I was hesitant to put my previous post online, because I felt I hadn’t fully worked through the issue of altruism in my mind. This post will hopefully add a little balance to the matter.
I think I’m being a little hard on myself. My problem is not that I don’t do anything to help others, it’s that I often don’t do the things with the right attitude. What it boils right down is, what kind of a person am I? Am I a giver or a taker? Are my actions motivated by the good I can do or by what I can get out of it? Saly, I have to admit that a great deal of my recent life has been motivated by taking. Even though I have managed to avoid the trappings of materialism to the degree that I rarely purchase things other than the necessities of life, I am still motivated by the desire to consume, whether it’s videogames, DVDs, novels. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with these activities – except when they’ve risen to the level that they’re almost your reason to live.
I think this kind of a trap is a lot easier for married people to avoid, because they are caught with the business of looking after each other and their children. But, of course, no one is without responsibilities of one kind or another. The responsibilities of my job, for instance. And this is primarily where I have allowed myself to slip.
When I first started working at the school, I loved the place. And my feelings stayed that way for many years. I even dedicated my first novel to the pupils, with the heartfelt words “… who make it a special place to come and work in each day.” At some point, I started looking at my job for what it could do for me, rather than taking pleasure in what I had to offer. It would be so easy for me to make excuses (and I’ve made them). But when I make them, it only illustrates that all I’m interested in is what the job can do for me, not what I can bring to the job.
Well, I’m making an effort to change my attitude. As well as my usual IT duties, I have some involvement with the Scripture Union, with teaching First Aid, and with raising money for charity (at the same time encouring children to read, even if it is my own novel). These are all activities that have so much pleasure to give, when the person doing them is thinking about the good he can do.
I guess altruism was the wrong word for what I’ve been trying to get at. I’ve been criticising myself for being a couch potato in the evenings, when really there’s nothing wrong with relaxing, as long as you can do so in the knowledge you’re the sort of person who’s motivated by giving instead of taking. My own times of relaxation have been poisoned by my selfish attitude to life. Now that I’ve woken up to this, it’s refreshing to wake up in the morning and think, Here’s a brand new day. What good can I do in it?