Sunday, February 12, 2012

Anna's lesson about selfish people

After a break to deal with present day issues, I spent some time today catching up on Anna's archive of memories. For those of you wandering by for the first time, I've been helping Ryan's daughter, Maria, sort through his sister's digital storage unit, which numbers hundreds and hundreds of entries.

We call it our five year project. She would have been fifty this year and this is our way of honoring her memory. Out of the twenty or so emails waiting for me today from the archives, one especially long journal entry that covered several single-spaced printed pages decided to make itself the topic of the day, because once again her uncanny ability to size up people amazed me.

It's about selfishness. I chose it because it was a topic she often went on about, and she was one of the first people who taught me that many people we consider unselfish are actually quite the opposite. Here's her rather prophetic description of someone she knew only from his emails to her, and a couple times when she literally hid behind a stage curtain to watch him to make sure what she was sensing about him was true. She did this because at the time he was someone I was fairly close to and her opinion of him mattered very much to me. I wanted her to like him. I remember being angry when she refused and told me I'd one day understand she was right about him and I was wrong.

(note: the original entry was written in German and was addressed to her brother. It was translated into English by Maria. I've cut and pasted it without fixing any of the errors.)

His emails to me are always about him and feelings he feels for me. It's why I don't want to meet him. It is always how perfect I am for him. He says I am his woman but he only writes about how I am his woman for him, not how he is man for me. There is no me in his talk. So I watched him dance tonight and it only makes me think even more this is true. It is how he approaches a woman like it is a special gift that he decides to present himself to her. You said he is dating both women he danced with. But he does not care enough about them. You can see it all in their faces. They hurt from sharing him and he doesn't care because their hurt is selfish to him. I am thinking anything someone else wants is selfish to him.

Do you know what I think this man will do? I think he will be in your life only as long as he has need of some favor you will do for him. He will pretend and say he does this for you, out of unselfishness and altruistic good boy fantasies. But with him always look deep to see who is really benefiting from his altruism. I will guess that he does.

I will say he is the kind of man who goes and buys a car for very cheap. Then he needs money. So he goes to a friend and says to him that he has this car that came to him as a good deal because he is such a good person and so he has good deals fighting to come to him. So he will make this man want to help him because he will help a good person by purchasing his car at a good price.

His friend purchases the car for double what the good fairies sold it to the man for. Then the car does not run so well. So the friend says hey you sold me car for too much and now it also no longer works and I have to spend rest of money owed to you to fix the car so I can drive it.

So this man suddenly becomes very angry. It does not matter that he has already been paid more than he paid. He has already earned profit. It does not matter that he sold a car that does not work and is too expensive. He is suddenly all angry and accuses the person buying of using him of taking advantage of his good kindness. It becomes a story all about his betrayal by others and how his unselfishness was used by other people.

One day he will say such a story about everyone in his life. He will talk about how he was used when all he wanted was to help others. He will gather points of unselfishness so all the world knows he has all the unselfishness points and everyone else is a bad person who has used him so badly for his kindness.

Eventually everyone will understand it was him and not them. I only figured it sooner than the rest of everyone so I will decline to meet and be friends with your friend.

It took a few years but I finally admitted she was right. It's not worth going into the lurid details and it's enough to say that this person is no longer in my life because she was absolutely right about him.

But I also have to say that he was not the only person who taught me there are some people who do good just because they want to portray themselves as someone who does good. It's an ego thing with such people. They will always tell you how unselfish they are. They will brag about it. They will parade it around like a trophy they've awarded to themselves.

Until they actually have to give, that is. And then they find some excuse to work on what really matters--getting more for themselves as their reward for being such good human beings. And if you can't give them what they want, then you become the user of their unselfishness. You become the bad person, the one who took from them instead of gave. For people like that, any giving at all has some very sticky strings attached. That's how you can tell the fakes from the genuine ones.

Anna was genuine. It's important to note here that while Anna gave away most of her fortune, she never said she did. We knew she helped a lot of people but every day more and more is revealed in her meticulous records of exactly how much she gave away and how she never once felt the need to use it as proof of her unselfishness. Those who talk rarely do was one of her favorite sayings. And Anna never talked. She just did. And she did it quietly, completely, privately out of the immense goodness of her heart. It was not an ego thing with her. It was real.

I've mentioned before that I learned she paid a very large hospital bill for me when I became ill. I always suspected her but until I saw a copy of the paid bill, I never knew for certain. It was just something she did because she cherished our friendship. That was something she did talk about. She never let a day go by without letting me know how much she appreciated me.

And that's why I spend hours on her archives, why I help Maria. Because I've never been good at expressing my feelings to others. In my own limited way I was able to let her know how much she meant to me, but helping with the archives will hopefully make up for the words I couldn't say then.

The really mind-boggling part of all this is how it helps me deal with the present world where selfishness is treated as something close to a virtue by so many. If I hear one more person say they need to focus on their own needs, grow their own self, feed their own desires in order to grow, I will probably vomit on them or something equally as rude.

Get a clue, folks! The world is in the mess it's in because too many people focus on themselves instead of others. There's awareness and then there's self-indulgence. Until you can let go of the self-indulgence, the perpetual gimme gimme me me me game, awareness will be just a concept in a book that has too many big words in it to comprehend until life teaches you want they mean.

I have a suggestion for people who are so obsessed with themselves and their own dramas that they can't even see how it affects those around them. Get over yourself. Once you're no longer wearing diapers, it's no longer about you. It's about your place in the world and how you can make it a better place for everyone, not just your own pitiful little needs.

We are all bigger than ourselves and if we don't start to understand that, if we continue to be the kind of people who can't think outside our own needs and desires, then we are doomed as a species and really, who would even mourn the passing of such a plague? I'm certain most of the planet would celebrate the demise of such parasites.


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