Johnny Atman

Psychotherapist & NLP Trainer,

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How can a human being overcome selfishness, the idea that one is separate from the rest of humanity?

In an action, we usually have a target (goal) a means to achieve that (a method) and resources. Should one of the components be out of line, or not supporting the other two, the action would be a failure as harmony would be broken. So every component supports the others, every component lives for the others. When this alignment is achieved, the Archer is satisfied, releases the arrow from the bow and the target is hit. How can we live for one another and align our hearts for the benefit of all humanity?

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    Oct 27 2013: I think, to some degree, the way we refer to one another has something (small but significant) to do with how we treat one another. For instance, I was working in a detention facility in Iraq, there was a very real concern about how "detainees" were being treated. A training program was quickly adopted and made a mandatory part of our initial training. One thing that stuck out clearly in my head was the labels we place on people. Detainee's, terrorists even the label Iraqi's seems to distance ones self from another. It seems like such a slight distance, just a name, a label. I think that slight distance holds more weight than we assume. We are all human. Beyond that, in my experience, labels tend to miss the target. A wind that cannot be compensated for.
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      Oct 27 2013: i think you have hit the nail in the head. you have pointed out the begining of separation. thank you
    • Nov 1 2013: well stated Glenn......
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      Nov 3 2013: Very well stated and recognized Glenn. I volunteered with the department of corrections for about 6 years, facilitating various programs. Who are these people? "They" could be "me"! We are more the same than different, and when we recognize our similarities, as well as accept our differences....without labels.....we may find many ways in which we can connect. How we refer to each other....label ourselves or each other....has a LOT to do with how we treat each other.....well said my friend:>)
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    Oct 13 2013: I don't think all human beings are selfish however I do think that some people are more prone to it that others out of ego, greed, or insecurity in some way or another - over the past 30-years I think there has been an underlying and unspoken socio-political experiment going on particularly in the west, linked to capitalism (cronie capitalism in particular) which has been designed to beguile people into thinking that greed and selfishness are good things... things to aspire to, and that our society is one of "every man for themselves" - however human-beings are social creatures - we are not silo's or islands - we are interdependent with and to each-other, and with the very planet we live on.

    The only thing that can redress the balance in humanity, our planet, and the ecosystems which sustain all life on earth, as a whole, is to accept that profits at the expense of the people and the planet is not sustainable. I believe that the moral, spiritual and ethical majority (currently a sleeping giant) needs to wake-up out of their slumber... We all have a conscience (bar a few exceptions). We are born with a basic inherent awareness of what it right and what is wrong - which is reinforced for good or ill, though our experiences, our guides, teachers, mentors and conditioning, and there are far more of us that would do good, alleviate suffering than those that would inflict it.

    So it's down to us as individuals, in our homes, in our communities, at work and at play to as Gandhi so eloquently stated: "be the change we want to see in the world"... We have a conscience - we know the difference between right and wrong, and we have the power of the money in our pockets to influence those we believe behave in amoral fashions by ceasing to purchase their services or goods. Remember the how millions of housewives world wide influenced the big tuna fisheries back in the 80's!!!
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    Oct 4 2013: Johnny,
    You present this idea as if every human being perceives him/herself separate from the whole, and in my perception and experience, there are lots of people who perceive our interconnectedness.

    We are all different as individuals, and in my perception, it is important to be aware of our "self", without adversely impacting others. We cannot take care of anyone else unless we take care of our "self". We cannot give to others, something that we do not have in and for our "self".

    That being said, with mindful awareness, we can be aware of how we can take care of our "self" and others. We can be aware in every moment, to the best of our ability, how our words and actions impact others, and weather or not we contribute to the whole. We can encourage and practice the idea of interconnectedness, and discontinue presenting the idea that it is a "normal" belief that we are separate:>)

    How can we align our hearts for the benefit of all humanity? I believe our hearts are already aligned....we need to recognize and remember:>)
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      Oct 5 2013: Hi Coleen, thatks for the input and I thank everyone who so kindly contribute.I do, as many topics in life are assumptions yet to be tested, and unless we test them, they become rigid beliefs without a fact that may support them. Obviously, the ones that are interconnected are the exception. I look at the world I live in and see beauty and tragedy coexisting.
      I am not against either as the paradox of living is difficult to fathom. Tragedy and beauty seem to shaddow each other. Beauty is ungraspable which is tragic in itself, and so is Truth. As a child, I recall once catching a firefly. In my fist, it's flicker died. As soon as I released it, the flicker came back on. I have learned a great lesson, that Reality, Love, Truth are ungraspable. But they are perceivable. That is all. The "self" as I understand, is a story that seeks to perpetuate in time, a narrative that seeks, from a core value basis, to act, in accordance with those values. Tragically, everyone has slightly different values, which at times clash, thus creating conflict. One can agree to disagree, as long as one does not impose one's values on others. I guess, our factual needs are common, we have needs that are biological and we have the need to relate and connect. My question would be where does the need end and greed begin? I look at nature, and I see animals gathering enough for the winter. They do not have bank accounts, yet they seem to do fine, according to nature and capacity to provide. But what about us humans?
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        Oct 5 2013: I agree with you Johnny, that life is an exploration. I do not agree that "the ones that are interconnected are the exception". I see a LOT of people in our world recognizing our interconnectedness, and I like to focus on that. I also see beauty and truth in our world, and focus on that as well. What we focus on expands.

        It is valuable to be aware of how we might change our world for the better, and I'm sorry that you believe reality, love and truth are ungraspable. What we believe becomes our reality. I don't perceive it as tragic that we have different values, because, as you insightfully say...."many topics in life are assumptions yet to be tested". Life is an exploration, and I agree to disagree with your perception of the life adventure in some respects.

        The squirrels and chipmunks DO indeed have "bank accounts" in the form of gathering food for the winter, and I observe every day, their ability to horde WAY more food than they can eat in the winter months. I'm not saying it's right or wrong. I'm simply observing nature:>)
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          Oct 5 2013: I am not asking for anyone to feel sorry for me as I do not feel I am in any sort of pain. And if I was, I am responsible for it therefore the sorry is with me and that is fine too.
          We are obviously talking about different things, when we talk about Love, Truth and Beauty. The Love, Truth and Beauty that I am talking about are not temporal thus cannot be grasped by thought, which is the product of time; yet can be perceived by a mind that in which desire has come to an end.. You talk about Love, Truth and Beauty as a product of belief, which is temporal, conditioned, culturally derrived and therefor conflictual as people's beliefs about these concepts are also different. Such concepts, as noble as they may be, can only result in strife.
          We cannot help but agree to disagree, on certain points, therefor we will never fully meet. So what is in the way of us fully meeting?
          Have you ever opened an account with Squirrel Savings Bank?
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        Oct 5 2013: Johnny,
        I do not feel sorry for you. I wrote..."I'm sorry that you believe reality, love and truth are ungraspable". I know your feelings are your own choice and responsibility.

        I talk about truth, beauty and love as these qualities are understood by most people in our world who feel connected. I do not grasp these qualities only with "thought". They are embedded in every cell of my body, heart and mind. The love I share with people is not "conflictual", as you say, nor does it "result in strife".

        I feel connected with you and everyone. If you choose to NOT feel that, there is nothing I can do about it, and as you insightfully are responsible for what you choose to feel, and how that manifests into your life experience. On that we agree.
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          Oct 6 2013: A poem cannot be explained, a feeling cannot be argued. There will always be certain things not fully graspable, so we will take calls of our heart.
          I shall never try to explain why I love that smiling face of yours Colleen neither you can put reasons behind adoring this monkey! :D
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          Oct 6 2013: I am not entirely certain that our feelings are our choice. When you describe something coming from deep within, or seeming to be embedded in every cell, I understand this because I have this same feeling. But I am not sufficiently knowledgeable to analyze to its roots.

          There may be those who do not have this sort of deeply rooted love even for people they do not know or who do not have any feelings for ANYTHING that seem to them to come from deep within..It is similar to the way some people have an intensity others do not and cannot understand. If some people do not have this sort of disposition "built in," I don't know whether they can choose to feel this way. I can see someones not being able to understand a condition of life he does not feel.
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        Nov 3 2013: Dear Pabitra, you are special:>)

        I CAN indeed put reasons behind adoring the monkey that is you:>) From our very first interaction here on TED a couple years ago, I KNEW that you were not just another pretty face. You express yourself with respect and kindness, which is important. We agree on some things, and we disagree on some things, and that's ok. That, to me, is a HUGE, very valuable connection. I think we do not feel separate from each other?

        I believe EVERYONE has the ability to connect on many different levels. The question we want to? I believe the possibility is there with ALL people, and it is a choice:>)
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          Nov 3 2013: I understand that is your belief. I simply do not know the extent of variation among this respect. For example, autism exists as a spectrum and is connected to understanding of, communication with, and feeling about others. There is possibly more than choice involved.
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        Nov 3 2013: I don't totally understand either Fritzie. I know a few children labeled autistic, however, and my experience, is that when we are willing and able to meet them where they are, it is possible to connect:>)
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    Oct 30 2013: Hello Johnny and fellow TEDsters,

    Thank you very much for this topic !

