I spend my whole life taking care of myself, both internally and instinctively and consciously, intentionally, and deliberately. In this case, how do I change my nature to the complete opposite? How can I learn to love my neighbor? After all, to love my neighbor means to think only about him, to place my entire body at his service, all of my means, abilities, and generally everything that I have. And to do that to such extent that I won’t have anything left except for this point of desire to bestow to him and to relentlessly care for him so that he would feel as good as possible.
This is how a mother cares for her child. Nature itself directs her to tirelessly care for the little one, and the only thing that interests her in life is that these few pounds of flesh feel good. She thinks only about how to settle him comfortably, what to feed him, when to change the diaper, and on the whole, what to do with him so that he would feel even better. No other care exists for her.
How can we follow her example so that we would treat all of humanity in the same manner, with the same devotion? It’s unrealistic!
But could Nature actually set impossible conditions before us? Why, then, did we come to a completely opposite state? Why are we wholly immersed in self-concern? Moreover, although animals constantly care about themselves as well, people, in addition to that, want to profit at the expense of others, to use them, to impose their power and opinions on them, to bend them to their will. A person delights in towering over others. What is more, he enjoys when they feel a little worse than him, when he is in a more advantageous state compared to them. A person constantly evaluates him or herself relative to those around him, and only through that does he establish the extent of his satisfaction.
If egoism led me to the point where I want to feel like I’m above everyone and where I need them only in order to sense my own superiority, then how can I change this nature and transition to an opposite state? Perhaps it’s worthwhile for me to imagine a utopian situation in which I care about my neighbor and receive pleasure from that, like a mother who cares for her baby? Suppose I would love others the same way that she does and I would constantly be caring for them, then, maybe, I would feel absolute self-realization in this?
However, I don’t see any means for achieving that. What would oblige me to that?
In fact, humanity pondered this for thousands of years. Throughout history many books have been written, many attempts were made to implement something similar: to build a good environment, to form corresponding organizations. Even hundreds of years ago, utopians attempted to create the conditions for good and kind relations between people in different corners of the world. However they didn’t succeed in implementing these initiatives.
In the course of our development, we were becoming more intelligent and getting to know human nature better and better, and now we understand that we’re incapable of rising above our own nature. Maybe that’s even a good thing. Maybe it will give us something special. But building such a society is impossible: a utopian idea indeed.
And this is why in our societies we restrict ourselves to laws of conduct so as not to harm our neighbor too much. We have lawyers, accountants, sociologists, psychologists, politicians, and so on, and they normalize social laws. We unite with each other, but only in order to receive services. For example, a municipality cares about order in the city, about garbage cleanup and other services like kindergartens, schools, cultural centers, and so on. We’re willing to reckon with the needs of everyone, and in this case, of course, it’s worthwhile to unite. After all, thanks to that each person pays a relatively small sum for a broad range of services. These things are clear to us since through them we receive a real, calculable benefit.
But when it comes to changing people’s attitudes in the realm of feelings and emotions so that a person would take his neighbor into consideration out of the calling of his own heart, this is something that we can’t do.
And here we come to an understanding of that special state of crisis that we’re in today. It’s a very strange crisis, and in its essence, it pertains to the relationships between us. Using all the same previously attempted egoistic formations, we sought to build a more comfortable society for everyone, taking common interests into account one way or another. We understand that an excess of disgruntled people will lead to clashes and irreconcilable conflicts, and this threatens to provoke civil wars. Throughout all the ages, we’ve been aware that our egoism needs to be reined in well so that we wouldn’t devour each other.
However, all of these calculations were constructed under an “egoistic umbrella”: We understood that such is our nature and that we need to restrain ourselves within certain boundaries. Even if our world shimmers with egoistic facets, it still requires a single mechanism in order to prevent the outbreaks that threaten to destroy all our achievements. This is how humanity came to create the World Bank, the UN, and other international organizations, how we came to closer communications and more complete accounting of interests.
In particular, during the last century we realized that it’s necessary to take each other into consideration more. The two World Wars have showed us that nobody wins in unbridled warfare—on the contrary, everyone suffers a loss as a result and everyone pays a dear price for it.
That’s why humanity created all kinds of communities and communication channels. There are even “red buttons” in Moscow and Washington for establishing emergency contact in case of a global threat. A certain form of trust exists here simply because it’s clear to all involved parties that nobody would come out of a conflict squeaky-clean and profitably. Thus, realizing that there is no alternative, armed with an accumulated basis, we can now establish certain interactions and communication.
On one hand, it’s still an egoistic approach, but on the other hand, such turn of events still leads to closeness between us. Even though we increasingly hate and want to kill others, it’s becoming clear that they’re just as strong, and thus it’s worthwhile for us to take each other into consideration.
From KabTV’s “A New Life” #13, 1/11/12