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June 2, 2020

How You, Me and Everyone Can Practically Become Altruists

How You, Me and Everyone Can Practically Become Altruists

As the wisdom of Kabbalah explains, and as contemporary science and the global crisis also suggest, we need to shift to an altruistic, bestowing way of life in order to rise above our problems.


Why all Systems, Humanity Included, Need Bestowal to Achieve Balance

We need not look very far to find ways to implement the principles of bestowal to life. Many contemporary scientific studies confirmed the benefits, advantages of bestowal in today’s interdependent human network. The reason why the researchers of those studies did not discover the implications of the integral human network—that we “infect” each other psychologically almost as we do physically—is very simple: they were not looking for such implications.

Similarly, there are many ways to observe the effects of the law of bestowal, if we only look for them as we analyze existing data. The Social Interdependence Theory, displayed here by Johnson and Johnson, is one way of observing its effect on systems, but there are many other ways to observe it. In my discussions with Professor Ervin Laszlo, philosopher of science and system theorist, we were in complete agreement because every system theorist knows that no system can persist without its parts yielding to the interests of the system.

Similar agreement transpired in my conversations with evolutionary biologist, Elisabet Sahtouris, with primatologist, Jane Goodall, and with many others. In fact, any physician, network scientist, or biologist knows that to keep a system in balance, or “homeostasis,” the interests of the system must override those of its parts. Each field of science refers to this principle by a different name, and Kabbalah calls it “the law of bestowal.” Essentially, however, these are different names pointing to different manifestations of the same law.

The Lazy Man’s Guide to Why Humanity Needs Mutual Responsibility

On the negative side, the effects of not following the law of bestowal are evident. The growing alienation in society and the escalating isolationism on the international level, as demonstrated by publications such as Christopher Lasch’s, The Culture of Narcissism, Twenge and Campbell’s The Narcissism Epidemic, and Joseph Valadez and Remi Clignet’s essay, “on the Ambiguities of a Sociological Analysis of the Culture of Narcissism,” clearly demonstrate our poor social health.

Indeed, the adverse effects of narcissism are beginning to show on the international level despite repeated declarations supporting unity, such as the ones quoted earlier in this chapter. on December 3, 2009, an Associated Press news item declared, “Isolationism soars among Americans.”

A poll by the PewResearchCenter survey found that “Americans are turning away from the world, showing a tendency toward isolationism in foreign affairs that has risen to the highest level in four decades.” The poll also found that “49 percent told the polling organization that the United States should ‘mind its own business’ internationally and let other countries get along the best they can on their own.”

Another, even more disturbing aspect of our alienation is hunger. Earlier in the book we shared the alarming statistics that more than one billion people worldwide are hungry. But perhaps even more surprising is the fact that within the United States, “The number of households characterized as having ‘very low food security’—meaning food intake was reduced because of a lack of money—jumped from 4.7 million in 2007 to 6.7 million in 2008, and the number of children in this situation rose from 700,000 to almost 1.1 million,” according to a Los Angeles Times editorial titled, “A rising tide of hunger.”

But the problem is not lack of food; it is lack of mutual responsibility and a basic understanding that we are going to survive together or perish together because this is the law of life. There is no shortage of food in the U.S., but there is certainly a shortage of collaboration. On January 1, 2009, Andrew Martin of The New York Times described “a glut of milk—and its assorted byproducts, like milk powder, butter and whey proteins—that has led to a precipitous drop in prices.” Martin explained that the milk products were being stored in warehouses and deliberately kept out of the stores to prevent a further drop in prices. How hard could it be to find a satisfactory arrangement to guarantee the financial stability of farmers while not depriving millions of Americans of a staple such as milk? Clearly, if we followed the law of bestowal, even if only within the U.S., such absurdities would not happen.

Thus, both manifestations of following the law of bestowal (and its mundane attire of yielding self-interest before the interest of the system) and manifestations of breaking this law abound in our world. All we need in order to realize its inclusiveness is to become aware of its existence. And for that, we need to start with education.