    Actually I have been thinking a lot about this question here are my first answers to overcome selfishness:

    - Travel to be willing to take a stand for the world’s welfare and realize that we are part of a global community
    - See differences and diversities as fascinating chances to learn and improve ourselves
    - Do not put any values on things but on PEOPLE
    - Be Curious
    - Read about Socrates, Confucius and Plato
    - Understand that one day we gonna disappear for ever...
  • Oct 29 2013: Selfishness often aligns itself with greed and jealousy. All of these things arise out of some fear: mostly a fear of being without or alone. Yet when we give ourselves over to selfishness, greed and jealousy we often lose the very things we were trying to protect or keep for ourselves. Maybe leading by example is more fruitful than taking the bull by the horns. Just to be content and appreciating the present is a blessing.
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    Oct 27 2013: Brilliant question. Overcoming selfishness is achieved through an individual internal introspective journey and the eventual discovery of ones true self.
    • Nov 1 2013: I like the simplicity of this statement.....
  • Oct 23 2013: Yes, how do we collectively become an empathic civilization? That is the question. Here's a video for you, not from TED, but RSA; it's included in TED's Best of the Web section.

    I think we start by looking to the stars, and realizing just how fragile and beautiful the Earth we live on is. This is something that people from all nations, all religions, and all races can agree upon. There is actually a really interesting idea called "The Overview Effect" that claims astronauts view the world much differently after they come back from space; after seeing our world in all of its splendor (and its impending issues), it is much easier to connect with the rest of humanity. I think we all need a little bit of the overview effect in our lives.
    • Oct 25 2013: Nice point about the astronaut. Sometimes I think in how small we are, and how we need the others to get somewhere.

      When I remember that we are on a gigantic ball, floating on the cosmos ocean, without knowing why or when or where we came from, I begin to see myself as a part of the whole Universe. A state of the matter that experiences life, like all the atoms wanted to experience life and I become what I am today.

      So, when I think about this, I found it so much beautiful and awesome, and I can't think of myself as something else than a part. A part of the whole Universe, just as you and everybody else are! And I despise selfishness when thinking this way.
  • Oct 20 2013: EDUCATION. As soon as the population is seen as a group and not a group of individuals the world will know unity. Instead of teaching how to overcome obstacles by yourself, teaching how to collaborate and work as a single unit is key.
  • Oct 20 2013: There's a story which I would like to share with you , once a king wanted to appoint a prime minster in his court,the king's council of wise people suggested the names of three courtiers.Now the king has to select the one from among the three persons. To find out who is wise among the three, the king asked a question to the first person that if the beard of both us catches fire then what would you do? The first courtier said that first off all I will try to extinguish the fire on my own beard then If I will have the time I will extinguish the fire on your beard.

    The king then asked the same question to the second person. The second courtier said that first of all I will try to extinguish the fire on your beard and then if I will have the time , I will extinguish the fire on my beard.

    Then the king repeated the same question to the third person. The third courtier said that with hand I will extinguish the fire on you beard while at the same time I will try to extinguish the fire on my beard.

    Now, whom do you think the king selected as the prime minister? The king selected the third person and said that one who only thinks about himself is the fool and one who only thinks about the welfare of the others is also the fool.The person who can take care of himself as well as the others is the wise and so I select you as my prime minister.

    Extreme of any thing is very fatal in the world.Today most of the world's problems are due to extremism and nothing else.Balance is the key which is missing in today's world.
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      Oct 20 2013: IMO, you are very correct in your arguments against the extremism and in favor of the balance which is missing. I shall just add that when talking about extremism, people usually think about the typical bad things we are familiar with. But it's very important to notice that even the good things can become extreme and thus turn into bad things.

      The mankind history and even our this present era are full of such cases when good things turning into negative as taken to the extremism. That's why extremism is bad as a value, no matter what's the context.

      Balance is good as a practical mean but not necessarily as a value. Because balance at any cost is an extremism again, which is bad as mentioned before.

      I have written about the mechanism of extremism and balance in my other comment (reply) on
      June 8 2011:
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    Oct 11 2013: Johnny... selfishness directly relates to inherent ego of human beings. The bigger our ego... we became more self-centered, selfish in life! Control on ego (termed Aham in Hinduism) can only be established in totality by travelling path of nishkama karma yoga... which simply spells, offering fruits of karma performed to God Almighty all the time.

    Most human beings world over indulged in karma for the sake of fruits of karma. If the fruits of karma did not belong to us... why would mankind indulge in karma! Ask any successful entrepreneur... seeds of total success lay in abandoning our ego in totality. Those with bloated egos may gain material success but would always remain selfish concerning community.

    JRD Tata... the scion of Tata industry in India was a true nishkama karma Yogi par excellence. All his life he lived like a true son of God Almighty... like a true trustee, never considering the entire Tata Empire his own. He believed in the philosophy that everything belonged to God Almighty and he was only an instrument doing his bidding all the time.

    JRD Tata was a truly unselfish person who all his life worked for the welfare of mankind. JRD Tata always said, not for a single moment of life did he enter into a contract in which earning money was the only goal. JRD Tata did for India which no other entrepreneur could excel. By increasing our moral standards, by remaining ethical in life all the time... one can always leave every trace of selfishness behind forever. An unselfish person always worked for welfare of mankind, making path of nishkama karma yoga ones motto of life. More on Nishkama Karma Yoga -
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    Oct 5 2013: Through practicing compassion.

    I found a lot of practical inspiration by hearing this talk:
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    Oct 31 2013: Being able to see oneself as part of a greater whole, where every other person is just as valuable is a good start.
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    Oct 30 2013: This may be the very best question at TED!!

    We can overcome selfishness, at "the choice moment", by opting for:

    1. spontaneous kindness
    2. listening
    3. compassion
    4. understanding
    5. volunteer assistance
    6. proactive thoughtfulness
    7. offering ideas that might serve as solutions
    8. pre-emptive action to prevent suffering
    9. real-time action to prevent suffering
    10. mentoring
    11. reaching out with a helping hand
    12. amplifying the good
    13. sharing prosperity
    14. being instrument of loving kindness
    15. behaving in a humane manner
    16. deliberate act of peace
    17. intentional act of love
    18. being happy for the success of others
    19. being happy for the wellness of others
    20. rejoicing in the good news of others
    21. teaching by being
    22. being the change
    23. being the healer
    24. being the love
    25. being the good
    26. being the joy
    27. causing a smile
    28. speaking good words
    29. being present
    30. empowering goodness
    31. celebrating life
    32. being patient
    33. love
  • Oct 27 2013: There is no such thing as "darkness" in the same way that we talk about the "photons of light". Absolute darkness is the complete absence of light. Darkness in itself doesn't exist. To remove darkness all you need to do is to turn on the light. In the same way I believe that selfishness is the absence of selflessness. The only way to overcome selfishness is to practice selflessness. Selflessness is not asceticism. Every thoughtful act that we do with the sincere desire to make this world a better place develops our selflessness. There is ofcourse a downfall- if selflessness is not accompanied by humility then selfishness creeps in. It is a constant struggle. I certainly agree that we will never be able to be absolutely selfless but I have complete faith that I can be better today then I was yesterday.
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    Oct 27 2013: Selfishness is a symptom of loneliness and insecurity, or the perceptive belief that the person is alone with no sense of belonging. Once one feels part of a larger community and belonging, the selfishness wanes. Cognitively the mind will give up selfishness in exchange for inclusion by community. We instinctively seek to be part of a tribe.
  • Oct 25 2013: How can a human being overcome selfishness, the idea that one is separate from the rest of humanity?
    I think the answer to your question is actually part of the question itself. The acceptance of the idea that we are separate bodies with differences, keeps us separate from the rest of humanity. As long as we value, differences, independence, exclusiveness instead of sameness, dependency, and inclusiveness we will believe that we are separate from the rest of humanity.
    To be one with humanity we must participate in the world with a different state of awareness. An awareness that understands we are more than bodies; we are more than the sum of our experiences, we are more than behavior, and that our natural state of happiness is giving and receiving love. To be one with humanity we must value the concepts of sameness, dependence, inclusiveness, and forgiveness.
    To overcome selfishness we must identify with our fellow human beings; if you are special or different than you have excluded, not included. We must be aware of our thoughts, because our thoughts affect perception and perception governors’ behavior. We must stop judging and choose to forgive. We can choose to see things differently simply by being aware of our thoughts and choosing again.
    So to feel one with the rest of humanity we must first accept the idea that we are all the same, we are all looking for acceptance and love. To overcome selfishness, we must be aware of our thoughts and when they deviate from sameness, choose again, chose forgiveness. Realize that an idea becomes more powerful as more people believe in the idea.
  • Oct 22 2013: mark twain said it best: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”

    it's interesting that people do seem to fall into either of 2 groups, depending on how big their scope of the word 'us' is. immigrants are a good example, and fit the travel connection. you've probably seen some who, when moving to another country, live in an area where many of their former countrymen have settled, have few or no friends from their home country, and keep to their old customs, embracing nothing of their home. you might also have met the opposite, people who embrace everything good about both their old home and their new one.
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    Oct 17 2013: Perhaps the question isn't how to become more altruistic but how to become selfish without loosing the ability to sacrifice for our fellow man when necessary. The negative connotations of the word selfish in and of themselves give the word inappropriate context. Should we deny ourselves happiness because to do so would not be altruistic?

