Deepak Chopra and Intent

Deepak Chopra and Intent


The Wisdom of Altruism

posted by Admin

By Deepak Chopra, M.D., FACP
There are increasing signs that selfishness is winning out over altruism in this society. The trend isn’t hidden. The backlash over Obamacare comes down to the fully insured resenting the call to provide for the uninsured. The disparity between the wealthy 1% and the rest of society has widened so far that wealth has created its own separate enclaves. Who would guess, walking down Fifth Avenue, that 45% of New York City’s population lives at or below the poverty line?

Selfishness is about “more for me,” but it’s also about being willfully blind to “them,” the poor, the disadvantaged, the needy, or simply anyone with a different accent. Beneath the respectable cover of a verbal tag like “conservative” lies reactionary attitudes that won’t even acknowledge that a black man could legitimately be President.

There used to be a working coalition of altruism, based on mutual deprivation, going back to the Great Depression. So many sectors of society were hurting that unlikely
partnerships, such as that between Ivy League progressives, West Virginia coal miners, and the residents of Harlem could form and remain strong. Those coalitions are much weaker now and sometimes exist only as lip service.

We are fractured and divided in new ways that history can’t provide answers to. Today isn’t like yesterday, and the Great Recession did the opposite of creating altruistic alliances: people cemented the divides that have led, for example, to an unworkable Congress.

In the process, the wisdom of altruism has been lost and needs to be relearned. Why is “we” just as important as “me”? Here are a few reasons:

* We breathe the same air, and if it gets polluted, we all choke.
* We farm the same natural resources for food, and despoiled oceans affect everyone.
* Climate change doesn’t spare rich countries.
* Terrorism is no respecter of national boundaries.
* Epidemic disease flies as fast and far as jet planes.
* Endless consumerism spells general catastrophe in the long run.
* The dispossessed of the world, especially in Asia, want their share of global wealth and influence.

These are the pragmatic reasons for moving toward cooperation, empathy, and altruism. “We” isn’t the same as a loose collection of “me and me and me.” It’s holistic. More than ever before, someone else’s pain has the power to make you feel pain. I don’t mean to offer only negative reasons for abandoning raw selfishness and isolation. Being part of the same family is an evolutionary trend for our species. Beyond nationalism, which divides and creates wars, there is shared humanity, which creates peace and mutual interests.

The wisdom of altruism is crucial to every faith and religious tradition: “the world is my family” is a Sanskrit saying thousands of years old. But religion is only a single strand in human destiny, and the future, which looks more and more secular, needs to reinvent wisdom without dogma or the need for belief in God. The rise of naked selfishness, to be frank, probably has a lot to do with the loss of traditional values and the restraints they imposed. When the ego has nothing bigger than itself to venerate, the results can be seen in every reckless disregard for common humanity.

One hopes that a critical mass is forming around a larger vision. If nothing else, the wretched excess of mega-wealth offers a sickening display of egoism driven by getting and spending. Will we remember that there is another side to human nature, where love, compassion, empathy, and giving promote real happiness and a sense of fulfillment? I think we will. The need is great, and we are designed to evolve, two things that everyone must respond to, however long it takes.

www.deepakchopra.com

Follow Deepak on Twitter



Advertisement
Comments read comments(1)
post a comment
brent s.

posted December 10, 2013 at 6:50 pm


Dr. Chopra’s commentary is “right-on”. We, humanity in developed countries, are negatively over developed and have forgotten or ignored the other side of our own human nature.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

Do Your Emotions Help You or Hold You Back?
Recently, a close friend of mine made the remark that our emotions for the most part are basic, primal, immature, and unevolved. Ever since then, I have been ruminating on the validity of this statement. If our emotions are basically primitive, then how they be our allies, especially on the path to

posted 10:52:25am Jan. 26, 2015 | read full post »

Powers of Mind: In Praise of Subtle Actions
At a time when the mass of headlines seem to be about the brain, artificial intelligence, robotics, and smarter computers, not enough is said about the mind. When reduced to a mechanism, the mind somehow is thought to turn into the brain, with no difference between them. It's true that the brain see

posted 10:51:38am Jan. 19, 2015 | read full post »

Can Science and Religion Save Each Other? (Part 2)
Science is used to being dominant, and religion is used to being defensive--these are familiar poses for two worldviews, the one being on the rise, the other on the decline. Generally when an entire belief system is on the decline, it steadily disappears. There's no need to believe that the king's t

posted 10:29:24am Jan. 12, 2015 | read full post »

Can Science and Religion Save Each Other?
A flurry of controversy surrounded the astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson two weeks ago when he took a jab at religion in the name of science. It began Christmas day with a mischievous tweet: “On this day long ago, a child was born who, by age 30, would transform the world. Happy Birthday Isaac Newton

posted 3:36:40pm Jan. 05, 2015 | read full post »

How to Save the World--A Simple Answer
Around a decade ago, when I first started posting at Huffington Post, one entry considered the world's four greatest problems. They were over-population, climate change, pandemic disease, and refugeeism. Despite the suffering and fear it creates, terrorism affects far fewer people than these four is

posted 10:11:57am Dec. 22, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.