“One person wearing gloves and another person holding a bowl of red cherry tomatoes” by Elaine Casap on Unsplash

True Selfishness is a Virtue

We talk about people with “big egos” as if big egos are really big. What we forget is that big egos are actually very small. Someone with a big ego thinks that they’re very important and special, and that the world owes them something. They behave in an entitled way, and they treat other people disrespectfully.

The big ego thinks that it needs to struggle and fight to obtain and acquire what it needs. It brags about its possessions and accomplishments and it hoards its accolades and accoutrements. It’s small and restricted. It’s painful and ugly. It says, “my precious” so vehemently that it reveals its sense of worthlessness.

Having a big ego is a terrible state to be in. Even though it might try to hoodwink us into jealousy, when seen in the light of day, it’s clearly a significant and grotesque psychological disfigurement. When we understand what it really is, we must struggle not to pity it.

A big ego is selfish in that it tries to hoard resources and praise, to try to increase its size with things and reputation, whilst shrinking into an ever smaller ball of self-loathing. “Mine” it says, and grasps from the hands of others that which the world would willingly give to it freely.

The problem is not selfishness itself, which is a natural and important drive, but the repurposing of selfishness in service of the contracted and restricted ego. As we know ourselves increasingly as embodiments of all that is, we begin to redeploy our naturally selfish tendencies in the service of the whole.

First we draw to ourselves abundance by effortlessly welcoming in everything that serves us, giving to those around us opportunities to love and to serve. As we then expand our sense of self to include our families, our friends, our community, our country, our species, our planet, sentient life, the solar system, the galaxy, the entire universe, and eventually the entire substrate of reality—a no-thing that is already and always in the palm of our hands—our selfishness grows in effectiveness.

As we become truly, deeply, and effectively selfish, we can feel the satisfaction in helping and supporting others. We can attend to those around us with no-strings-attached, unconditional positive regard. We flow our effort and energy out into the world as an expression of the infinitely abundant source of goodness and wealth that resides inside us and that permeates all of reality.

As our minds are purified by this flow, as we sink ever more deeply into an experience of the rich arising of life in each moment, we become overwhelmed by our unfettered greed for life, for love, for reality, for flow, for giving and receiving. We become gluttons for the pleasure of selfless abandon to the immense unfolding of the conscious fabric of space-time expressing itself again and again in unlimited fractal expressions of pure and exhilarating blissful knowing.

As we awaken to our true nature as the foundation of all that is, we come to understand that all of the sins that we previously identified as deadly have been transformed—not in their nature, but in our perspective—to be the natural and sensible responses to the truth of our being.

An engineer-psychologist focused on machine intelligence. I write from my own experience to support others in living more fulfilling lives | duncanriach.com

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