The Paradox of Selfishness

Those of you who have attended The Harlequin Experience will remember that one of the ideas that I put forward for consideration is that life is a selfish process. This is not an easy idea to grasp for several reasons. First it cuts right across the ideas of conventional society that one of the greatest thing we can do is – and it is literally chipped in stone on a good number of the war memorials that litter our public gardens – is to give up our lives for others. Second it is a basic tenet of the two fathers of our Protestant religions, Luther and Calvin, that we are not worth much and that we are simply not very important in the greater scheme of things. Essentially they see any attempt to make ourselves important or worthwhile or to even love ourselves in any way as “sinful”.

With just these two foundation stones in place the idea of putting yourself first becomes difficult.

Let us look at the practical implications of always putting someone else first.

How on earth are you going to be able to do something intelligent for anyone else until you are in at least reasonably good order? They tell us this on the airplanes we all use when the airhostess stands in front – sadly these days it is too often a recording- and says “in the unlikely event of a sudden loss of pressure the panel above your head will fall open and an oxygen mask will drop out. Pull it towards you with a sharp jerk, place it over your nose and mouth and MAKE SURE IT IS WORKING PROPERLY BEFORE HELPING OTHERS! You will not be of much use to me or anyone else if you are asphyxiating!

Another of the things we ask you to consider is the idea is that it essential to love yourself before you can even think of saying to someone else “I love you” and in that moment. For us the logic behind this is inescapable. How can you possibly ask someone to love you if you do not love yourself? Why on earth should they bother if you cant?

There is one question that we need to ask ourselves and continue asking ourselves until we can answer it with a resounding YES and it is this:


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