    In reality we are separate from the rest of humanity it is merely by accepting that we do on occasion need to allow ourselves to be selfish in a humanitarian way. For instance, I take great pleasure in seeing others happy so in order to facilitate my happiness I must first help to make others happy.
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      Oct 17 2013: Perhaps we need to investigate the nature of selfishness and learn from it?
      • Oct 21 2013: I've been taught that we humans are born with four basic loves.

        1) The love of self (we are god)
        2) The love of the world (possessions, nature)
        3) The love of the neighbour (wishing others happiness)
        4) The love of God (Source of love and life)

        These loves are in the same sequence or importance as we, initially, are growing up.

        All through life there should be events and learnings that will change the priority of those four basic loves.
        Regeneration is that life-long process of reversal. Sorry, but we can only reverse the process by way of temptations.

        Being 'born again' means nothing else than the reversal of importance of, and motivation by those four loves.
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    Oct 14 2013: Selfishness in not the idea that we are separate from the rest of humanity. It is the idea that we deserve more from humanity than someone else.
  • Oct 12 2013: Any selfish person needs to realise they didn't appear here magically and the only reason they have any thing at all is because there are other humans dwelling here on earth as well. We are all we have.
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      Oct 14 2013: .

      SYMBIOSIS ---- survival.
      SELFISHNESS (100%) --- no survival.
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    Oct 4 2013: I think selfishness is not that obnoxious. It is the driving force that motivates us everyday. We are all human beings,we are intended to fulfill our promises,responsibilities, goals. Since the moment we were born,we've been carrying the life purpose of self-improvement,self-accomplishment.

    Only if we harness our selfishness without at the expense of other people's loss,our selfishness is justifiable.
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      Oct 4 2013: I think I understand what you are saying.
      You are saying that it is ok to look out for yourself, as long as you don't hurt others in the process?

      A good healthy dose of self-esteem is very necessary for happiness.
      And I agree that we need to dedicate time for ourselves.

      I always think of the example of taking an airplane ride. When they are explaining to you what to do in case of emergency, the stewardess makes it clear that you should "First" put the oxygen mask on yourself, "BEFORE" helping others. Life is like that I think. First we need to have something ourselves, before we can offer it to others. But that doesn't necessarily mean we are selfish. It means we realize we have limitations, and need to secure the necessary resources to be able to help our fellow man.
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        Oct 5 2013: In a family, everyone has to have their needs met, obviously. But not at the expense of other members. Your example is great, one needs to be well before one can help others. But in the Human family, the tragedy is that we exploit one another in some form or other. I wonder why that is. I do not pretend that I have the answer, I am a student myself. But my well being is inter-related to the well being of the rest of humanity, I have learned.
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          Oct 5 2013: Hi, and thank you for the input.
          Yes, I have often observed families having this toxic relationship where one member or several members exploit each other.

          I think that some people might look at the family unit as a free-for-all, taking what they need, without saying please or thank-you. Others, are giving....never saying no to any request made by family. Still others, are kind, but realize that they must take care of themselves, and so if need be they say no whenever necessary.

          I think that because we are born with a bit of selfishness, it is inevitable that this selfish inclination might rear it's ugly head inside the family.

          It is important as parents to instill kindness and appreciation in our children, and as a married couple, help each other to have 'good manners' and not to take each other for granted. When there is at least one member of a family aware of healthy behavior, perhaps this one member can help the rest. But, and it's a big but........there are some people who enjoy being selfish. So ultimately we have control only over OUR actions.

          It is nice to exchange ideas and thoughts with individuals that are observant and willing to discuss human behavior.
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          Oct 14 2013: Hi Johnny
          You are an idealist. Life is much grittier than you think. You say "But not at the expense of other members" like that is the way it is in a family. I would guess that there are many examples in which a family must choose to provide something for some of the children but can't afford it for all the children. This is reality. The American system, especially, has lost the link to supply and demand. Prices are more related to world commerce than to small town America. Even if only one person in a small town wants an iPhone, (very small demand) the cost of the iPhone does not go down even though the supply is huge. This reality is dominant in global commerce. The consumers with the most money drive the prices up for everyone. In this scenario, it is a given that a family must budget money carefully and can not afford to provide equally for every child.
        • Oct 18 2013: Yes he is an idealist Mr Miner, I think most TEDsters are. There is a difference between the microcosm and macrocosm. On the whole I think, to a point of certitude, that cooperation out weighs selfishness. That is why we have civilization, that is why the percent of people who die from war has declined over two milenia. We are evolutionary programmed to select for cooperation over greed, will it ever be extinguished, no probably not, but we can try to control factors that continue to select for altruism and cooperation. That is why we have prison, law, and incentives like deductions for charitable giving. It is not perfect but neither are we as humans.
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        Oct 5 2013: Exactly, Mary,you read my mind.

        You remind me that as a member of family,community,class,we share our well-being. One individual has to take good care of himself/herself,in order to make people around comfortable. Otherwise,your malignant conditions might influence their lives,cause they want you to be well.
  • Nov 1 2013: Johnny....I have admired the power of your question as evidenced in the number of responses and depth of the responses. Looking at 'TED: Ideas Worth Spreading,' I wonder if TED may one day transform into 'TED: Questions Worth Spreading'

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    Oct 29 2013: by exploring our spiritual being,living harmonious with each other,learn to share"why buy a lawnmower if you can use your neighbors one,why own more, if used less , avoid monetizing time and putting value to everything in life,never let the economic idea of scarcity dictate your life ,
  • Oct 29 2013: Seems to me the remedy starts while being raised as a child. Share and be nice!! This also has the result of becoming 'connected' to others.

    If we are not raised properly then we have to (at some point after our marriage breaks down, and we are fired, and when we become homeless..) brake the cycle. Realize we are not here for the sake of ourself but for the sake of others.
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    Oct 29 2013: Amazing question and I know it will happen in soon.
  • Oct 27 2013: Money is a tool, used as a social interactive trading control application. It was not intended to be hoarded and to cause social ills such as poverty. Wealth, earned or otherwise, comes with social responsibilities. When this wealth is abused by an excessively greedy, (selfish) 'user and or users', thereby causing inhumane conditions for their fellow humans, which leads to social instability, that abuse needs to be arrested. Antisocial behavior is a clear indicator of mental illness.
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    Oct 27 2013: In my view: Any human being can overcome selfishness by embracing selflessness. We can do so by focusing on overall good of any action rather than focusing on improving our own position/situation. The problem has and will always be the feeling of competition that we have been given by the nature itself which time and again restricts us from becoming more than an animal and more of a being.

    So my question is "Are we human being?" or just another breed of animal.
  • Oct 27 2013: I agree with what you've said.Harmony is the one thing that controls everything or is in everything.Without it,all would be chaotic and formless.

    I believe that the answer to this question is transparency and making it known to the people.Making us all aware of the so called ONE ORDER of the Universe (Unity and multiplicity of things) Harmony. As Marthin Luther King j.r said, " Every action you do affects everyone directly or indirectly."

    The second answer is Love.People tend to mind their own business and not really giving care to other people;not being aware of the effects of their action. You must see and realize the things happening. We need to put love in what we are doing,in order for us to see,realize and understand.

    We all have our own professions and careers,talents and uniqueness;for me, this is a way to help each other,by helping and sharing what we know and what we have. As humans,we are not made to know everything individually,but rather, as a whole. What you know and have will help me,and what I know and have will help you.

