Selfless vs Selfish

Proof 2

I’m a fan of TNT’s series Proof.

It employs actual Near Death Experiences reported to physicians by the patient after their heart stopped. The writers are not expanding facts into fantastical stories to make “better television.”

It had long been thought that when the heart stopped, the brain did shortly after, and the mind followed. Yet, thousands of cases have been recorded where the mind continued to record what it heard, felt, saw, smelled, and tasted after the heart stopped. It caught everything it would have while fully conscious. And in many cases reported things in the room others had not noticed or been privy to.

This week’s episode brought up a moral conundrum for me.

Negative or frightening imagery was rarely reported in NDEs. Most reported were filled with light and love, relatives to greet them, all things pleasant. So when the episode turned the dark corner, I was excited.

A killer, who murdered a police officer, had an NDE after flat-lining where he sees four young girls and the officer he killed. He’s afraid of what they want from him, and he shouts for one girl to go away and leave him alone. The killer knows his goose is cooked, and he’ll be spending the rest of his life in prison for his crime, so he shares the information with the doctor. Police automatically believe he killed them, too. How could he know where the bodies were otherwise?

His reason for surrendering the data was purely selfish – in hopes that it might score him a few points in the afterlife, so he might not spend eternity in, well, wherever he thought murderers went.

In general, I think we are all self-motivated, no matter how much we might enjoy putting others first or truly desire to help. Service at its core begins with self. We all have a self-driven motive for nearly everything we do. We only sell ourselves on the notion that we are self-sacrificing while we are also benefitting in some way. I think that is part of the human ego.

There was an episode of Friends where Phoebe made a bet with Joey that she could give away something to someone without receiving anything in return. Instead, she found that no matter what she selflessly offered, she received something for herself as well, even if was just feeling good.

phoebe

So what do you think? Is selflessness just selfishness in disguise? Is it possible to do anything for anyone without receiving something in return? And should a murderer be able to score a few points on the good side of his scorecard even though his motive was to serve himself?