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Altruism as Existence

20 February, 2012

2:34 pm
Alexandria, Virginia

Our existence is dependent on two conditions, which together, I call mutual validation. The idea here is for me to completely exist as a person I must be observed and I must be aware of the observation (that is, I must in turn observe the observation).

First, we must be observed. Our existence is only partial as long as people are unaware of the existence. Take my neighbours, for example, their behaviour should be dependent on the existence of the other people in the building. If they are aware of the others they limit the behaviour accordingly. Music is kept at a reasonable volume, voices are not unnecessarily raised, garbage is cleaned up. The awareness of the other means their behaviour is altered, in other words the other person’s existence is validated by the fact they have had direct influence on the neighbour’s behaviour. But if our neighbours play their music at excessive volume, leave trash outside the door, and they host an all night mosh pit and kegger in the hallway, then we don’t exist. They are not aware of us, we have no influence on their behaviour and we are as good as ghosted.

We see this also in discussions, for example a misogynist is telling a joke about women when he notices I am in the room and he elects not to tell the joke. My existence as a person, specifically a female person, has just been validated because it has had an impact on another person. If the misogynist told the joke to me in order to offend me, I would also exist because their behaviour has been altered, albeit negatively, by my presence. If, however, the misogynist is sitting at a table with a male colleague and me and he tells the joke to the male colleague without considering my potential reaction (positive or negative), I have been erased and thus do not exist.

It is also necessary for us to observe this acknowledgement. If we are not aware of the other person thinking of us then we have invalidated their existence. If their existence has been invalidated then there is nothing they can do to validate our existence, thus by denying the other person existence we deny ourself existence. So, if you are thinking of your Mum and she is thinking if you, you are engaged in mutual validation and are holding each other’s place in the world. But, if you are thinking of your mum and she is unaware of your thinking of her those thoughts have no substantial abilities, they do not impact the other person and have been erased, become non-existential.

I have not left my flat in three days. Because I have been unobserved by others my existence in the world is negated. I must interact with another being capable of perception to sustain my existence. So, I post a blog or a Facebook message. This message is seen by others and they reply or choose to “like” the post, which I then see. Now I exist, because I have had an impact outside of myself and I have observed the results of that impact, I have been validated and validated in return. Along those lines, when my cat is meowing for supper and I feed him, I again exist. But if I write someone and they do not respond, even though they have read the email, my existence is not sustained because I am unaware of the interaction with what I have put out as an extension of self. Likewise, should I choose to ignore the cat, his existence is denied and by denying him existence he is unable to validate my existence and thus through neglect of him I become less.

This speaks volumes to the idea of being in community and how we treat one another. When we assign value to the other person we are in turn assigning value to ourselves. By meeting another person where they are at we impact them, the impact is observed, and we observe the results of that impact. In other words altruism is literally the key to our survival, it affords the greatest possible positive reaction, which in turn gives us the greatest degree of validation and we exist as people.

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