    I believe in One Order
    I believe in One Creator
    One Intellect
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    Oct 27 2013: Thank you for the reply. Yes, the beginning of a separation. I am not sure if we can ever answer the question can we overcome selfishness without not only asking why one feels the need to separate from the rest of humanity, but in addition asking why are do we separate ourselves from the whole of the universe. I think it's the same target, just a little further away. A bullseye may require pulling back on the bow string until our arms shake and the string threatens to meet the end of its strength.
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      Oct 27 2013: Every member of the body works for the benefit of the whole body, including every other member. The stomach and gut do not feed themselves exclusively, they work for the rest of the body. Butlanguage, language separates and evaluates in prejudicial and discriminatory ways. language creates the terrorist and the saint. And through the wrong use of language, we see ourselves a being "humans" but then even as humans, we are separated among the lines of religion, class, race, gender, age, etc.etc.
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          Oct 28 2013: Orphans of Azi Orphanage

          The Kumba 1 Council has since 2009 been offering financial and material assistance to an Orphanage situated at Molango Street Fiango, Kumba. This orphanage, called “Azi orphanage,” is named after the owner and controller, Madam Fonkeng Agnes Azilefeh, and has been operational since the year 2000. According to Madam Fonkeng, she had a Divine call from the lord who instructed her to cater for orphans and abandoned children. Three years later, she finally setup an orphanage. The first set of orphans she got were three in number,and this was in Ideanu on one of her business trips to sell second hand cloths. She also said the children are of different tribes as she goes to any area within Cameroon to take the Kids upon the death of their parents, and some are given to her by the Social Welfare. Madam Fonkeng says she has been having problems with her family who are not in support of what she is doing, but she enjoys doing this because it is the will of God. The first set of orphans she raised have been adopted and are sponsored by their new parents.As the saying goes “ it is better to teach a person how to catch fish rather than give him or her fish’, efforts are under way in the Kumba 1 Council to open up a small scale business for her, to help her in providing food for the family, provide the basic health care of the children, assist in their Education, and also provide other Basic Needs, while awaiting results from the Social Affairs Office. She also receives assistance from some people of good will who either pay the childern’s school fees or buy their school needs. Presently there are thirteen orphans under her care.
  • Oct 26 2013: I feel as though each and every human is based off some type of fear. the fear is what keeps one going, it pushes all of us to try and overcome that fear by setting out and putting out that target. in which when we feel it is the right time to pull back that arrow and be in the ready position, only we (the person holding the bow) has the control on when and where (from) to release it. hitting it is another situation. you start off by trying to hit it accurately but being precise is not the same thing. having to be selfish is one of the true natures and one of many traits that all of us in some way big or small have. for example: Lions have the role of protecting their territorial grounds and in a way being selfish is seen by the other lions. while, in reality the lion is protecting it for it's family in order to survive. so is being selfish the common occurrence or the true value to us seen as survival?
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      Oct 26 2013: The Lion needs to protect itself from predators. We do not have predators in that way, we are the top predator. We have weapons that can destroy worlds, who do we need protection from? Ourselves.
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        Oct 27 2013: And there plenty of special interest groups such as those in the weapons business, policing, prisons, security firms and especially politicians all warning us to be fearful of whatever it is they can profit from.whether it be power, money or status.
  • Oct 26 2013: Johnny. The conclusions you can draw are 1. Before you can begin to address the issue you first need to to be aware of your genetic predisposition and the major influences that have impacted and continue to impact on your life. AND 2. One size does not fit all.
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      Oct 26 2013: There are many conclusions that can be drawn, and all of them are temporary and contextual.
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    Oct 26 2013: I think separating oneself from everyone else is impossible (at least currently). We can only sense from our point of view. I can only see, smell, touch, and hear; whatever light, atoms, waves, and in general energy touch my organs. I will not be able to process what you sense, but I can imagine what you may sense. Our senses are what confines us to be self-centered. We are the center of our observable universe.

    Now while we may always think about ourselves first, that doesn't mean we have to only act for ourselves first. For example, if I read in a magazine about a problem in another country, I would first most likely think what it would be like for me to be in that situation and have that problem. (That is how we empathize: putting ourselves into another situation. This again shows how we separate ourselves from others by putting ourselves in their position.) Now just because I think about myself in that situation and may be glad I'm not in that situation, I can still help those people that are having that problem. Interestingly, this shows how I can be self-centered, yet not selfish. I will always process things in relation to me (since I understand myself the most), so I am self-centered; however, I can do things for other people which isn't selfish.

    Hopefully this made sense! Thanks for the question and feel free to ask me further questions or make comments!
  • Oct 26 2013: You are not a part of humanity until you realise that you are humanity
  • Oct 24 2013: Selfishness is a funamental human characteristic in humanity's fight for survival. But amassing far beyond what one's needs are, necessary takes away from others and impovrishes them. If only the welthy, corrupt, greedy would have the intelligence to realise that ultimately they will suffer as a result is what may ultimately bring wisdom. But probably not before we have ALL fallen first!
    • Oct 25 2013: I disagree, if someone amasses vast wealth it does not take away from others or put them into poverty. It's wrong to use the word wealthy along with corrupt and greedy, wealth can do more for humanity than poverty.
      • Oct 27 2013: Responsible financial wealth is a good, otherwise it deserves to be treated as corrupt and associated to the condition of a sickness related to uncontrolled greed. Poverty is man made, we could fix it.
        • Oct 27 2013: Again, I disagree, it's not up to anyone to judge what another person does with their own wealth, many wealthy people choose to take care of their own families only as a way to contribute to society.
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        Nov 3 2013: 'It's wrong to use the word wealthy along with corrupt and greedy,'

        This is no matter of 'wrong' or 'right' in which context the word wealthy is used, as our general understanding and usage of this term is usually connected to scarce material items.

        We would not consider ourselves or others to be wealthy of anything which comes free or abundant, therefore wealth is intrinsically connected to its distribution and concentration, as well as to the ways and means to get there.

        By this, even statistics suggest that corruption and greed is one if not the most promising way to gain control over scarce items, because not any wealthy person has worked hardest to get there. I would provoke to claim even the opposite, as our current system of wealth, which is based on money, comes with an inbuilt anomaly, that scare items (money) concentrates itself (wealth) out of itself (interest rates), which from a certain quantity onwards disconnects the process to gain scarce items (money) from the usual necessity of personal labour (work) to concentrate it (wealth).

        A lucky heir who gets some million by chance does not need to do any work all of his/her life if he/she is smart, clever and lucky enough to let his/her 'wealth' concentrate itself and to live of its 'extra'.

        And as humans are naturally inert beings and rather like to do what they like doing, instead of hard and/or boring labour to earn their living, the collection of this 'critical' wealth is considered desirable in most societies, and what is highly desired yet scarce, will attract 'negative' forces to get it, and it does.

        And as there are neither fair nor equal starting conditions in this race, wealth has and always will be used to protect itself and to collect itself even further, which in return often nurtures and attract additional 'negative' forces. And thats why it is more than valid to say, that wealth comes alongside corruption and greed, because it often does. To often for my liking yet it ts observable.
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        Nov 3 2013: '... it's not up to anyone to judge what another person does with their own wealth'

        I think it is on anyone to judge any behavior of another person which is destructive, either to that 'anyone' directly or indirectly to 'society' of which 'anyone' is part of.

        Given an example from the current banking crisis, it is of course to judge by taxpayers (anyone) when their bail out money used to stabilize 'to big to fail' banks is partially used to increase the wealth significantly of a view top bankers, being still 'rewarded' by a bonus.

        First of all, we (anyone) would not expect to bail out any private company within capitalistic market rules, and secondly, we would rightly expect that a bonus payment is only related to positive achievements, which, in the process of a bailout, is obviously absent.

        It should also be of 'anyones' concern and 'judgment' within a society, when wealth is used to manipulate the process within a democracy, by promoting personal interests via financial capital and against the interest of the majority. That our given 'systems' allow for this to happen, is obvious and observable in many cases. Therefore, it is the right of any democratic citizen to 'judge' '... what another person does with their own wealth', as it comes with negative consequences for others in many cases.

        If wealth, as we know it, wasn't capable to manipulate, as we know it, I would agree with you. But the fact that our 'system' allows for this to happen, is reason, that anyone has the right to judge what goes against their interest as individuals, as well as against the interest of the society they life in.

        And even though this story is as old as 'power' got connected to 'wealth', it still is as valid today as it was then. And this especially in democratic societies, as those choose for 'everyone' to be their souvereign and not for any other 'power' than those of the people themselves.

        And when wealth interferes with that, it got to be judged and avoided.
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    Oct 24 2013: This is a great question...something which we should all think about. Thank you Johnny for the topic.
    First of all, I just want to send my regards to all those in this conversation who think all humans can be equal and we can all overcome selfishness. I think this is a very idealistic idea and I am afraid it is only possible in our own mind-independent worlds, but it is not possible in the real world. I personally think that people have the ability to choose and it is our choices that make us different. There aren't two people in this world who are exactly the same, are there?

    So why did any of you join TED? Was it because you wanted to help others, or because you wanted to learn more and know more? Did you do it for yourself, or for someone else? It was a simple choice really...You see, our choices not only define us and give us a perspective on who we are, but also impact the environment around us and the people in that environment. Why are we all even participating in this conversation? Is it because we want to prove our points and express our thoughts and opinions? Or is it because we want to teach the other participants? Or's both?

