Selflessness or Selfishness

Once I heard about a story, in which the heroine wishes to sacrifice her life to save her people, but is dissuaded by the hero who begs her to think of him. She doesn’t understand how much he needs her (His family abandoned him). Her head either filled with illusions of bravery and nobility and being remembered forever in the hearts of people, or believing that their lives are more valuable than her own, she gives up her soul.
The true intention behind her deed? We shall never discern. Man himself can never know the motive behind his actions because he does not know himself well enough.
Intention, whatever it may be, the purpose was clear, to save the existence of the hundreds of people. She is ready to give up her most treasured possession-her being. But she does not think of the hero.
Maybe her mind can only see the logical side of the picture. One life versus a thousand. Give a little -get a lot.
But does she only sees the surface? The waters flow deeper than we can ever grasp. The thoughts and feelings that motivate a being to commit such a deed, are as profound as the complexities of the human mind. What reaction takes place in that organ which causes it to override entirely the built in instinct of every organism- to survive? The decision goes deeper than the brain. Patterns created during youth bring about instinctive responses to situations. The heroine’s father, mother and sister all had died fighting for the same cause and instinctively, with the hurt created by their loss still fresh in her mind, she wants to follow in their footsteps.
It is surprising how all she can think of is the people, who did nothing for her and forget the hero, to whom she owes her life, and who has no one besides her.
To save the population, only one brave soul is required. Does it have to be her?
Someone who will not be mourned, someone who will have none to mourn them after they are dead would be a better option or not?
Her staying alive would do more good in the world than her death. So is her sacrifice truly heroic?

You may believe that if ever in such a condition, you would readily sacrifice your life in the name of religion or for your country or to protect your family and friends. Life without your loved ones will not be a life worth living. How would you ever live with yourself if you let them die?
We despise those cowardly policemen who run away instead of fighting back. How many times have we ridiculed bystanders who were present at a scene but instead of assisting the persons being beaten up, looked on with an unblinking eye? Or the rescue operators who, in an emergency situation disappear from the scene or refuse to enter the burning building to save the people inside.

How we take for granted guards being shot as they shield their owners. After all, this was their job. They signed up for it, didn’t they?
In any case you would do the same thing. Jump right into a situation to save lives.
But you are looking at a mirage. You don’t see things the way they are. How many of us have actually been in a life-death situation to make such predictions? The truth is we haven’t realized the realization of death. Have you ever known what it is feels like when you know you’re going to die? We can never imagine. But when extinction is in front of us and safety behind, that moment is when we truly realize that we are not the heroes we made ourselves out to be.
When the heroine is finally faced with selfless death she longed for, she realizes that it is not the fantasy she made it out to be. Angels do not sing as she sits on the metal chair. Light from heaven does not flood the dingy room as adjustments are made to the wires. In a few seconds she will be gone. Just like the thousands before her who were also electrocuted on this chair, she will be forgotten. She will be just another number on the ever-increasing death toll. Maybe someone had had a greater number of mourners than her. Maybe others had done bigger things for their people. It makes no difference-now they are just statistics.
In that moment, she realizes that she doesn’t want to die, she wants to live. In the grief of losing her family, she lost interaction with life and tricked herself into believing that she wanted to die and join them. But no, her giving herself up will make no difference in the world save that the world population would decrease by one. Her people will not be saved. It’s not that simple. If one life could be taken to emancipate the rest (the way Christians choose to believe), so much sacrifice would not have to be made.
The world would still be as foul as it was before. Murderers will continue taking lives. Pain, misery, oppression and all the ugliness that was before will still be there. What good will her death bring? She will be no hero. Thousands have given their lives. What was so special about hers? The world won’t know her name. And if her people do win the battle, or if their enemy emerges victorious. What becomes of her country after the war? What happens to her loved ones-whether they survive or not. –All this, she’ll never know. She won’t be there. The last thing she’ll feel is pain beyond her imagination as electrons travel through her body. The world will keep turning, but not for her. Life will go on-only she won’t be there to witness it. Not for her. For her it is the end. Is it really worth it. Just one atrium of a heart inside a warm body stops pulsating-does it have to be hers? She is so young. She can do so much good in the world if she is alive. She spent her entire childhood dreaming of what she would be, and she can do so much. If only she wasn’t tied down to this chair. And in that millisecond, she realises she doesn’t want to die.
So you believe that you play the hero in any situation. Jump right into a burning building to save a child. Well that would be the height of foolishness. Without proper training, you would probably end up making more of a problem for the fire-fighters.
Our bodies react to fear with the fight or flight response. It is what we do in that split-second which determines who we are. The funny thing is, that decision is not under our control. It is made in our spinal cord which generates nerve impulses which are carried to all parts of our body. As a result muscles contract to obey the orders. During this process, interneurons transmit nerve impulses to our brain so that the person may become aware of what happened.
The decision that our brain makes is based on our;
1. Courage
2. Capability
For example, a boxer, who has trained himself to lash out at opponents will no doubt do the same when feeling threatened. A runner on the other hand may trust his legs to help him escape from the scene.

Let’s take a situation. A mine is located in the seabed. It must be detonated before a ship passes over it.
The responsibility comes to rest on the shoulders of a pair, let’s say, a hero and heroine. Now obviously, whoever performs the job would be blown to bits. Naturally, each will volunteer his or her own self. The hero will say that he values her life above his own. He cares for her too much to allow her to go on a suicide mission. But the same goes for the heroine. She’ll say that she has no life without him.
Conventionally, whoever performs the job will be called the hero.
But the person who is left behind will have a half-life. Guilt will plague them for the rest of their life. That had they taken their partners place, they would be alive right now. The thought of their partner will haunt them for the rest of their days. And the whispered taunts hidden behind sympathetic looks that people will give them…
So whoever sacrifices their life –are they really saving the other person?
And more importantly, where does selflessness end and selfishness begin?

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