For Cinco de Mayo I took myself to the Phoenix Art Museum for the last day of an exhibit I was anxious to see, (an article about that will be posted next week on Examiner). As I sat in the cafe, Palette I overheard someone say, "Is it really a good deed if you tell everyone?" I love that question and I have been pondering it ever since.
Then on May 8 Charles Ramsey was interviewed for rescuing 3 missing women, two of whom were missing for 8-10 years and the video quickly went viral but it wasn't only viral because this man was deemed a hero but also because so many people were making fun of him including TMZ who makes its fortune on the misfortune of others... but that's another subject for another day. Here's the video and when you watch it, I'm curious what your thoughts are:
Altruism has always been a tricky subject for me to wrap my mind around and it didn't help my confusion when I fell for a man who would do nice things for people and then talk about how he believes it's something he should do, almost to the point of bragging. It didn't matter what the opportunity was but when he saw the opportunity to do a good deed he would not only act on it but discuss it after the fact. There were enough moments of genuine goodness and kindness that he offered people to keep me hooked and he always recognized beauty in others and this was a reason I fell for him. The frustration I had with him lied in the distinction between feeling as though an act of kindness should be done based on what could potentially be gained for the act, external influences, societal views, who's watching, etc. or if it was being done because he wanted to offer a genuine compliment or do good solely for the sake of helping someone in need and the joy it brings regardless of whether someone else knows or not, free of expectation of any kind of return on the investment.
By its definition altruism is an unselfish regard for the welfare of others but by its very nature altruism can be so self-fulfilling and so self-nurturing that you want to sing it from the rooftops! Does this in turn make you selfish for enjoying the benefits? I suppose this is where intention comes to play; if someone's initial intention is more for the good of others; to be of service for a greater and higher good, then that is true altruism and the warm fuzzies you get after are an added bonus. The pleasure center of our brain responds the most when something is more pleasant than expected, more Dopamine is released in our brain, so it seems to me that if we practice altruism with little to no expectation we will literally FEEL better then if we do good deeds because we think it will make a good impression on others or we expect to gain something from it; we may still get the Dopamine release but it won't be near the level of pleasure as it would when we limit our expectations. This way we also leave little room for disappointment. I suppose the people who make fun of the happy altruist are the ones who don't truly know the feeling.
I took the volunteer orientation for UMOM and I'm really excited about helping other people who are homeless since I have experienced homelessness. Does my excitement make my intentions any less altruistic if I'm eager to learn more from that environment? I would like to think not, especially since so many people helped me when I was in that same position. What about you? Do you practice regular acts of altruism as a way of nurturing your spirit? Or have you been the recipient of a good deed?