    The way I understand selfishness is making a choice which gives you something which the others don't have. 'One is separate from the rest of humanity' right. Some people would choose to think more of themselves than to think of/with others. And some people would choose to think more of the others than to think of themselves.
    I would say that there isn't a solution to overcoming selfishness. I even would say...don't try to look for a solution for overcoming selfishness! You should still think about yourself as well as others. As I said our choices impact both ourselves and the others around us. As long as you find the balance between the 'impacts' of your choices, you won't have to worry about selfishness.
  • Oct 23 2013: I note from your intro and from the observations of others here, that there are many definitions of selfishness. I would not necessarily define it as you do. That said, I will try to address the core of your question: How do we overcome the idea that one is separate from the rest of humanity? Or more broadly, "the idea that one is separate from the rest of creation?"
    I always deal with this with respect to two conditions: choices and relationships. Humans are choosing creatures. We make choices in trying to get our needs met, and all our choices (all our actions) are intended to meet needs. We are also social creatures and we develop relationships with others also for the purpose of meeting needs. Sometimes we choose well, in healthy, self- and other-confirming ways that support and encourage the relationship with the other. Sometimes we chose poorly, in unhealthy, self- and other-destructive ways that also diminish and even destroy our relationships. Thus, choosing in ways that benefit the relationship we have with others serves us better than other kinds of choices. When we recognize our connectedness, then we are better able to get our needs met. (Is that selfish?) :)
    Since humans create meaning from all of our experiences, we can also see that we have a relationship not just with other humans, but also with the whole of the universe; and we use our relationship with the universe to help us meet our needs. So it is to our (selfish) advantage to see the meeting of our needs is correlated with our ability to honor all those connections and all those relationships.
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      Oct 23 2013: Thanks for your insight, David. I wonder if it is all about needs, as humans, we have modest needs. I think there is an insidious process going on within our brains, and we are mostly not even aware of it.
  • Oct 23 2013: I dig the question.....

    A small spark can start a large fire.

    Faith got us to this extreme Separation.
    Separate from the universe
    Separate from others
    Separate from nature
    Even the nature of our mind is split

    Faith got us here
    Doubt in all that seems to BE, is helpful.

    A thorn to remove a thorn so to speak.
  • Oct 23 2013: Overcome selfishness ? it comes without thinking, and its one of the character for survival and success.Regarding aligning hearts for the benefit of humanity, Design and Prove that Our Happiness depends on others Happiness.
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    Oct 19 2013: Hi Johnny, why do you want to overcome selfishness? Some of the best inventions in the world was an output of selfishness :P. I think its a human nature that should be controlled not overcome :).
    Now "live for one another and align our hearts for the benefits of all humanity" those are big words that will require more than controlling selfishness in my views, they will also require believes, love, care, purpose and many more words that will eventually lead to an ideal world... but I kinda agree that it might be a good idea to start with controlling or overcoming selfishness maybe by giving away things you own and love the most to those who needs and wants it the most and see if you can control your selfishness :-)
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      Oct 19 2013: Maher,

      What an incredible medium that we can have this dialogue. Thanks TED... and all.

      i would respectfully disagree with you. Selfishness is ego centered, ego driven and ego based which separates one from the rest of humanity. When one sees the manifestations of domination and control one sees the assault on nature, economics that selectively values different components and increasing trends toward the very rich and very poor, a recipe for unrest and social conflict. Can you see those trends?

      When we look back at past civilizations who endured for the longest time we see a different focus on relevance and respect for the natural world, not domination and control. .

      Today, our domination and control translates into wars and civil unrest world wide. Yet, if we really understood the key message of global warming we might understand, "we have met the enemy and they is us", as pogo informed us so long ago..
  • Oct 18 2013: I'm not really sure what M-L Reifscheider was really trying to say.? Maybe you could expand upon how taking in excess of basic needs leads to one's suffering (seems a bit contradicting, no?).

    Ultimately, we are trapped on a rock in space with limited resources; therefore, we must use or invent ways to use the resources we have in the best way possible in order to help the most people in the future.. I would contend that we can benefit the most people under a system that allocates resources according to productivity and efficiency rather than by current need.

    What is the right question is the hard question. Maybe it is "how to design a political and economical system that harnesses that "fundamental human characteristic in humanity's fight for survival" also known as self-interest???".
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    Oct 17 2013: Very true....selfishness is imbedded in everyday language and language is hypnotic, we are zombies following rules that we inherit, values we don't question and choose leaders we fear. The Titanic has been taking water for a long time but we party on the upper deck, oblivious to what happens and powerless even though some of us can see.
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    Oct 17 2013: There is no such thing as "darkness" in the same way that we talk about the "photons of light". Absolute darkness is the complete absence of light. Darkness in itself doesn't exist. To remove darkness all you need to do is to turn on the light. In the same way I believe that selfishness is the absence of selflessness. The only way to overcome selfishness is to practice selflessness. Selflessness is not asceticism. Every thoughtful act that we do with the sincere desire to make this world a better place develops our selflessness. There is ofcourse a downfall- if selflessness is not accompanied by humility then selfishness creeps in. It is a constant struggle. I certainly agree that we will never be able to be absolutely selfless but I have complete faith that I can be better today then I was yesterday.
  • Oct 17 2013: How can a human being overcome selfishness, the idea that one is separate from the rest of humanity?

    Sorry to tell you Johnny, you can't.

    The governments of this world, in fact the people of this world are all inherently corrupt, it's just the way the system is gamed, and you willingly or unwillingly have to play by those rules. It's why there are, and it's allowed, and it continues and grow - now 30 million slaves in the world. on ted search for 24 million slaves.

    And the final outcome of not realizing this, and not addressing it, is while and individual might have a good life now, and i use might carefully, as later on the chances of that might will surely be less, and final out come will be that inevitably humanity as a whole is fucked.

    You can pretty much see that happening right now with the economic crisis that are happening more and more frequently and with more impact. The increases in food production costs, and the ever increasing demands placed on producing more food, which again is finite. The shortages of water, the plan to siphon the oceans, the bottling companies siphoning off natural resources. The depths people are now having to fish at to attain reasonable catches. The cost and demands and increasing nuclear waste of more and more power consumption. The population explosion, which dramatically adds to carbon consumption.

    And as more people join and play the game, and grab what ever resources are still left, by fair means or foul, eventually we'll realize only too late that it was because we've gamed the system to selfish attitudes is the reason why, as i put so eloquently... we're fucked.
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      Oct 17 2013: Very true....selfishness is imbedded in everyday language and language is hypnotic, we are zombies following rules that we inherit, values we don't question and choose leaders we fear. The Titanic has been taking water for a long time but we party on the upper deck, oblivious to what happens and powerless even though some of us can see.
  • Oct 15 2013: If we can only have the intelligence to see that, while bringing temporary success (money), in the long run, as a result, selfishness will bring on their own demise as well No one left to buy their goods as the masses are impoverished..
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    Oct 15 2013: Check out Richard Dawkins "The selfish gene", either the book or the documentary.

    For me it's quite simple: I'm part of this world, if I improve this world in any way I'm also increasing the chances that things will get better for me.

    I often dream of a "perfect world" where non suffer, and in that world I don't suffer either...
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    Oct 15 2013: "There's no such thing as independence in nature the whole of nature is a unified system of interdependent variables each a cause and reaction existing only as a concentrated whole."

    "We can't survive without the four elements, without plants and animals, success depends on how well we relate to everything around us."

    An established balance between making sure our own needs are being met and the needs of everything around us we depend on for survival. One of the biggest problems we are having right now is that there are so many people who are suffering and find themselves in situations where their most basic of primitive needs are varying and unsustainable that there's no way they can move on to start thinking about their neighbors. They are in this unstable and continually wavering state because the people who have all they could ever need and enough to provide all others could ever need have decided that they still don't have enough and want to take more and more and more.

    We can't hope to solve the issue of selfishness unless we can display a higher form of decency for our children. But seeing how all they're ever going to see is the corruption of power and greed and see how the most selfish people are the ones who continue to strive in our society; what else can we expect but that they will look to those examples as the ones to emulate?
  • Oct 15 2013: Humans are actually not by nature selfish, because in nature selfishness reduces the likelihood of survival and is therefore de-evolved. We actually learn to be selfish, by having it continuously pushed on us by our society, which is a reward training system.

    So for humans to start to care for one another, what is needed is a new form of society which does not teach selfishness.

    I just finished a video which is largely about this subject, and how incredibly important it is to mankind. That learning to care for one another will literally solve all the problems of mankind, and a little about how we'll make it happen.

  • Oct 14 2013: we just need someone we love & believe in much than our selves-like parents specialy mothers,,,,or even God,,,
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    Gord G

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    Oct 12 2013: I feel the answer is in the question. Humanity is a biocentric perspective that separates us from the undifferentiated universe. This allows us to draw the bow and devour the weak. All life must take life to sustain itself. How do we find a way to feel secure in our frailty? How do we recognize our needs and not succumb to our fears?

