The practice of morality (çīla) consists in the observance of all moral precepts;
in feeling fear, shame and remorse at the smallest violation of any of them; in not
giving room for blame or disgust; in practicing those deeds wihch lead to moderation
and contentment, and in endeavouring to induce all human beings to abandon evil and
practise virtue. He alone truly practises morality, who desists from evil-doing
when the best opportunities present themselves for doing evil. In Buddhism the moral
life is of fundamental importance. Of all the pāramitās, the excellences which form
the means of arriving at Nirvana, the çīla pāramitā is the foundation.
P. Lakshmi Narasu – “The Essence of Buddhism”
Alternative version – a Buddhist story
You’re driving down the road in your car on a wild and stormy night. The weather
is like a hurricane, with heavy rains, high winds, and lightning flashing constantly.
You arrive at a partially covered bus stop, where you find three people:
Your long term partner (your perfect “soul mate”) whom you arranged to meet at the
bus stop, and who is about to dump you unless you finally start paying them proper
attention and doing right by them.
A stranger, an old woman, who looks ill, as if she might be about to die.
A loyal friend of yours who once saved your life, who is presently trying to look
after the old lady, and happens to desperately need a lift into town for a separate
Knowing that you only have room for one passenger in your (two-seater) car, what
would you do? And why?
Can you please everyone? Can you give everyone what they need? Can this situation
be resolved to everyone's satisfaction?
The old lady’s needs are great and pressing, and your friend also needs to get into
town immediately. So hand the car over to your friend so that he can drive the old
lady to hospital. Stay behind with your soul mate. Probably ask your friend to
come back with your car later, so that you and your paramour can drive away together,
leaving your friend back at the bus stop. Alternatively, if it is reasonably convenient,
give him a lift where he needs to go, and then go back for your soul mate.
Why do it? Motivations to follow Perfect Compassion
“moral” reasons – evolved ethical instincts of right and wrong.
What began life as strategic motivations, in ancient times, when the uniquely human
moral sense first began to evolve, has been codified in our DNA as a set of emotional
instincts of right and wrong and supporting physiology and behaviour.
... the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also
bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even
Paul the Apostle – Romans 2:15
The fact (as argued below) that “the requirements of the law are written on their
hearts” – both parts, the Healing Principle and Perfect Compassion, are intuitive
– means that it is easy to motivate well-meaning people to behave well, simply by:
1) reminding them of the basic ethical attitude; 2) making it easy for them to carry
Perfect Compassion can be seen as an alternative definition of fairness: of ensuring
that everyone in a given situation (i.e. the one that you create with your actions)
is treated as they deserve.
Helping in response to need is conceptually simple (empathy and compassion), but
fairness is complicated and depends on a number of other principles.
Perfect Compassion incorporates the following principles:
Fairness – aiming to ensure that all concerned should reasonably be happy with the
Personhood – personhood refers to the way that somebody is treated by others – they
are treated as a person, or not treated as a person. More specifically, it refers
to an ideal way that we would all like to be treated by others. Abstractly, following
the maximising ethic of the Healing Principle, this ideal way must be with the maximum
benefit and minimum harm available to us.
What makes people want to treat us this way? Empathy. Others can instinctively
understand that, like them, we want to maximise our own thriving, we cherish this
thriving, and we need this cherishing of our thriving to be respected.
This idea of personhood therefore contains, perhaps, three needs: the need to thrive,
the need for others to respect our need to thrive, and the need for others to respect
our cherishing of our thriving.
Self-other equivalence – the feeling that another human being is equivalent to ourselves
in some fundamental way. Evolutionarily speaking, this is thought to have evolved
within the original primal scenario of cooperation starting with Homo erectus (or
another of the first human species) 2 million years ago. In the daily struggle to
survive on the savannah, by cooperatively scavenging, hunting and gathering, it would
have been clear that for each task, there were ways of doing it that were better
or worse, successful or unsuccessful; and that there were certain clearly defined
roles within each task. It would also have become clear that any competent person
could fulfil a particular role: that roles, and the right way to fulfil them, were
fixed by the combination of physical reality and the need to survive; but that people
were relatively interchangeable within the great cooperative enterprise. Therefore,
in some fundamentally impartial sense, people began to be seen as equivalent.
