hello there!

lately i seem to have been bumping in this concept left right and center (doing my PW PI on NIMBY goodness), and i thought i’d write about it just to consolidate my thoughts!

what is altruism? it is a principle of concern for the welfare of others”, others over self, doing things for others without expecting reward, selflessness… however way you’d like to put it. :) altruism is a traditional virtue in many cultures, a core aspect of various religious traditions, and the opposite of selfishness. and interestingly, it has roots in disciplines ranging from evolution to neurobiology to psychology :)

most animals are shaped by 2 things — nature and nurture. (yes that age-old debate resurfaces) that much is pretty clear yeah? for example, a dog is shaped by its breed and how it is trained  :) many scientists now believe that there is no ‘true altruism’ in animals. everything they do, even those actions that are seemingly altruistic, are merely pre-programmed in their genes or habitual. and most importantly, it is done to benefit their kin and pass on their genes.

but we complicated humans are shaped by an additional intangible variable– free will.

this special tweak in our frontal cortex actually enables us to do completely irrational things (at least, to an animal it may seem so!). i can’t quite recall what association this was, but a team of  young men in a country banded together to save complete strangers in their boats during winter. every year this village loses many of its fine young men; but if its any comfort, every year, at least a few people are rescued, salvaged from the icy waters and given a new lease of life. what makes these people so willing to risk their lives for a stranger?

this kinda reminds me of a conversation i had with a friend once, a long time ago, about being thanked (or not, in this case) for organising an event from the pokemon community. i distinctly recall going, “but don’t you do it because you want to? because it’s fun and you’d like to provide a platform to bond our community! …rather than for any particular ‘thank you’? i guess i could say ‘thank you’ to you now if you’d like”/ i was genuinely puzzled at his disgruntledness (not angry or annoyed, just bewildered) but come to think of it, could it be just a little case of altruism vs non?

it seems like a big concept, this whole “selflessness” thing, but i think it can be seen in very little ways– planning birthday celebrations, taking care of my friends (covering a blanket before curling up to sleep) and expecting nothing in return. no one’s perfect so i guess even when i say i do it out of love platonicloveyesyes (and trust me i really do mean it with all my heart)  it hurts sometimes when.. but it’s okay. i for one believe that we don’t live to pass on our genes alone. :) we’re better than that. :)

mother teresa didn’t become who she was by choosing to only help some people those who benefit her, and neglecting those who couldn’t pay her back. :) the epitome of altruism and free will? (or did she do it for the fame?)

i wonder how far free will stretches. and its relationship with altruism! can it overcome nature or nurture? what do you think? :)



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