    I think it's obvious...kindness. Unfortunately I think the arrow has been released. And the response is inevitably a return volley.
  • Da Way

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    Oct 6 2013: I think in your statement right at the end you have answered your own question.

    It is impossible for some to see anything beyond the self. They simply do not get the connection and humanity as a whole concept. So it would be pointless trying.

    Instead, like you said, to benefit humanity when approaching these 'selfish' people, you need to focus on aligning your common benefits and emphasise the profits they will gain in achieving your goal. E.g. By improving air pollution, it will reduce YOUR chance of dying from lung cancer. Make it all about them. It's the most effective strategy.
  • Oct 6 2013: Here's an interesting fact, the concept of self does not form until the age of about 3 months. This means, the baby now possesses a newly formed concept that differentiates itself from its environment. In fact I'd say that these two terms start to obtain real meaning at that time. What this means is that the self so formed is not real and is in fact very fragile. However, human life keeps boosting it, or re-creating it constantly. It is possible to be free of it but this takes training in freeing yourself from it. Spme people do this training naturally but there are very few who can, others must undergo deep discipline such as zen mediatation for maybe 10 years to be completely free. But even some very short term practice can make you realise what the world looks like without this self. In fact once its gone then you are free to find who you truly are.
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    R H

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    Oct 6 2013: Release our anger and pain from our history of wars and atrocities and the fear of one another that is a result of our divisive enculturation. Find and respect the value of trustworthiness and your word - for all sides. Realize that we all came from Africa and a long line of the same family. Accept the folly and waste of divisiveness. And lastly, get rid of politicians and plutocrats who want to keep us divided for control - in my humble opinion.
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    Oct 4 2013: A target can easily achieved by an Archer Johnny and you know why ?

    All his components are not actually different from him (The Archer). They don't even have individual mind to think they are different (individual organs ) from the Master (mind). If you want one person to behave like an organ in a team work, how can it be !!! An individual person is not a dead thing. Everyone is a master, right johnny ?

    Ok let us assume 10 people are working together on a project to achieve a goal. One out of them is the master (Project Leader). All other 9 people are working like a robot (Like Archer's organs),,,,, is this should be called 'Humanity' between Project Leader and Project Workers ? No ! there is no humanity if no human and human attributes is there, i think Johnny.

    'Self' is the realization of individual being and it comes naturally. 'Self' is not a dead thing, it has desires, emotions, hunger... etc. Now, everyone's need is to feed this 'self' ( this too comes naturally), this is known as 'Selfishness'. It is in the root of every human being johnny, this also creates the illusion of separation !

    The only way to overcome selfishness is the way of Tao :) A deep understand is enough, m i right johnny ?
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    Oct 4 2013: by the very act of talking about components and interaction, you already chose a basis of separation for your thinking. rightly so. cooperation requires individual actors. it is not a contradiction.

    i think(!) the correct way of looking at it is to understand that you are a separate individual with own goals, dreams and preferences. but often the best way forward is to cooperate with other individuals, and help each other out. the baseline is isolation, that is the zero level. every piece of cooperation added is a bonus, and makes your life better. negotiation is the way to discuss possible ways of mutually beneficial cooperation. during negotiation, both parties should represent their own interest, and understand that the other party does the same.
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      Oct 4 2013: In short: Game theory
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        Oct 4 2013: game theory is not exactly good to help social cooperation. it describes a very small subset of actual negotiations, namely the last part, terms. it is because game theory requires a decision matrix to exist. in the real life, navigating in the matrix is easy. setting the matrix up is hard. on the level of impossible. during a negotiation in any realistic setting, new rows/columns are added into the matrix all the time, and actually this is the real reason of a negotiation. this pushes society forward. finding new and new ways to live and cooperate. game theory offers a mere snapshot.
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          Oct 4 2013: In short: Extended game theory

          For someone who considers himself as 'the forum clown' you are surprisingly generous with explanations today... ;o)

          What happened to you, Krisztián? A few more insights heading the same direction and Richard D Wolff is going to adopt you right away, if you would let him. Are you in love or something? ;o)
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        Oct 4 2013: you don't seem to like it. why it is not surprising?

        what is extended game theory? be generous
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          Oct 4 2013: No, no, any idea which supports 'social cooperation' is worth to have a look at. Its just that most of your previous comments have excluded just that, which makes me hesitate to take you by your words this time. The probability of me misunderstanding your todays intentions is high, especially as it would contradict many of your former statements.

          Extended game theory is game theory incorporating approximations of complexity-levels you just described. If you or the von Mises Institute has formulated this theory already, I don't know, but it would not surprise me if either of you did.
      • W T

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        Oct 4 2013: "What happened to you, Krisztián?"

        I would say it was either Godiva or Lindt ......

        Play nice Lejan :D
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          Oct 4 2013: You might be right with Godiva, upper price segment, decent design, but Lindt is way to close to 'direct democracy' ...

          I would bet on Côte d’Or, as it goes so elegantly with neo-liberalism ... yet we may never know if it was chocolate at all.

          The last question in my second comment did make me hesitate for a while. But as Krisztián isn't known to be soft on others, why should I be soft on him? Yet I will do my very best to play nice, pinky promise, even though this will turn more of my hair into gray ... lol
      • W T

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        Oct 5 2013: I'm afraid the 'blonde' in me does not understand the connection between Lindt and direct democracy, and Cote d'Or and neo-liberalism.

        But, at least now I have a new chocolate brand to try and find.
        I had not heard of Cote d'Or before.

        Have you heard this song before?
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          Oct 5 2013: Just in case your local grocery store returns an 'error message' on your request:

          And this is the one I usually die for and I just love the design of the wrapping:

          But it is really expensive in the US!

          No blonde is ever to blame for any of my weird connections. So here is the decipher:

          Lindt is a Swiss company and Switzerland a direct democracy.
          Cote d'Or is French and translates into 'Gold Coast' and what could be more attractive to any neoliberal than a coast full of the very essence of trade?

          See, as I said, no blond to blame here.

          The song was new to me yet as it seems, not to my country. In order to get the video unblocked from German Intellectual Property restrictions on youtube, I had to use a proxy in the Netherlands to get to hear it. Quite nice, thank you!

          So I'll now cross my fingers for you and your chocolate and let us know if you got one. Their logo is a small elephant. :o)
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          Oct 5 2013: Can you imagine a University located right in between a brewery and a chocolate factory?

          That is as close to heaven it can get on earth for any German student ... and I happen to be one of them ... :o)
      • W T

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        Oct 8 2013: So sorry I left you sandwiched between beer and chocolate.......of course there are worse places to be. :)

        I seems seems that I will have to order the Cote D'Or chocolates online.
        One of my favorite domestic chocolates are See's chocolates.
        They are in California.

        [edited to remove extraneous info.]
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          Oct 8 2013: Yup, the fox passed the Intellectual property rights censorship filter on youtube Germany, probably because this song hasn't been published by the music industry or, if it was, hasn't been detected by their bots yet.

          Its funny and raises a valid question! There is no word for the foxes voice in my language either. Probably, because of its shyness.

          But without doubt, Norway makes great music! As you can see in the video, they are lacking sun-light most of the year, so good conditions to learn to play an instrument during winter-season ..., which makes the 'beach boys' even more exceptional ... :o) lol

          Mmmmmmm .... See's Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips ... never tried, but looks soooo promising .... yumm yumm ... :o)

          But a chocolate factory in California? Sounds like a lot of melting ... :o)
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        Oct 8 2013: The video is here...

        The crazy thing is these guys are not even singers.....they are two brothers who host a talk show, and just for fun they asked someone who owed them a favor in the "entertainment" industry to give melody and choreograph a song for them.........I think they came up with the words.

        It is incredible what that song has become....kind of like Psy's song "Gangman Style"....but on another level.

        Believe it or not, some sites have even been moved to put out audio recordings of what a fox sounds like, with a scholarly article to boot. Just goes to show what a practical joke can become.
        Go figure....

        And yes, it does seem weird for California to have a chocolate factory right?
        They also require you to purchase special insulated packaging during summer.

        I hope you get to watch the video.......
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          Oct 8 2013: Mary, the song did get through in your fist link. I could watch it without a problem! :o)

          But thank you for the backup.

          Yes, it was very interesting to listen to the real 'fox sounds' which were given in small sound samples on the site you linked first. I have never heard them before. Very nice!

          It is interesting how some videos or songs go viral on the Internet and I would be surprised if the 'commercial industry' wasn't already trying to figure out the underlaying principles of these epidemics.

          Some years ago the following song went viral in Germany like nothing before ...

          It doesn't tells much but a childish story about a crocodile and the sound it makes, when it closes its mouth. Thats all ...