Mutual respect – before society existed, before the modern fully developed human
morality existed, perhaps 2 million years ago at the start of the human family tree,
human morality was evolving into existence within the context of ad-hoc cooperation.
Two of the essential features of cooperation are: 1) interdependence: I need you
and you need me. 2) partner choice: I can pick and choose who I cooperate with (from
a somewhat limited pool of potential partners) based on how competent and reliable
they are. The result is that each potential partner has an inherent value for, and
a bargaining power with, other partners. Coupled with self-other equivalence, this
recognition of “your” value to “me”, and that “I” need to satisfy “your” requirements,
otherwise “you” can easily pick someone else, led to a feeling of mutual respect
as equals between cooperative partners.
Equal deservingness – another essential feature of cooperation is how to divide up
the rewards at the end. In pure classical cooperation, free riders must be excluded
from receiving any of the rewards because they have not contributed to any of the
effort. This immediately implies that those who cooperated do deserve the rewards.
Coupled with self-other equivalence and mutual respect, this deservingness meant
that each cooperative partner was able to demand their “fair” share of the rewards
– a share that everyone concerned was satisfied with. Commonly, this means an equal
share, but it can also mean a share proportionate to the effort one has put in.
Responsibility for your actions – within the human sense of right and wrong, this
is probably the key motivation for Perfect Compassion. We presume it is one of the
psychological adaptations that has evolved in humans to support cooperation.
In order for a cooperative mission to be successful, there has to be a joint commitment
by all concerned: to play one’s part as diligently and competently as possible; to
see the project through to the end; to help one’s partners along the way; and to
share the rewards fairly and to everyone’s mutual satisfaction, considering the self-other
equivalence, mutual respect and equal deservingness. Without a firm commitment from
all concerned, it may be too risky to begin the mission or venture, and nobody succeeds.
The result, in modern-day psychological terms, is that the need to make a firm commitment
to cooperative partners is internalised, and as a part of regulating ourselves in
the direction of cooperation, we feel a sense of responsibility for our actions.
In Perfect Compassion, this sense of responsibility and accountability translates
into a certain kind of targeted helping: helping in response to the possible need
created by your actions. More to the point, this is helping in response to the need
not to create a bad situation in the first place: the need of the person to thrive;
the need to maximise available benefit and minimise available harm.
Through your actions, you contribute to conditions which lead to benefit or harm
in others. It is you who will properly be held accountable for your part in this.
If you have harmed someone when you did not need to, or even failed to benefit them
when they needed it and you could have helped, you can personally expect to run foul
of people’s sense of right and wrong.
Targeted helping is a necessary part of collaborating with others, as the participants
need to help each other to achieve a common goal; and it is in our own interests
to keep our collaborative partners healthy for when we need them again in the future.
Nearly all mammals and birds engage in targeted helping in the form of caring for
their offspring. In humans, this behaviour is extended to friends and cooperative
partners, and as the cooperative groups within which we live have grown larger and
larger, so this ethic of helping in response to need has been applied to a wider
and wider circle of people.
In this context, the helping is in response to someone’s need to be treated as a
person (to have their biological need to thrive respected).
Empathy – in order for this formula to function properly, it is necessary to determine
what someone’s needs are, and, given that their needs are X determines how you should
act in order to maximise the resulting benefit and minimise the resulting harm to
Empathy is linked in the brain to taking action: when we recognise need, and if we
approve of the person, then we are motivated to try to help them, even if we do not
ultimately act on that motivation.
Cooperative identity (reputation) – this is another essential feature of cooperation,
a result of partner choice and the possibility of not being chosen. We all need
to be trusted and liked, as this makes it easier to find people to help us cooperatively
through life. A cooperative identity is the way in which we are seen by others as
a potential cooperative partner. It is clearly to the individual’s advantage to
maintain a good cooperative identity: a good reputation. This public cooperative
identity is internalised into a personal cooperative identity, an ideal view we have
of ourselves that we feel a need to live up to for the sake of self-respect.
