A friend of mine recently reminded me how important it is to live for others. He sent me this mildly religious inspirational video that talked about living for the big “YOU” rather than the little “you.” The implication being made was that we’re all connected through a sort of universal consciousness, and that when we intend our actions to be beneficial for others, they’re consequently beneficial for us.
When one is as hopelessly self-centered and terminally narcissistic as I am, it’s sometimes necessary to develop motivation to be thoughtful, considerate, and especially helpful regarding other people. Somebody tells me that I’ll benefit from it though and I’m all in.
Counterintuitively for a guy like me, this has in fact proved true. Fortunately, it’s not a brand new idea, and despite my default of gazing into my own eyes in the bathroom mirror for longer and more frequent intervals than I’ll allow myself to admit, I’ve been afforded many regular opportunities to be useful to other people.
It’s easy for me to tell when I’ve spent too much time with me. Mind you, I’m my favorite person in the world to spend time with, and I really love when I get me all to myself. Still, there’s a limit where even the best of things begins to be harmful. At this point, I’m able to refresh my spirit by actually taking one of the phone calls I’ve trained myself to ignore. Really though, I could use that as an opportunity to call one of the friends I tell myself I’d love to catch up with. Best of all, I could call someone I know that has difficulty going on in there lives, try to lift them up and even just wish them well and let them know that I’m thinking of them.
While these seem like little endeavors that don’t carry much significance, they actually have the potential to make my day, and frequently do. I get caught up in the grind and forget that this kind of stuff – human interaction and spontaneity – are the zest of life, and that they are what essentially make me happy.
Another good example is getting out of my own way enough to play with my five-year-old son. I love him to pieces, and he loves me similarly. No less, I still struggle to become willing to play the little games he comes up with. We spent one hour this afternoon going from downstairs to upstairs with his Woody and Buzz Lightyear dolls, resuscitating his other Woody doll when this Woody doll would strangle it by the other Buzz Lightyear doll getting the latter Woody doll with his imaginary laser. I was the Buzz’s. He was the Woody’s. After each of these episodes, the two “good” guys would go hide and go back to sleep somewhere in the house. Then, the two “bad” guys would go find them again, repeating the action in different parts of the house for an entire hour. This may sound adorable, and it really was. Remaining present throughout was real work on my part though. It was service. I don’t say that to sound self-congratulatory. It really was. While that may come naturally for some, it certainly doesn’t for me.
I’ve gotten better at this kind of thing – both helping and interacting with people and actively engaging with my son. It’s amazing how it can really lift us up and set us back on our feet when we feel down and off the beam. When we begin to feel irritated at trivialities, it’s usually a good indicator that we’re getting tired of being around ourselves. Being with and for others reminds us of how small we and our problems sometimes are. And when our problems aren’t small, we can rely on those close to us in a similar, reciprocating way.
Finishing here, I’ll end with a quote from Marcus Aurelius I was just reminded of.
Matter. How tiny your share of it.
Time. How brief and fleeting your allotment of it.
Fate. How small a role you play in it.”