          Why this song could become that popular in 'the land of the thinkers and philosophers' stayed beyond my knowledge ever since ... lol

          This 'special insulated packaging' was on the other website as well. They ship them with 'gel packs' for cooling ... what modern times we live in ... :o)
  • Oct 4 2013: Selfishness, to some extent, is essential to all behaviour. That selfishness is largely perceived as negative, serves to throw the metaphorical baby out with the bathwater. I've found that it is through understanding the selfish drives of the individual, how they've evolved into our behaviour, the purpose they serve, that we can overcome the ignorance of how it drives us. To see that one is not separate from the rest of humanity, they must first have an understanding of the self.
  • Oct 4 2013: There are many different ideas values etc. mixing ,weighing, and assigning vaqlues are the issues.
  • Oct 4 2013: Just my $ has carried us very far. Doubt is up next if the pendulum is swinging.
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    Oct 4 2013: Read Ayn Rand's book The Virtue of Selfishness then reconsider the proper place for self-interest in a healthy society.
    • Oct 18 2013: I think Richard Dawkins would disagree. Evolution favors cooperation and as societies become more integrated there will be a time when the "in group" is humanity as a whole. I'll take the Star Trek future over the Randian future any day.
  • Nov 1 2013: Humans can only be counted on to continue to do the things they have done in the past. What can be changed is how those behaviors impact others through the use of social rules and technology.

    Example: human behaviors tend towards “chief ape” leadership, putting the mantle of leadership on single individuals. Who is the leader of the US? You don’t say, well its Obama and Roberts and Boehner. You say it is Obama, who is Roberts? Even though the United States tried to have separate but equal branches of government and the question should yield multiple people, it doesn’t. Humans are incapable of not having a chief ape, if the government doesn’t designate one, we pick one.

    But we can mitigate the power of the chief ape through social rules. The constitution might not have prevented people from basically making the President the King of America (and Emperor of the World), but it did limit the Kings power. If the King tries to do something a social rule says belongs to another person, people get upset. If the King tries to stay longer than he is supposed to, people get upset. In fact no President has even tried that, not once.

    So how can you stop people from being selfish? You can’t. But you can make rules that limit the harm that such selfishness would cause like regressive tax rates, representative government, and national and international aid programs. We actually have all those things now. I think what we need to do is continue to do them and look for new ways to leverage laws, media and organizations whose goals are the limit inequities inherent from the human system.

    I know this isn’t what people want to do or how they want to think about human social problems. Humans want other humans to be more “human”, but the problem with this type of though is rather than describe humanity they are prescribing humanity. If we have acted thusly so far, we will continue to do so. That is the way of it.
  • Matt K

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    Nov 1 2013: Population is still growing. That means less resources for everybody.
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  • Oct 28 2013: Its my view that we operate in cooperating groups. We need to be in groups to effectively exist be safe to be and be safe to prosper and have our offspring prosper. We are not so selfish within the group as it damages our reputation and will weaken goodwill within the group towards us - weakening our prospects. By being kind within the group our reputation improves and returned kindness comes our way - we can improve our prospects.

    To lessen selfishness we need to have effective systems in place which visibly display reputations. On this TED site we build a visible reputation by making an honest contribution - abusive contributors will get a poor reputation and be ignored while the reputable gain reputation and more influence. Ebay uses visible reputation systems for buyers and sellers and loh and behold everyone is honest!

    Its my view that social business and charities can create online reputation building systems so that donors and ethical consumers can build their reputations. Maybe displayable on outgoing email and social media. Others will join in the scheme as having no visible reputation may be frowned upon in peer groups. In such a scenario social business sector can grow to fulfill our demand for a sustainable environment. If this topic interests read my essay on (a bit lengthy)

    We might throw a banana skin out of the car if nobody is watching - not on a busy street! Selfishness exposed is uncomfortable!
    • Oct 29 2013: Nope reputation is a popularity contest. If you say something popular that people already believe you'll get 'voted up'. If you say something that goes against the status quo, people will speak out against you.

      Most people are ignorant remember, even most TEDsters.
      • Oct 29 2013: Lets spread a little kindness, TEDsters are not ignorant. Maybe some TEDsters simply have not had the good fortune to have been exposed to a lot of enlightenment! Back to the point reputation and selfishness - In the real world it is based on deeds done. If you promise everything and deliver nothing your reputation quickly goes from hero to zero.

        Martin Nowak (harvard) wrote a great book called supercooperators in which he proved in mathematically driven computer models that cooperators will prevail over defectors ( ie free riders, non cooperators).

        Nowak shows it is mathematically true that selflessness as a behaviour wins over selfishness. Selfless populations benefit from synergistically helping one another while free riders can lurk and multiply in the population free riding on the goodwill and trust of the selfless.

        When visible reputation is introduced in the models the selfless individuals within society refrain from synergistically helping the individuals of low reputation only helping occasionally ie giving them a chance to behave cooperatively occasionally - so that they can come away from the dark side when they realise they have a losing strategy.

        In the real world with our current technology we have the opportunity roll out a voluntary scheme for consumers to join within which they can build a positive reputation. If such a scheme goes viral selflessness, ie ethical consumer behaviour/charitable giving can be highlighted. Can ethical selfless behaviour go viral?
        • Oct 30 2013: I don't think you grasp that his book is totally divorced from the history of life on earth (evolution) and the limited amount of fuel/energy people have at their disposal to model their environments and behave.

          Every behavior has a physical cost associated with it in terms of stress and energy.
  • Oct 28 2013: You pose two separate questions AND you define selfishness as separation from humanity , ALL OF HUMANITY !

    I always though of humanity as being an all- or- not kind of collection , so perhaps THAT " gap " is where your existential questions should arise from .

    - the answers are within you , its in knowing what to ask . ( quasi Buddhism )
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    Oct 26 2013: As a foundation, anything that benefits humanity would have to use the same mechanism of target, method and resources. This can be personalised to a person, like the archer, for he is firing the arrow for his own means which is where the concept of selfishness arises.
    When in a society the same mechanism is used although more dynamically. For example a target that a team of people would have to work together to achieve, which sums up the way everything in this world works when involving humans.
    Where the individual people on the team are the resources and the method includes things like teamwork and knowledge, where their goal may be to sell or promote something.

    Which brings me to this defining point, they are all there for their own reasons. Their own reason, some may even call it selfish. It's funny in fact, being driven by selfishness we actually passively become selfless, because in a society we've got to work together for out own and eachothers sake.
    By doing what we do as humans naturally we are benefiting humanity without even knowing it, I guess the main idea is to take on this alternate way of thought when thinking about selfishness and benefiting humanity.

    I was going to write something about living in an ideal world where everyone loved everyone and there was no conflict etc. but as I wrote the above I realised that the ideal world does not stay true to what humanity really is.

    I'm not sure if I've solved your answer at all or if I've gone way off track. Please, in a way, critique my response because it's my first time posting here and I'm just trying to gauge the levels of thought.
    Thanks in advance.
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      Oct 26 2013: I am not in a position to critique anything, this is a forum where people share and enlarge their views.
      I thank you for opening up and offering your insights. I have lived with people in a community in the past where we behaved like we were members of a family, helping one another, treating one another decently. I know it is possible, but prejudice, discrimination, selfishness are our downfall and soon we will be no more.
  • Oct 26 2013: Grab a hold of Steven Pinker's :The Blank Slate". It will go someway to answering your question. To fill in the gaops have a look at Dr Robert Hare's work.
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      Oct 26 2013: Interesting read, Kieron, thanks. I feel that there is lots of room to enquire deeper, I could not draw any conclusions from the reads..
  • Oct 25 2013: If one is human they're a part of humanity but we're also individuals and if someone want's to avoid his fellow man I would not call him selfish.
  • Oct 24 2013: The issue of separation might be in the mind of the arrogant, reflecting in their behavior but their very existence is tied to the contribution from the rest of humanity. Interdependent human role is enough proof.
    I'll like to point out one of the psychological topics in Britain or may be applicable in other parts of the world. Bearing in mind that everything happens gradually whether good or bad, the issue of 'personal space' as used in Great Britain might be very bizarre...autonomy is fine and peoples' independence is necessary but when personal space exceed personal independent, self centered habits is sure to take its hold on any person. it's also ignorance when anyone belief that the sky is their limit when living an independent life without focus on the interdependent side of life. Most people only enjoy the product of others' sweat when the logical outcome is on display without ever thinking on how to reciprocate the same back to humanity. It's a selfish lifestyle when we only consume from humanity without discovering our true potential in order to also contribute. No one is actually separate from anyone as each one benefit from the idea of another daily. It's either a high degree of ignorance, hence arrogance when anyone belief he/she is separate from others. If we all look at great minds of the past and present, we'll see that their major impact on this planet isn't based solely on their independent lifestyle but the initiation of their interdependent role for the benefit of humanity.
  • MR T

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    Oct 22 2013: There is a reason why everyone doesn't go to Africa and feed the starving people, because humans are inherently selfish, we are out to propagate our own genes.
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    Oct 18 2013: I think Johnny Selfishness is human nature just like anger and sex.

