I’m Selfish: An assertion

It’s the automatic, unconscious way that I experience boring, frustrating, crowded parts of adult life when I’m operating on the automatic, unconscious belief that I am the center of the world and that my immediate needs and feelings are what should determine the world’s priorities.

David Foster Wallace brings to light selfish nature within us all in his 2005 Kenyon College commencement address, “This is Water.” He describes the childlike mindset we all maintain long after the age of five; we are the center of the world, and he is absolutely correct.

It’s difficult to admit at first, I completely understand. After one is told that they are inevitably selfish, by nature, the initial reaction is disbelief. Afterall, I experienced this myself. As I read “This is Water” I recalled being in a busy shopping market with my mom, listening to her narcissistic remarks and contradicting them in my head. However I am not the enlightened, selfless 16 year old I believed I was before Foster Wallace wrote otherwise. I too am a culprit of feeling personally offended every time a car cuts me off on the highway; it can be very difficult to recognize that these people have a whole life separate from mine. And, contrary to my immediate reactions, they were not cutting me off simply because I am myself, but instead because they are themselves, and they have their own reasons for everything they do. So before you deny everything I’m saying, consider this: you are selfish and admitting it is far better than denying it.

As Foster Wallace explains, acknowledging that the only way we experience anything in our life ever, is through our own eyes, in our own shoes, we can then begin to remove the veil from our faces, and step out of our shoes. We can train ourselves to have a more sympathetic mindset, trusting that there is as much good in others as the good in ourselves, perhaps more, even. Something David Foster Wallace and I both agree on is that we are selfish, and whoever reading this is also selfish, but it comes with an easy fix, and we are all capable of being selfless.


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