Answer: Let’s remove ourselves a little from our reality and imagine an ideal, maybe even utopian society—it doesn’t matter how we call it. What would it be like taking into account our most magnanimous motives? And after we imagine it, let’s think: “Is it even possible to achieve it given our nature? Why did nature create us precisely opposite to this perfect and sublime state?”
We will see that mutual pressure and competition in the good sense of the word do not bring us to a state of absolute comfort; rather, we reach it through our voluntary, desired, and intentional mutual help. There is no doubt that if humanity was arranged this way, we would be a truly great society.
Why did nature create us to be different? Isn’t it that very same nature that represents a perfect system in which everything is interconnected and exists in mutual guarantee and homeostasis? Why do we actually need this destructive egoism?
Everyone recognizes egoism as evil, as an inevitable reality. Sociologists, political scientists, and psychologists, all the people who deal with a human being and with society are forced to take our nature into consideration and based on it, to somehow compensate the destructive influence of egoism.
Except here we shouldn’t keep trying to compensate for it as it is customary on the earthly level. Rather, we need to turn egoism into our helper, that is, to recognize its nature.
We desire to be fulfilled at the expense of others, the way a mother receives pleasure by means of her child. A child to her is an object of pleasure. She is an egoist, she cannot part with him for a second, and this isn’t a manifestation of her concern for the child as much as it is of her concern for herself—she simply cannot tear herself away from him. If you disconnect her pleasure center, then undoubtedly that very minute she will switch to a new object of pleasure because her treasured child, who after birth meant everything to her, will suddenly fall out of her field of vision and she will become indifferent towards him, like towards any other child.
From this simple example it can be seen that a person’s egoism, in this case a mother’s, receives tremendous fulfillment precisely from the fact that it’s looking after another, giving to another, and caring for another.
Why can’t we relate this way to everyone else and thereby experience endless fulfillment? After all, if I tune into other people’s desires, thoughts, and feelings, attach them to myself and relate to them with love and involvement, then I begin to sense an enormous and endless possibility of pleasure, unrestricted by anything or anyone. I give, care, and participate and thus become fulfilled.
The most important thing for us is fulfillment. This is why we exist. The sensation of life is a sensation of fulfillment, each time by means of different objects, but generally it’s fulfillment. Inside of us it amounts to a certain purely physical, moral, or spiritual substance.
It can be thought of as stimulation of some inner streams of information, currents, or chemical reactions—it doesn’t matter what exactly. But the important thing is that we perceive it as fulfillment. In this case the only thing that’s missing is a correct attitude towards each other, the same kind of love as a mother’s love for her child.
Where can we find this quality? If I could come to, say, some gas station and say: “I want to exchange my egoism. Instead of it give me ten percent of love.” They fill me up there with this quality of love instead of the qualities of envy, hatred, and jealousy, and therefore I can now relate to everyone differently. At least up to these 10% I will be fulfilled and happy.
Moreover, others aren’t even important to me. What matters to me is that I attain comfort and stop seeing competitors in everyone, stop experiencing hatred, fears, and worries. Conversely, everything gradually begins to change into something kind, pleasant, and tranquil.
We cannot even imagine this state except maybe in relation to our own children. Though even with that in our egoistic world we have to constantly remain near the child, fighting with the entire world in order to protect our offspring from all kinds of problems and dangers.
Therefore the problem of changing our attitude towards people around us is a purely psychological problem that can be resolved with the help of psychological training.
After all, a human being is a product of his environment. If we actually raised people in this artificial environment (since our natural environment is egoistic) and would constantly set before them proper goals (while in the meantime their egoism would be continuously growing since it is programmed by nature and there is no escaping that), then we would be forced to constantly develop our field of love, of mutuality. Then we would begin to understand that “love thy friend as thyself” actually is the goal of humanity.
From a “Talk on Integral Education” #5, 12/13/11