed–driven by modern lifestyle watched on the television–that makes the people ignoring the long-term impacts of destructive exploitation of the natural resources.
I gaze above the horizon; the sky is not so clear but I can still see some twinkling stars, the brightest one on my right side, at 4 of clock. I know they are far far away—there is no chance for one full life span to reach even Alpha Centauri, the closest star to us—and billions of them up there; I ponder whether there are other sentient beings live on them. I was wondering if there is a beautiful place like Earth without human beings; if there were, I wanted to be there in my next life, no matter what my form to be. Then something strikes my mind.
Like us, stars experience birth, life and death. The energy from the fusion reaction balances the pull of gravitational force, keeping them in equilibrium state: the position and condition stable, and habitable in the case of our solar system, and the light emission steady (the twinkle to our eyes). They die when they have exhausted their fuels (hydrogen) for the reaction and end up as a black hole—celestial object that absorbs light and emits nothing, therefore invisible to us. The equilibrium state also rules the existence span of atoms. At this level, it is the electromagnetic force that keeps subatomic particles in balance, preventing the electrons fall onto the nuclei, which destroys the atom structure if happened. All objects, from atoms and to stars, are in motion and equilibrium state until the end of their existence span. They follow the law of physics discovered by Albert Einstein: the general relativity on gravitation—any object with mass has a force that pulls everything around inward.
Do we follow the general relativity on gravitation? Humans, like other non-living things, consist of molecules and atoms too; these building material must have similar basic properties no matter what the complete form of the building is. We are objects with mass, do we also attract everything inward? It doesn’t seem so, but let us check it out.
If we pick a beautiful flower by the road, don’t you think we have done pulling? One villager of Kadoda said “for looking at” when I asked what for he kept a beautiful lorry attached on a string indoor. He has pulled the bird inward, hasn’t he? Buying pretty dresses or marrying our boy- or girlfriend brings them closer to us, both physically and mentally, to me is a form of attraction too. And, sometimes we know somebody watching us without seeing her or him; in this case, I believe our sensor detects the pulling force from the watcher.
The gravity force is like the egotism to humans, pulling everything into “I”; the energy of the fusion reaction is like compassion, pushing My time, attention, and resources toward the others benevolently. Only if my egotism and compassion are in balance I am alive as a fully human; too much egotism, I kill my humanity and hurt other persons; too much compassion, I vaporize, disappear, becoming the prey of other persons.
The transformation of physical force into mental one is inexplicable. The evolution begins from simple living matter to human beings; the theory does not cover the origin of living matter; and, so far the experiments to create living matter from non-living one have not succeeded yet, or maybe impossible.
The theory of evolution by natural selection is very convincing in explaining the differential of the physical traits between creatures, from microorganisms to human beings, but is not so of the mind—this weakness makes Alfred Wallace a heretic evolutionist; he believes some Power has control over the development of the mind of human beings based on the huge gap of brain size and intellectual capacity between human primate’s, including the archaic hunter-gatherers, and non-human primates’s.
I have no doubt that we have a force similar to gravity or electromagnetism–retracting anything we like to ourselves and repelling the ones we don’t. When we see a beautiful flower or woman, we want it or her to be ours; we pick it home or offer her to become our girlfriend so that we can see them at home every day. The transformation of pulling everything we like into our possession is a manifestation of selfishness.
All people are egocentric—wanting to possess everything they like—but the compassionate ones are a rarity. Some people seem compassionate, selfless, or altruistic; they do something good or heroic for other people or give donation to the poor or some organizations working for good causes and get nothing in return. But, do they really expect no reward? Billionaires might not expect material return, but they want something immaterial instead, which is most likely the fame.
Fame—especially in the present world with advanced global mass media is available even in the very remote area—is what everybody wants, at global level if possible, or at least at their local community level. They want their names to be recorded in the nation, or better, world history; they imagine people still mention their names in awe long after their deaths. They think they can see their own funerals attended by thousands of people and many of them are celebrities. Why do we want to become famous? The motive behind craving for fame is immortality, which the Self in afterlife can see. Unfortunately, nobody knows what happens to the Self when we die. It could be in the heaven or hell (Christian or Moslem) or becomes another form of being somewhere on Earth or other planet (Hindu or Buddha) or just disappear (atheist). Whatever happens in the afterlife, being famous is worthless because the Self, if exists, cannot see the result of being famous in the past life from heaven or hell, or forgets its past identity when it has been reincarnated.
The difference in selfishness is qualitative because it is a spectrum. Some persons are very selfish–breaking any morals or laws to have anything they desire; most are normally selfish–hurting or harming others if they block the way to possess valuable things (including living ones); very few a little selfish–still acquire things personally as long as it does not harm other people or sentient beings. Therefore, selfishness must be innate, and it source must be located deeper than DNA level.
My conjecture on the origin of selfishness sounds silly, and there is no way to prove it right empirically, unless there is a sophisticated scanner that can detect the pulling energy—not heat or light—coming out of our body, and a logical explanation how physical force becoming a mental one. This conjecture, however, is useful for me. Believing that nobody can fight the universal law of physics—having mass creates pulling force, which is transformed into selfishness—has helped me interact with selfish persons. “They are just weak Homo sapiens,” I tell myself or my wife Meidy when we suffer from their actions. This awareness reduces and shortens the pain they have inflicted on us. But, sometimes I stand up to strike back, reminding them that I am also a weak Homo sapiens, an object with a mass, and able to be angry if my Self injured.
On my daily life I am mindful of the followings:
1. The selfishness, not the desire, is the root cause of suffering and conflicts.
2. People, including me, cannot get rid of the selfishness while they are still an object with a mass.
3. We can reduce our suffering by continuously reminding our mind that the most basic law of physics controls us, makes us selfish–Freewill and Self are illusions, the products of electrochemical processes in our brain–and only our death will stop this slavery.