Einstein famously postulated that ‘a person starts to live when he can live outside himself’. In theory, this is a very true and intuitive statement. In practical terms though, it seems a rather impossible one – to not follow. Surely, we rarely exist within ourselves long past the initial stages of life.
I would argue that the only time we do in fact are when we would later – normally – berate ourselves for being selfish. Any other acts, such as making our decisions based on our opinions, are biased by the collective consciousness of morality and law. Are all but a few of the decisions, which we ever make not ones, drawn from others ideas, opinions or actions? Therefore is it not safe to assume that in virtually all cases we are living outside ourselves all the time?
For me a far more appropriate hypothesis might be: ‘a person only starts to live when his decisions no longer support his gain.’ In my opinion, this represents a far more realistic and altruistic sense of being alive. We are a species whose very existence is defined by social relationships. From birth to puberty it is defined by one’s relationship to their caregivers; it then moves on to friendships and romantic relationships, and these relationships normally continue – in some for or another – until death.
These are the elements that define our species. They are unchanging through time and space. And yet, all too often the decisions, which we make, are often for the benefit of ourselves as individuals. There is something inherently tragic in such assessment.
We live in a world, which respects this. A world that supports such an ideology! A world where exams take precedence over collaboration; where we are pitted against each other for jobs and where we walk past a homeless person asking for help on a street corner.
As you finish reading this I would ask that you consider the necessity of our species to help each other. And think of the living you could do, if you just offered a little more help from time to time.