Selfish Benevolence: The Science of Living Well

As in medicine theoretically, the first law of life is “Do No Harm”. In my book that’s the only law we need on the planet. In this article I will confine the philosophical weight of that premise to human interaction only.

Do No Harm means exactly that. Don’t hurt people. Don’t impose your values on anyone by force. Don’t initiate any form of violence. It’s a simple and straight forward rule most people are willing to accept for obvious reasons, however, there’s an element to this ideal that when put into practice on a personal level, often poses a difficult challenge.

“People” defined as everyone everywhere includes you and me, and herein lies the challenge. Do No Harm FIRST AND FOREMOST means don’t harm your own mind and body. Don’t do yourself in by your own hand. Don’t neglect or abandon yourself. Don’t drink or eat anything known to corrupt, destroy or hurt you. Don’t throw yourself to the wind without concern of outcome. Learn to differentiate between use and abuse.

Convention assumes that rude or obnoxious people are “selfish”, and that nice people are selfless. You hear it all the time. “What a selfish so-and-so”. By convention I mean the traditions and beliefs generally accepted as fact by mainstream.

But that assumption is absolutely false. Everyone is selfish, meaning full of self, but not everyone is inconsiderate or rude. The distinction is not in state but degree. Selfishness is like health, everyone has it, but not necessarily the best kind.

Like health, selfishness is a natural biological state. To be selfish means nothing more than to be a self-contained individual.

If we truly respect ourselves we don’t serve others to gain their acceptance or approval, or to look good in the eyes of the world. If we do, we run the risk of moral disintegration and a slow, gradual self-induced self-annihilation.

To maintain a strong commitment to the science of living well, we must live in alliance with self. We have to be on the same page. We have to stop getting in our own way. To work with self in harmony is the single greatest accomplishment in life, and to do this, we must love ourselves. We must like who we are. If we do, and we must, it’s because our emotions are guided by reason and in agreement with a logical perception of reality.

Words like brave, courteous, noble and kind describe human conduct. Conduct flows from within, from our character and personality. Our thoughts inhabit neocortical regions of the brain in the form of bioelectrical “sparks”. We speak and act as a consequence of self-generated thought. We respond to our environment and circumstances from a subconscious and conscious level of self-awareness.

Do you blame your conduct on other people, the world or the devil? All action, good or bad, is conducted by self. Acceptance of this fact relieves inner tension and frustration. “Selflessness” does not exist. We can pretend to be selfless, but it’s still us pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.

Consciousness, identity, thought, words and action as a consequence, all originate from self. Perception of reality is a personal experience. It emanates from self.

Everyone is selfish but clearly not everyone is malicious or malevolent. In Man’s Search for Meaning, Dr. Victor Frenkl, neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor writes, “There are two kinds of people determined by action, decent or indecent”.

Which one are you?

Are you or are you not living in the center of your own being? If so, doesn’t that make you “self-centered?” If not, then who else is in there? Who’s calling the shots? Who’s controlling your thoughts and actions? Who’s in the driver’s seat?

Here’s how I see it (notice the “I”). It’s “me” who perceives, responds and acts. I decide what to do with my life and how to live. I like myself; so I take exceptional care of myself, live my life for myself (and not for others) and in doing so I satisfy my longing to be well, to be healthy and to be happy!

This is the science of living well. It’s a rational approach to life and just like exercise and excellent nutrition, it really works.

If you ignore yourself and sacrifice your health for the sake of others, you’re doing yourself and the world a great disservice. Is it wise to waste yourself so that others can benefit while you suffer? Is it wise to “let yourself go” and completely ignore your own physical, emotional and spiritually needs? Is this the best we can be?

Obedience is greater than sacrifice. Do No Harm. Obey the Law.

Obey the law of life, the law that governs human wellness and peaceful co-existence, and that same law will sustain and protect you. Our primary responsibility is to stay well, holistically. If you’re not well then get well. Do the work that optimum health and wellness demands. It’s that simple.

Repeat after me. I am self-directed, self-acting, self-appointed, self-appreciated, self-certified, self-confident, self-conscious, self-devoted, self-disciplined, self-educated, self-existent, self-generating, self-governing, self-imposed, self-important, self-involved, self-reliant and self-approved.

I have high self-esteem and enormous self-worth. I am self-fulfilled. I am definitely not selfless. I do not disregard myself, my personal interests, my dreams, my goals or my personal happiness. I am self-centered and selfish, but I am kind, loving, peaceful and above all, I am benevolent. I am a peaceful warrior content with who and what I am!

Howard Roark was right. “The world is perishing from an orgy of self-sacrificing.”

“Selfish, is that what they call me? Well I am. I live by the judgment of my own mind and for my own sake!”

~ Howard Roark (from The Fountainhead (1943) a novel by Ayn Rand)

As always, stay well and live free!...Dr.C