Subtitle: Altruistic Self-Interest (or Self-Interested Altruism)
A friend, a mental health professional, reflecting on human nature and the coronavirus pandemic, said, “There is no such thing as pure altruism.”
I thought his observation too cynical by half. Then, considering the meaning of altruism as unselfish, selfless devotion to the wellbeing of another, I saw his point.
Humans are inherently self-interested. Self-interest is the root, to the good, our self-care and our quest for survival, yet, to the not so good, our selfishness.
No wonder Jesus, who, for me, as a Christian, is the embodiment of selflessness, taught: “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16.24-25).
As I contemplate coronavirus’ globality – that is, its borderless, all-encompassing grip on human health and economic wellbeing – it becomes clearer to me (written in the form of now innumerable governmental executive orders that have been issued in response to the crisis) that:
Whereas, no one is immune. No person or peoples. No family or community. No culture or class. No race or ethnicity. No nation or region; and
Whereas, the elderly, all with pre-existing health conditions, and the poor are especially vulnerable; and
Whereas, any and all of us are as safe only as the most vulnerable among us is safe;
Therefore, may we, inescapably members of our world-wide community, coming to know, and then living into the truth that individual personal safety and security rests in that of all, find the balance, the marriage between altruism and self-interest.