The Golden Rule – “treat others as you would like to be treated”. Perfect Compassion
incorporates and generalises the Golden Rule. It changes the standard by which behaviour
is judged from one’s own subjective experience into something more general: thriving
or not thriving. It is also more precise and targeted in that it specifies the primary
The Platinum Rule – “treat others as you think they should be treated”. Perfect
Compassion incorporates and generalises the Platinum Rule. Again, the Platinum Rule
is explicitly subjective and local: the standard is what “you” think someone needs.
Perfect Compassion is more abstract and general, yet more precise and detailed,
and intuitive, since it relies on the universal, abstract value/goal of maximising
Perfect Compassion, duty, and respect
The evolved instinct of the duty that we feel to act with Perfect Compassion is of
the duty to treat others with respect. Treating others with respect means respecting
their need to thrive, which in turn means helping in response to their need to thrive,
by ensuring that one’s actions affect them with the maximum benefit and minimum harm.
Intentions, actions, consequences
Any action can be said to have three phases: intention, action, consequences. Intentions
need to be made conscious so that they can be examined. If you think you are helping
in response to need – whose need are you helping in response to? Yours or theirs?
Sometimes if we feel strong emotion we can be caught up in anger or greed.
... dopamine-related neural pleasure centers in human brains are stimulated when
someone acts generously or responds to a generous act.
Sarah Blaffer Hrdy – “Mothers and Others – the evolutionary origins of mutual understanding”
we feel a “warm glow”, a pleasurable feeling, at improving the plight of others
Frans de Waal – “The Age of Empathy”
Without prosocial emotions, we would all be sociopaths, and human society would not
exist, however strong the institutions of contract, governmental law enforcement,
Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis – “Origins of Human Cooperation”
If you use Perfect Compassion in your actions, and if people notice, they are likely
to approve of your behaviour. If you don’t use it, people are likely to disapprove.
If you use it habitually, other people are likely to think of you as a good person
and want to be around you and help you when you need it. This is especially true
if you have those special extra ingredients: strength, courage, and wisdom (knowledge
of how to produce the best results).
If you habitually fail to use it, other people are likely to see you as a problem
and to avoid you and not feel like helping you if you need it. Again, a lack of
courage is seen as letting the side down.
This all depends on being surrounded by people who “know what’s what” and who try
to live up to good values – i.e. people whose opinion you can respect.
Benefits for your own environment
We would all like to live in a caring environment. Kindness spreads by reciprocity.
“If all are cared for, then I am cared for.”
Perfect Compassion causes the least possible trouble for everyone around you, and
the maximum positivity.
Doing what’s right
To follow Perfect Compassion means to satisfy the most primitive of our evolved moral
principles: our own and others’ most fundamental moral sense.
Valuing each person
Perfect Compassion upholds the idea that each person is inherently valuable in their
own right: as a self-generating source of flourishing, which a normally empathic
person instinctively respects. In using it we respect the dignity of the individual
and the fact that each of us cherishes our own flourishing.
If you treat people badly when you don’t need to, they WILL want to get their revenge
in some way, even if they eventually decide to forgive you and move on.
He who loves others, must also be loved by others. He who benefits others, must
also be benefited by others. He who hates others, must also be hated by others.
He who injures others, must also be injured by others.
Mo Tzu, 479–381 BC
A good reputation is your best friend: difficult to earn, easy to lose.
Perfect Compassion carries and bestows moral authority, since from the point of view
of kindness, fairness, and respect, it is impossible to improve on it.
Because we are human beings, it is psychologically hard on a normal individual to
behave unnecessarily negatively towards those around them.