    I have solution to it Johnny, I have always preached about society formed of common interest and flexibility within the different interest group.

    for e.g. if one like to play with ball in an unorganised interest group some will feel cheated, angry and outcasted as the one which have skills and and some time good performance will always dominate the game. but when that same person Joins Basketball team, or volley ball team the selfishness of keeping the ball is challenged with similar interest group member and what we see is fantastic game the anger become passion, the selfishness gets a reason to compromise. this is just a e.g. use it in any scenario.

    I hope i have explained at my best and for more read my comments which I have been posting along the debates and discussion. thank you.
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    Oct 17 2013: If you want to make change in values of humanity, you have to start from your own. The best way is by the home education.
    The child is absorbing behavior of grown ups, so their construction system of the values, is formed on an example. How can we expect the overcoming selfishness, if you are selfish, and you sending the bad message? If you teach children to feeling happiness for other, empathy, and to share everything they have with ones they love, there is no place for selfishness. And also, the idea of equality between people, without separation, would be the closest possible to realisation.
  • Oct 15 2013: My first thought is that it is complicated to know what will benefit all humanity. Especially with globalisation, our actions have widespread consequences that are difficult to estimate.

    My second thought is that there are both a feeling of insecurity and of competition in capitalist society that trigger something in us that make us behave with less regard of other beings.

    Furthermore, i believe that these things can be better understood if we see them in an evolutionary perspective- that human beings are evolved to behave in certain ways in given situations, and that changing how we percieve our situation will also change how we behave.
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      Oct 17 2013: Are you not humanity? What benefits you? Can you extend that to your fellow human being, so that they may share in your fortune, whatever that may be? Can every individual extend thei friendship to another? Are we not a human family, a human species? Of all the species, we are the most destructive, are we not?
      • Oct 21 2013: Thanks for good questions!
        I think that what benefits myself is listening to my inner voice - a deep feeling of what is right and wrong. I also think that this is what will benefit humanity the most because it increases my ability to feel joy for other individuals and to feel good for myself. And this feeling can then be given to others.
        Do you think that everyone have such an inner voice? And what is it? I think we have several levels of consciousness and that we need to listen to all of them in order to feel content. But my understanding of this is mostly at a personal level so i don't know if i can generalise.

        Are we a human family? I think we have the ability to percieve our species as an extended family, yes. But judging from the world, there are a number of people that do not see it this way. I think that the ability can be triggered by certain factors, and maybe more easily in some indiviuals than others.

        We are certainly the species that is currently changing the world the most. I think it is mostly because of our technology, that makes us capable of doing these changes. And that we are not used to have all this power, so we become destructive.

        Your questions made me think about benefits, and I realised that i had a pretty superficial understanding of the term in my first post. And then I though about where I got this superficial understanding from...
  • Oct 15 2013: Hi Johnny, very much in line with your three 'stages' are the three mentioned by Swedenborg, namely end, cause and effect. I'd like to say goal, means and effect.
    Every item on this planet has those three stages in one way or another.

    We love to do something, we have learned the way to do it and then go into action. Depending on what, over the many years, we have decided to love (usually based on hereditary tendencies), we have looked (and found?) the way to do what we love. Doing what we love, we accomplish the pleasure of doing what we love.

    Whatever gives us pleasure, can be either good or bad. It all depends on our love which started it all, and which means we choose to accomplish it.
    When we have decided to love our self first, there are numerous means to justify actions to make our life better, regardless how it effects others.
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      Oct 17 2013: Thanks for contributing, Adriaan. I often wonder if we truly seek pleasure or happiness as the two are different, totally. And I also wonder if love can ever cause suffering. If we were to investigate deeply, we could see that Love and Happiness are deeply intimate, but not so with pleasure. Pleasure is related to outcome, which is success, pain is related to failure (psychologically, of course). Andre attachment is the ground of the two. Any form of attachment, produces selfishness, which in turn produces pleasure or pain. Only a mind that is free from attachment, can experience Love and Happiness. Posession is intimately related to selfishness, or egotistical action. How do you see it?
      • Oct 18 2013: Seems to me that SEEKING either pleasure or happiness is not good. I see both as a side-effect, and should not be a goal. When someone we love, makes a great accomplishment we can feel a pleasure of observing that, or be happy we were maybe involved.

        "I also wonder if love can ever cause suffering"
        The love of self certainly can cause pain and suffering. Any desire to gain possession, dominion and esteem is based on the love of self. There is good love and evil love.

        I'm not quite sure what you're trying to say here..
        "Pleasure is related to outcome, which is success, pain is related to failure."
        Pleasure is indeed related to outcome.. and, yes, pain is related to failure, but failure also is an outcome..

        We can be attached to a partner through the love of marriage, and the commitment of the wedding ceremony. What's wrong with that? I do not see anything wrong with attachment. However, what is wrong is dominion of any kind. Controlling someone for the pleasure of getting our way, obviously is wrong.
        To give you an idea where I'm coming from, this book is about marriage love. How it can and should thrive, but also what will cause unhappiness and failure in a relationship. Please enjoy
  • Oct 14 2013: It appears as a you make a forgone conclusion that humans should strive to be less self-interested. What if that is the wrong question to ask? What if being self-interested is actually better for humanity as a whole?
    • Oct 14 2013: i can feel the ur opinion what is the right question ???
    • Oct 15 2013: Selfishness is a funamental human characteristic in humanity's fight for survival. But amassing far beyond what one's needs are, necessary takes away from others and impovrishes them. If only the welthy, corrupt, greedy would have the intelligence to realise that ultimately they will suffer as a result is what may ultimately bring wisdom. But probably not before we have ALL fallen first!
  • Oct 12 2013: Who is John Galt?
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    Oct 9 2013: Hello Johnny,
    You conclude your introduction with the question: "How can we live for one another and align our hearts for the benefit of all humanity?"
    If we are in essence "one" and are all interconnected with instant communication through consciousness (as top-end quantum physicists are now suggesting - thereby agreeing with ancient sages), then there is no essential conflict between 'the right kind of selfishness", and the good of the whole.
    As we each work towards 'doing our thing that makes our heart sing', we are in fact at the same time living our optimum contribution to/with/for the rest of humanity.
    • Oct 12 2013: Sorry, but the pervert with the kids locked in his attic, with a few murders on his resume (which makes his heart sing) is not adding anything whatsoever that could be seen as beneficial to the whole. Its almost like an excuse not to share you're bag of hot fries with little brother, so to speak.
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        Oct 12 2013: Hello Nathan,
        I've made a couple of comments on a different conversation ("How is it possible that God is 'Love'?" started by "RH" of Chicago, IL).
        I think my two comments there might go some way towards answering your point.
        • Oct 12 2013: You are saying simply doing What makes you happy effects society beneficially, but there are humans who are happy doin things to other humans that most would never do cause it's just wrong and it doesn't address the issue of selfishness not to be confused with selflessness. We are all riding on the backs of previous generations. Nothing magical it just needs to be recognized and should be appreciated
      • Oct 14 2013: Not true at all. Don't get me wrong I am not a fan of murders and people who lock others away but there is value in evil that needs to be seen. You don't know how good people can be until you see how bad they can be. There is a certain level of relativity that needs to be addressed before we condemn anything. Nothing was created without its purpose. And that includes horrible and disheartening things as well as beauty.
        • Oct 15 2013: Nobody is disputing that but simply doing what one enjoys does nothing for the problem of selfishness.
        • Oct 15 2013: Sorry Paul, but we only need a perspective to know what we are looking at, not to know if something is good or bad. When someone does something wrong, it is wrong no matter how good some other people act. Same with water temperature, we do not need to know water can boil in order to say, "this is too cold for me."
          It all depends how much 'good' is in the deeds we do, nothing else.
          That being said, when we do a good deed, which is helpful to some else, it may not be a good deed for us (building a more loving character) because we do it for a selfish reason.

          "Nothing was created without its purpose."
          Right, but the evil people can do was not created, it emerged as people used their free will the wrong way, by making the wrong choices.
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    Oct 9 2013: change the education ?
  • Oct 8 2013: Think the only way is to make the goal worth while to the individual or to his/her tribe/family.
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      Oct 7 2013: Interesting speculative paper, enjoyable.
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    Oct 6 2013: Everyone is Selfish in this world. Now its up to you that how you are judging someone. We can find many resons of selfishness in a successful person. It depends upon the thinking.
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      Oct 6 2013: Every assumption you make maybe plausible.
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    Oct 6 2013: .

    "Separate from the rest of humanity",
    just for a moment,
    He or she will quit selfishness INSYINCTVELY.

    (Instincts are our ancestors' successful experiences.
    Here, the instinct symbiosis works.)