You Don’t Have to Be a Teacher to Understand Why the Law of Giving Should Be Taught in School

The great Kabbalist, Rav Avraham Kook (1865-1935, best known as the first Chief Rabbi of Israel), wrote on several occasions that in the 20th century we should all study Kabbalah. However, in some cases he explicitly said that we must cultivate new ways of doing so. In a letter, published in the book, Letters, he wrote, “I wish to awaken all the young people who wish to be encouraged toward spiritual life. We must acquire literary skills, a lively and colorful style, and prose, and allegories. If there is anyone among us who feels inclined toward poetry, let him not neglect his gift. …We must prepare our timely weapon—the pen. We must translate the whole of our sacred treasure into a contemporary style, …to bring it closer to our contemporaries.”

Similarly, in “Introduction to the book, Panim Me’irot uMasbirot,” Baal HaSulam wrote, “We must establish seminaries and compose books to hasten the distribution of the wisdom.”

By making Kabbalistic texts accessible, Ashlag and Kook wished to make its wisdom popular so people would know the basic laws of life and would know how to conduct themselves against the mounting egoism. If their advice had been heeded, Kabbalah would have been made popular a hundred years ago, and people would know about the law of bestowal before the atrocities of World War II took place.

However, there is a rule in Kabbalah: Never look back in remorse—only take what you can from the past to prepare for the future. It is certainly not too late to begin to inform people of the hidden laws of Nature, which affect our lives in a very real way. Just as everyone studies the basic laws of physics and biology at school, youths today should learn the basic laws of Nature.

In school, the principles of the Social Interdependence Theory can be a wonderful beginning, if combined with the understanding of the ultimate goal of life. If children apply these laws to their schooling, they will benefit in many more respects than just education. In the previously mentioned research, Johnson and Johnson came to several far-reaching conclusions:

“Working cooperatively with peers and valuing cooperation result in greater psychological health than do competing with peers or working independently. Cooperative attitudes were highly correlated with a wide variety of indices of psychological health. More specifically, cooperativeness is positively related to emotional maturity, well-adjusted social relations, strong personal identity, ability to cope with adversity, social competencies, basic trust and optimism about people, self confidence, independence and autonomy, higher self-esteem, and increased perspective taking skills.” on the other hand, “Individualistic attitudes were negatively related to a wide variety of indices of psychological health, especially a wide variety of pathology, basic self- rejection, and egocentrism.”

“Social interdependence theorists note that both positive and negative interdependence create conflicts among individuals.” However, “In cooperative situations, conflicts occur over how best to achieve mutual goals. In competitive situations, conflicts occur over who will win and who will lose.”

In their conclusions, they also include suggestions concerning the structure of what they call a “CooperativeSchool.”

However, as effective as these teaching methods might be, they can neither succeed nor even be accepted without also teaching children the law of bestowal, and that life’s purpose is to ultimately resemble that law, with all the benefits included in this similarity. Without providing this information, man’s perpetually growing egotism will eventually subdue any attempt at collaboration and will increasingly isolate people, as it has been doing for the past several decades.

As Ashlag described it, we will put the sword to our tongues, to taste the sweet nectar of narcissism, and die. Indeed, the title alone of Jean M. Twenge’s book, Generation Me: Why Today’s Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable Than Ever Before, clearly expresses the ego-trap (or is it ego-trip) of our time.


Why the Creation of Positive Media Takes Us all Being Concerned

In addition to the collaborative school environment, and the efforts to inform youth of life’s purpose to motivate them toward change, the principles taught at school should be applied domestically. otherwise, the clash between school values and home values will sentence all attempts to failure.