Cicero gave this speech to the Roman Senate in 63 BC, about Cataline who had been
plotting to overthrow the government:
You came a little while ago into the senate; in so numerous an assembly; who of so
many friends and connections of yours saluted you? If this in the memory of man
never happened to anyone else, are you waiting for insults by word of mouth, when
you are overwhelmed by the most irresistible condemnation of silence? Is it nothing
that at your arrival all those seats were vacated? That all the men of consular
rank, who had often been marked out by you for slaughter, the very moment you sat
down, left that part of the benches bare and vacant? With what feelings do you think
you ought to bear this? On my honour, if my slaves feared me as all your fellow
citizens fear you, I should think I must leave my house. Do you not think you should
leave the city?
The point is not that your slaves might murder you. But can you really count on
the loyalty and goodwill of those whom you may have treated less than properly? How
might it make you feel, if you are surrounded by people you have wronged? Insecure,
under attack, miserable?
It makes us feel stronger to treat others properly, since the whole point of morality
is mutual thriving.
You may knowingly do something wrong but think it doesn’t matter because it seems
relatively trivial (or you imagine you won’t get caught). However, “no good comes
of no good”, and all it takes is an unlucky line-up of circumstances, and the negative
consequences of your action can become amplified and spiral out of control, and possibly
ruin your life or that of someone else.
Actions and consequences
When we act, we have no way of knowing for sure how the consequences will turn out.
How do we ensure the best possible results?
“a policy for achieving your goals” – Ayn Rand
Virtues such as strength, courage, wisdom, kindness, sensitivity, moderation, etc.
uphold and support our efforts to do what we think is right. A virtue is a skill
that is learned through repeated practice.
There are perhaps two kinds of self-control relevant to morality.
Cooperative self-regulation. We monitor and regulate our own behaviour to ensure
that we are good cooperators and team players, and we attempt to manage our reputations.
Moderation and self-restraint. Thriving – feeling good – is classified into the
short term and long term. When our emotions are running high – when certain goals
are first and foremost in our attention, and we very much want or don’t want something
– there is a lot of pressure to feel good right now, in the short term, by achieving
that goal or having that thing. Right now, for example, I might really want a triple
whisky. But I have to attend an important job interview in an hour’s time. So it
makes sense in the long term for me to save the drink for after the interview.
Avoid the “unwholesome roots”
An inordinate and insatiable desire. Wanting something too much, not being able
to let go.
A desire to cause unnecessary harm.
Not being in full possession of the facts.
No good comes of no good.
Buddhism teaches that the unwholesome roots are like “seeds of destruction” that
will lead to the eventual failure of whatever you are trying to do.
Don’t be a fool to yourself
You have rights too. It’s foolish to let yourself get taken advantage of, or exploited.
Compassionate outcome: aim for the compassionate outcome where everyone stays friends
and the least possible damage is done in the long term.
God's love, the Healing Principle: help yourself. Help God to help you, as it were.
Practice self-compassion. Take positive steps to improve your life. Nurture and
grow yourself, and others, like flowers.
Reciprocity and forgiveness: tit for tat. People tend to treat you how you treat
them. What you do to or for someone, they will want to return in kind. If someone
does you a favour you feel obliged to return it. If you do someone wrong, you feel
obliged to put it right. The optimum strategy for reciprocity is to start off nice,
and then to forgive, most of the time, but not all the time, when people transgress.
Fairness: equality (supposedly favoured by women) which means everyone gets the
same; proportionality (supposedly favoured by men) which means everyone gets what
they "deserve" or have "earned". Fairness implies impartiality, that each person
deserves equal respect as a human being. All beings want to be happy.
Duty and integrity: have good morals. Be straight. The consequences of failing
to have good morals can be disastrous and the consequences of even a small lapse
can easily spiral out of control. Follow your conscience even when nobody will know.
Keep your word.
All I have in this world is my b***s and my word, and I don’t break ‘em for no one.
Tony Montana – “Scarface”
Make your word your bond. Do what you said you were going to do.
Self-control: this is all about short term versus long term consequences. It is
best not to ruin your long-term chances for short term gain. A mature ego can exercise
delayed gratification for the sake of long term benefits.
Emotional self-control: life is better if we can handle difficult emotions, and
we are more reliable and trustworthy.
Short and long term consequences: what we want in the short term may conflict with
what we want in the long term. The short term only lasts a short while, but the
long term lasts for a significant portion of your life. A decision may come down
to a trade-off between different possible courses of action.
