I went to see the Dalai Lama talk when he visited Seattle a few years back. For reasons I don't entirely recall, we didn't stay for his whole speech... something to do with all the pre-speech festivities which took way longer than we expected.
When he finally did talk, he had a very thick accent and the crowd was still noisy, so I was relying on my mom to translate for me. Which means that only one point sticks in my memory...
There are two kinds of selfish acts, he told us. You can want something so badly that you take advantage of or hurt others in order to get it. This is the bad kind of selfishness. However, there is also a good kind of selfishness - you can do good things for people because you want the good feeling that comes with service, or you want karma to be good to you in the future, or, from my own experience, you want them to eventually decide to do nice things back. Your actions are motivated entirely by your own desires, so they are selfish. But they help others, they do good things: This, he told us, is the good kind of selfishness.
As some of you know, and maybe can tell from reading my blog this semester, it's been a rough semester. Mostly because my grandmother passed away (which I'm expecting to really hit me when I get home and back into the routines that usually include her), but also because I've been... well, to put it lightly, finding out who my true friends are. Who loves me versus who just spends time with me.
When I say that I'm finding out who my true friends are, though, I mean it. I've been disappointed a bit, but at the same time, I've been overwhelmed by love from unexpected places. People who were mere acquaintances before have suddenly become my best friends, and I love the kindness that they are bestowing upon me. I want more - so I return the favor, hoping that it will continue. Selfish, but not bad, I hope.
I've heard from various Christians that it isn't good enough to do good things and be motivated by the happy feeling you get to see people being helped, or by the expectation of karma... that we need to be motivated only by our love for God. But I hope this isn't true. I hope this doesn't mean that we shouldn't act on our desire for a good response to our kindnesses, as long as, should people not respond well, we do good anyway.
This week, I've been cooking a lot. Mostly, I've started trying to use up ingredients that I have leftover at the end of the year (half a box of Bisquick and 6 frozen bananas, among other things that would otherwise get thrown away). But... 6 bananas makes a *lot* of banana muffins, and half a box of Bisquick leaves you with quite the pile of cheesy biscuits... I have no desire to eat that much, and, as I mentioned before, I feel loved, I feel valued as a person, when people enjoy the food I cook (though, for those of you who are subject to my cooking experiments in the future, don't take this as a reason to fake it...) This means that when I pull my 39 biscuits out of the oven, I want to give them to everyone who will take them - not everyone will come back and tell me they liked them (and, I admit, the banana muffins were much better), but for the few people who do, I will happily pass them out to whoever will eat. Selfishly, because I want people to enjoy the food. Not selflessly, not entirely out of my love for the people around me (though I do love them), but because of the satisfaction I get from feeding them, and because, and the men who have most frequently been the subjects of my food-giving will happily agree, the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.
I found friends, I fed them, and, before I knew it, they turned out to be some of the best friends I have. That friendship is worth more than all the banana bread I've ever made... I guess that means its time for cheesecake.