I know that my wife and I are alive solely due to the acts of a complete stranger. I know that tonight when I hold my wife tight and tuck my children into bed, his wife sleeps alone and his son thinks of the father he used to have.
When my wife, two friends and I were barricaded in a small office, lights out, terrorists armed with machine guns and grenades pounding on the door to get in, it was he who calmly told them that the room was empty with nothing of importance inside. Likewise later in the night, from a different location, when it was time for the two hundred or so guests to attempt our escape, it was he, along with other staff, that attempted to take us down the stairwell to safety. The staff were first to lead us, first to take the bullets, and last to run to safety.
I believe that there are two innate forces that we are all born with that manifest themselves in our actions and desires; an egocentric, self-gratification impulse which at its heart arises from our self-preservation instinct, and juxtaposed to that, and on a much deeper unconscious level, an internal moral code that rewards us for doing what is in the best interest of our societal group as a whole. I think it is this tension that is at the heart of all religion, and most internal conflict when making decisions. While religion states this battle generically as good vs. evil, I believe it is just another way of formulating the internal struggle of selfishness vs. unselfishness, or, said another way, self preservation vs. our moral code.
By definition the supposition of the existence of innate drivers implies an end goal, or the proverbial “meaning of life”. A Purposeful Journey is the best way I can think of describing our shared goal. We begin as wholly dependant beings focused on our needs and desires, transition to autonomous, independent beings largely focused on ourselves, and then hopefully evolve to independent beings who are able to see and act beyond our own ego. Thus, I feel the natural progression of life is to use and continually redefine ourselves to move from our self-preservation instinct towards our moral code. Along the way we have the gift to discover and develop our innate talents and to experience all that is around us. What we do gives pleasure to our minds, while how we do what we do gives comfort to our soul and maximizes the positive emotions we feel. A purposeful journey then is to continually redefine ourselves such that we can look inside, act authentically outside, but in accordance with a moral code.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.