In “The Freedom,” Kabbalist Yehuda Ashlag wrote that one’s thoughts are a reflection of one’s environment. This is why young people’s domestic environments should match the values of cooperation that schools should promote. A publication by the U.S. Department of Education, titled, “Media Guide—Helping Your Child Through Early Adolescence,” stated, “It’s hard to understand the world of early adolescents without considering the huge impact of the mass media on their lives. It competes with families, friends, schools, and communities in its ability to shape young teens’ interests, attitudes, and values.” Regrettably, the majority of interests that the media shapes are antisocial.

An online publication by the University of Michigan Health System, for example, states that “Literally thousands of studies since the 1950s have asked whether there is a link between exposure to media violence and violent behavior. All but 18 have answered, ‘Yes.’ …According to the AAP (AmericanAcademy of Pediatrics), ‘Extensive research evidence indicates that media violence can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed.’”

In a capitalist country, the government does not enforce laws that prohibit violence on TV and other media. At best, the government might strive to restrict it, but statistics clearly indicate that these efforts are grossly ineffective. The solution should come from the people, not from government. People have to decide what they want to watch on TV, and to do that, they must decide what kind of individuals they want to be, what goals they wish to achieve, but most important, what sort of adults they want their children to become and in what kind of world they want them to grow.

When parents decide that they want their children to grow up with a hopeful future, that they do not want them to join the growing ranks of depressed youths already numbering (according to the National Mental Health Information Center) “one in every five young people at any given time,” then the change will take place. TV, movies, Internet, and every other means of mass media lives and dies by its ratings. When consumers decide that they want nonviolent media, then producers, screenplay writers, and advertisers will know how to create a whole new repertoire of nonviolent films that promote cooperative behavior, as mentioned in the section “Taking the Law of Nature as a Guide.”

The media is a learning aid and a democratic one in the sense that it truly depends on the viewers’ favor. While it is controlled by a relatively small number of people who have their own interests regarding what to air and what not to air, at the end of the day, the media still shows us what we want to see, or else the industry would go bankrupt. Because the majority of today’s people are more narcissistic than ever, so is the nature of mass media programs. And because we are becoming increasingly self-centered, the mass media increasingly caters to values of entitlement and isolationism.

Yet, isolationism and narcissism are unsustainable in an interdependent world. They are to society as cancer is to the body. The solution, therefore, is to find a way to harness our intensifying desires toward socially productive directions, which in the end are personally rewarding, as well. This is the only way we can rise above our growing egoism and unite.


The Wonderful Solution that Kabbalah Offers for all Problems

The solution that Kabbalah offers is to use the newly acquired awareness of the global system that is humanity, and to teach the law bestowal that sustains it and (most important) the goal of life. The reward will be, as said above, “total power, total awareness, and total governance” (of ourselves, of our lives, and of the world). But this will happen only if and when we choose to unite. In doing so, we will achieve the goal of existence—the Thought of Creation—and united, we will become like our Creator.

And we can choose to do so after many painful “persuasions” on the part of Nature, or after self-persuasion using the environment, the principle of imitation, and the awareness of our social interdependence. In the essay, “The Peace,” Baal HaSulam describes two kinds of people—those who advance toward life’s purpose willingly and knowingly, and reap the benefits, and those who advance unwillingly, unknowingly, and reap agony. In his words, “There is a great difference and a great distance between them, meaning ‘knowingly and unknowingly.’ The first type … stormy waves come upon them, through the strong wind of development, and push them from behind, forcing them to step forward. Thus, their debt [development toward attainment of the goal knowingly] is collected against their will and with great pains … which push them from behind. But the second type pay their debt … of their own accord, by repeating the actions that hasten the development [imitation, influence of the environment]. … They chase it of their own free will, with the spirit of love. Needless to say, they are free from any kind of sorrow and suffering like the first type,” as well as “Hasten the [attainment of] desired goal.”

Self Interest vs. Altruism in the Global Era: How Society Can Turn Self Interests into Mutual Benefit“How You, Me and Everyone Can Practically Become Altruists” is based on the book, Self Interest vs. Altruism in the Global Era: How Society Can Turn Self Interests into Mutual Benefit by Dr. Michael Laitman.

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