I learned a phrase today: “wise selfishness.” It comes from the Dalai Lama, who wrote this short thought a few years ago:
It is important that when pursing our own self-interest we should be “wise selfish” and not “foolish selfish”. Being foolish selfish means pursuing our own interests in a narrow, shortsighted way. Being wise selfish means taking a broader view and recognizing that our own long-term individual interest lies in the welfare of everyone. Being wise selfish means being compassionate.” —Dalai Lama (January 23, 2012)
For writers like Gordon Dveirin, this is a perspective that allows us to seek “the good of the commons” and not simply personal advantage. Because the personal good and the planetary good are connected, choosing well for ourselves as individuals can also mean choosing well for our groups and for human society at large.
The problem of what to do about climate change is one example of an issue where personal interests and common interests starkly intersect. We can’t thrive as individuals on a planet too hot to sustain our species and too susceptible to extreme weather events to be safe.
So even when some of us might be able to profit from business as usual, that benefit has a short shelf-life. It serves us much, much more to pool our creativity, leverage our social and political influence, and look for ways to act in support of collective well-being.
There’s nothing wrong with caring for the self. We only need ensure that our work for the “self” also favors the rest of humankind too.