On Friday, fellow columnist Zack Crockett ran an interesting piece on selflessness, or a lack thereof. Without much investigation, it would seem that much of what he said was true, simply because the reality is much of the world is selfish. Selflessness is impossible – or is it?
To sum up Zack’s argument, selflessness only ends in selfishness since self well-being is the ultimate goal. Selfishness in the most commonly held sense is of course a direct desire for well-being. Preconceived notions of selflessness are characterized as being charitable, still maintaining the goal of well-being but in a spiritual sense – if not characterized by “warm-fuzzy” feelings or a step up in the world’s social view, then with the hope of having one’s name scribbled onto heaven’s guest list. This sounds vaguely similar to some sort of argument between characters on the show Friends.
If selfishness is selfish and selflessness is selfish, then according to Zack, the only way out is to get rid of the self, and then boom! Selflessness.
There are at least two well-known cases that I am certain are true instances of selfless people without having died or transcended the physical realm to achieve it: Blessed Mother Theresa and St. John of the Cross.
I don’t know a whole lot about St. John of the Cross, but I can tell you a few things. He spent a lot of time tortured and in jail for the good changes he was trying to effect, and he wasn’t a masochist. So surely he wasn’t after any temporal well-being by enduring this kind of trouble. Then, according to his own testimony and that of the Church, he experienced the second-longest recorded dark night of the soul.
A dark night of the soul is a spiritual phenomenon in which a person cannot sense in any way God’s presence, and by extension any joy or even hope. It is a total feeling of abandonment. Yet he pressed on with what he knew to be right without even the promise of heaven for over 40 years.
So, now consider the life of Mother Theresa. In the most recent book about her, Come Be My Light, she spells out her entire interior life. From what we saw of her in videos and images, she always seemed cheery and in good spirits, but she too experienced the dark night of the soul. Instead of writing about the phenomenon itself, she wrote about how she felt and what went through her head as she continued to serve the poor of India. If St. John’s experience was at all like Mother Theresa’s, it is safe to assume that he too was selfless.
If you read her book – something I encourage everyone to do – you’ll find that not only did she suffer plenty of ailments and humiliation, but she felt as though her soul was without God. “The place of God in my soul is blank – there is no God in me – when the pain of longing is so great….”
She experienced her dark night for over 50 years. There is no doubt in my mind that she did not seek that immediate spiritual well-being.
But what about her place in heaven? “If I ever become a Saint – I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’ I will continually be absent from Heaven – to light the light of those in darkness on earth.”
She goes on to say that if it pleased God that she reside in hell, then she would happily accept such a fate because it pleases God. If you don’t, think Mother Theresa embodies mankind’s potential for selflessness, then maybe you should rework your definition of selflessness.
I go through all of this, proving that selflessness is possible while you’re still physically present, because I wish to see more people like Mother Theresa. I wish to see giving for the sake of giving without ulterior motives, giving without thought to reward. And I don’t want people to think that all of religion is just another form of selfishness.
Seeing how many times I use the word ‘I,’ it’s not hard to see that yes, even I am selfish. However, something I desire and will continue to work toward is to be selfless.
Luke 6:31 is not quid pro quo. So maybe you’d like to get an e-mail from JEREMY MALLETT. But even if you don’t you should still send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.XXX