A November to Remember, Verse 3: The Song of the Selfish

JessGo doing a live art presentation

As we get closer to the Christmas season and I continue to reflect on what I learned in November, I find myself asking a question:

Are all people ultimately only acting in their own interests? Is it human nature to be selfish?

This was the topic of a heated discussion the other day where fellow Torontonian CamMi Pham declared:

I’m not about to drag you back through the grisly affair, but while I definitely agree that there’s a ton of evidence that people can be selfish, my stance is that there are plenty of people yet who are selfless and just want to make the world around them a little better than it was when they first entered it.

The Big Give – aka – The Naughty List

I’m not much of a “party guy” — hard to believe, I know — I’m more into one-on-one interactions and small group settings where we can all enjoy each other’s company. Even at large events, I’m way more at ease when I have a solid group of friends around me.

When the music’s blaring, bodies are gyrating and the crowd looking glam, I’ll keep up with the best of ’em, but it’s not my scene.

So enter: The Big Give.

The Big Give, a charity benefit for Look Good, Feel Better (or LGFB — described by their site as “an organization that holds 1200 seminars for women and teenage girls who have just been diagnosed with cancer. The seminars teach these women how to maintain their self-confidence and elevate their self-image through their battle with cancer. The Look Good Feel Better workshop brings women with cancer together in a safe and supportive environment where they can share stories, insights, laughter, and feel ‘normal'”), was a very happening party, but I don’t ever remember feeling as lost at a party as I did in the first moments of that night. I made small talk with some of the volunteers and took advantage of the candy bar and not-so-candy (read: open) bar, but perhaps not knowing anyone there  reminded me of my transition from high school to university: going from somewhere where I knew everyone and everyone knew me, to somewhere where I was a biggish fish in a massive ocean, trying to find my way.

The candy bar at The Big Give
Some of my favourite selections from this table were sour strawberries and peaches! Was talking too often to enjoy as many as I would’ve liked to, though 🙁

Once some familiar faces started showing up, my aimless wandering came to a halt, but I still felt like I wasn’t on the pulse of the event. People dressed to kill. Anyone who came in the door quickly found their pack and a corner of the room where they could congregate. The openness and warmth I’m used to from the world of tweetups were absent in the blue hues filling the Berkley Church and washing over all the party people. It helped me realize one thing…

I’m not meant to be one of the “beautiful people”.

No, I’m the type who’s your best friend’s best friend. The funny guy in the room who makes sure that everyone’s enjoying themselves. I’m not there to look the best. I’m not trying to walk a red carpet and act like I’m better than anyone else. I just want everyone to have a great time.

All things considered, though, all was not amiss at The Big Give. Regardless of however I felt, the event still had much to offer, such as:

  • dancers to get people on the dance floor (no one ended up going on the dance floor)
  • free booze (of which people partook plenty)
  • free photos

But let’s get back to our original question — is selfishness simply in human nature?

Dancing With Wolves

In my heart of hearts, I would love to believe that people were there to support LGFB and simply have a good time — but behaviour would prove otherwise.

We all struggle with the siren song of swag.

Two of the big things that people were there for were the grab bags of legendary size that they distributed at the night’s end (which weighed 20 pounds apiece), and the ridiculously awesome raffle prizes that they had up for grabs!

But as the night wore on, our host Mike Chalut’s voice wore out and the crazier the contests got! From a raffle to a dance-off to a frenzied free-for-all, the night would end with women clawing, screaming and scraping past each other to get Mike’s attention — and for what? Jewellery? Gift cards? Gym memberships?

JessGo doing a live art presentation
This painting by JessGo would end up going for $5,000!

Perhaps it’s true. Perhaps many people in the world are selfish and act primarily out of self-interest. But it’s not everybody. That doesn’t account for the woman who bought a painting at the event for $5,000. It doesn’t really account for the people who believe in LGFB enough to give their time, products and services to make sure that the event was a success. And if you’ll bear with me for one more day to convince you, I think there’s a lot more in the world that such a narrow outlook doesn’t account for.

What about you, readers? Do you think I’m too off-base? Do I need to take a look in the mirror before I cast the first stone? Or is everyone in this world completely self-centred, and I’m simply living a life in denial?

Love to hear from you! Until tomorrow,

–case p.

Tomorrow: Karma, good deeds and how the month of Movember continued!

Author: Casey E. Palmer

Calling the Great White North his home, Casey‘s spent the last few decades in pursuit of creating killer content. From novels as a kid, comics as a teen, to blogs and photos once he could grow a beard, he’ll use whatever’s around him to create amazing stuff. When he’s not creating, he’s parenting, exploring and trying to make life as awesome as possible for everyone around him. Because a boring life’s not a life worth living!

14 thoughts on “A November to Remember, Verse 3: The Song of the Selfish”

  1. I typically get to see people when they are in pain, scared and at slow point, and generally I have found people to be self centered/family centered. Yes I do see exceptions, sadly those aren’t the ones I will usually remember. It’s the patient who comes into another patients room, in one instance it was a palliative patient, just to complain that the ice water wasn’t cold enough. I don’t think it’s the nor to do that, but I do think people will remember those instances more.

    1. Zach made some good points on his Facebook about how being selfish isn’t necessarily bad, it’s simply a tool for survival. The real issue is finding balance while surviving. To paraphrase further, those in the “developed world” are integrating being giving, donating, volunteering, etc. more often into the social fibre — which gives self-satisfaction, in itself a selfish act, but still helps the population as a whole. Not necessarily selfless, but selfishness doesn’t have to disadvantage everyone else.

      It’s definitely the norm to place importance on your priorities over those of everybody else, but the question is potentially in ensuring that our interests aren’t HARMING others rather than to forgo our very nature.

      These discussions always bring some interesting food for thought 🙂

  2. Hey Casey,

    I remember that night. I was there for a short while and I am so glad I left before the free for all.

    It was my first time attending “The Big GIve”. It was. Ok, I guess it’s not really my scene either. The cause is a good one though and I was glad to be able to help by buying a ticket and buying some raffle tickets.

    You’re right about the crazy 20lb gift bag, I could barely carry it to the car. I wasn’t there for the gift bag although it was a really nice touch. I was there to give to a great cause and enjoy some good friends company. COUGH… Casey…

    I broke down the gift bag and gave it away in 3 parts to people who made a donation to charity.
    We managed to raise some more money for charities. Every little bit helps.

    I also understand that not all people are that way AND not everyone announces the good that they do. I think there is more good in people than we know. I’ll just continue to live like selflessness is out there and given the opportunity more people would give than take.

    … I hope.

    1. LOL. Thank you, Christine Pantazis , for being there with me that night. You were one of the important reasons that I lasted as long as I did 🙂 (On that note, I need to edit the post to put the crew pictures in. Oops!)

      I definitely remember your post from a month ago (http://www.christinepantazis.com/the-big-give-2012-toronto-and-a-give-away/ — wow, it’s been a whole MONTH? For SHAME, Casey!) where you gave the goods away, and that’s what I’m talking about — that selflessness CAN exist.

      But Justin and Zach have me thinking — is selfishness so bad? Do we HAVE to equate it to a bad thing? Perhaps I should be working with a different set of measurements to measure good against bad.

      As long as it ultimately helps the population at large, I think I’m all for it.

      I may have opened a very confusing can of worms….

      1. 1) Thanks for the plug.
        2) Confusing indeed.
        – I suppose people can use their selfishness for good thus creating a whole new gray area that makes me wonder what might fall into it.

        Selfishness generally has a bad reputation but, I think I will need to re-examine my stance on the subject of selfishness and selflessness…

        Great… more to think about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *