GUEST POST: The Futility of Trying to Be Anything But Selfish

This next guest post is from my friend David, who you may also know as @drpants. I am really in love with this post, because it shows me something different from David. He is, IMO, generally upbeatedly hilarious on Twitter. It’s so interesting to see many sides of a person unfold in this weird online world we have created for ourselves.

The Futility of Trying to Be Anything But Selfish

by David Broyles, aka Mixtape Jones

I’m glad to be guest blogging here on Greeblemonkey. I was thinking about how I could cover some bases in terms of the subjects Aimee tends to write about, maybe tie them all together (!), and the following is what I came up with. I do wish I could have done so without being so…cynical. You can judge for yourself whether or not I was successful at either of these things.

Selfishness is a disease we are all born with. It’s like a pre-existing condition for life. Now, I’m speaking about selfishness beyond just a basic survival instinct…I’m talking about the selfishness that pervades our lives, our culture, our families.

It’s so pervasive that, ultimately, we invent new technology to serve it. I think about the new, much discussed iPad – I would be a lot more impressed with this device if I didn’t see it as some sort of gigantic time waster. It appears to purely be an entertainment device, and please tell me, what’s more selfish than entertainment? Mind you, we could get into a whole discussion of entertainers themselves and their motivations for the performances they create for the masses, but our experiences of entertainment tend to be selfish… I want something that makes ME laugh, that makes ME feel, that makes ME stop thinking about all the other crap I have to do…

I mean, I think about what I might do with an iPad, and I’m sure it would just be some sort of more elaborate version of what I do with my iTunes & iPod. Make playlists, or “mixtapes” as I so anachronistically refer to them (I’m not kidding. I’ve taken to restricting myself to formatting them in two 45-minute “sides,” to replicate the effect of a 90-minute cassette), to listen to myself and also foist on others as if to say, “Isn’t the music I like awesome? Aren’t these all the songs you’ve been waiting your whole life to hear?? Haven’t I changed your LIFE with this???” Some might say that sharing music is an unselfish act, that you are giving someone something that they’ll enjoy, but the geekiest and snobbiest among us mixtape fanatics know that the gesture is ultimately self-serving… we are truly looking for recognition as people of impeccable taste, and if we don’t receive such recognition, it’s because the person we have blessed with our gift of excellence obviously exists on a lower rung of artistic intelligence.

I also think often about passing on this music and my love of it to my children (none of whom actually exist yet). I think about them someday exploring my CD or vinyl collections, poking through and finding things that move them or interest them. But to what end? So that I can feel awesome? From there, my thought process goes downhill… I start to analyze my motivations for having children in the first place, and realize that those are all completely selfish as well. I mean, it’s a total contradiction – ultimately, BEING a parent successfully has to be a selfless act. If we don’t consistently put the needs of our children above our own, at least a large percentage of the time, the child could potentially suffer. I don’t want to have a child to learn how to be selfless, however. I am interested in having a child because of all the ways it will be fun for ME, how it will make ME feel, all the ways I will enjoy it. Beyond those motivations, I am cynical enough to abandon the idea of offspring altogether. I suppose if I were like the Catholics, and birth control wasn’t an option, I would see having children as another act of surrender to God, but that’s not the choice that my wife and I have made. I wonder most days why I would bring a child into a world that appears to be devolving into a greater mess than I would have dreamed possible in my own childhood.

AND YET, it is in the face of all this that I somehow still categorize myself as an optimist. I won’t lie – I’ve been in a pretty ugly state on the inside lately, but I see myself coming out of it. And it must be mentioned that the human race has achieved some remarkable, remarkable things in spite of and also, quite possibly, BECAUSE of its inherent selfishness (iPad possibly included, HCR DEFINITELY included). Selflessness is not done with us yet, or maybe, even more wonderfully, we’re not done with selflessness. I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite Camper Van Beethoven songs:

And life is grand.

And I will say this at the risk of falling from favor

With those of you

Who have appointed yourselves to expect us to say something darker.

This article has 85 comments

  1. zipper

    cool post. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Nate

    I love this. I understand exactly what you mean; I can go for WEEKS without doing anything at all because I’m paralyzed by questioning my motivation.

    Which, as you know, sucks.

  3. jenn

    sometimes, in order to honestly live unselfishly, it’s important to become realistic, which can often be mistaken for negativity. that right there says a lot about our society as a whole, and ultimately i’d like to be on the positive, selfless side. glad you feel yourself pulling through the negative spot. we all have those times, and i think it says a lot about you that you’re aware of where you are in the journey. thanks for sharing your thoughts so candidly.

  4. aaron

    I have learned that it is better to be selfish. Call it maturity or perhaps the emotional-ventricles of my heart have been singed by the constantly flowing tragedy that I see in everyday life. Richard Dawkins, the esteemed Atheist, wrote a book called The Selfish Gene, which basically depicts selfishness stemming from the very fabric of our existence. I would like to think there was a way out of this whole mess, but alas, we are what we eat (or experience, in this case)and things are just getting worse.

    Good post, I enjoyed it.

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