Good manners: use good manners, to put others at their ease and to show that you
have self-control, kindness and decency. Be good-natured. It is easier on people’s
nerves, and an act of compassion.
Whoever will thrive, must be courteous, and begin in his youth.
(includes two passages of modern English translation)
Generosity: be generous. Celebrate God’s love. Have a little party with God’s
love. Human beings are a generous species. Spontaneous giving and helping are a
fundamental part of human nature.
Generosity, and the ability to handle difficult emotions calmly, sends the message
to people that you care about, that you have their back when it’s necessary.
generosity ... is at the heart of give and take in human attachments.
Penny Spikins – “How Compassion Made Us Human – the evolutionary origins of tenderness,
trust & morality”
Gratitude: practice gratitude.
Gratitude is free happiness.
Intentions: make sure your intentions are free from “mental defilements” (greed,
hatred and ignorance, according to Buddhism). No good comes of no good.
Insight: truth, information, awareness, understanding, empathy (mind-reading) –
have them. These are needed to understand a situation or a person. Take an intelligent
long-term view of a situation.
Don’t let yourself be exploited, abused or taken advantage of. If you can take harmless
evasive action, then do so. Make the most of the situation to stay happy and peaceful
at any cost; or rather, at the least cost to yourself and your loved ones.
Admitting when you’re wrong: you get respect for being able to say you’re wrong,
and none for trying to pretend you’re right when you know you’re not. To admit that
you’re wrong saves everyone time and trouble, including yourself.
Good grace: whether you win or lose, do it with good grace. Don’t give somebody
a hard time about it either way.
Kindness to strangers: we should all be kind to strangers and people who mean nothing
to us, because then they may be kind to us. Even if they are not, we all want to
live in a world where everyone is kind to strangers and those to whom they feel indifferent.
The Stakeholder Principle and interdependence
friendship and other enduring cooperative relationships
... friends in the stone age depended on one another for their very survival. Humans
lived in close-knit communities, and friends were people with whom you went hunting
mammoths. You survived long journeys and difficult winters together. You took care
of one another when one of you fell sick, and shared your last morsels of food in
times of want. Such friends knew each other more intimately than many present-day
Perhaps it is time to abandon the idea that individuals faced with others in need
decide whether to help, or not, by mentally tallying up costs and benefits. These
calculations have likely been made for them by natural selection. Weighing the consequences
of behavior over evolutionary time, it has endowed primates with empathy, which ensures
that they help others under the right circumstances.
If I depend on you, it means that you do something I need.
If you depend on me at the same time, it is called interdependence.
In the early history of humans, it would have made practical sense from the point
of view of each individual to help the others upon whom they depended to live. An
expression to describe this “stakeholder” model of altruism has been proposed:
s × B > C
“I will help you when the benefit I gain from your well being is greater than the
cost I incur in helping you.”
B = your well being
s = my stake in your well being (how much I need you, from 0-100%)
> is greater than
C = my cost
The left hand side shows the benefit to me (s × B), and the right hand side shows
the cost to me, C.
Plausibly, it is these ancient conditions of tight interdependence that have led
to the evolution of the generalised altruistic instincts of modern human beings.
In ancient times, “everyone around me” was valuable to me.
In present day terms, dependence implies a situation where “what’s good for you is
good for me”.
P loves Q if Q‘s happiness is necessary for P’s happiness.
Outside of the family, personal loyalty somehow has to be earned, and the quickest
way to do that is to be someone who is an asset to the lives of others by behaving
in a prosocial and moral fashion.
The implications are that, within a two-way relationship:
I help myself by being unselfish and helpful to another. It is worth my while to
invest in the person I depend on.
I help myself by being trustworthy, reliable, and non-exploitative.
Only know that I love strength in my friends and greatness.
... individuals should help friends without looking for a contingent return: ‘instead
of being cheated, the primary risk is experiencing a world increasingly devoid of
deeply engaged social partners or sufficiently beneficial social partners or both’.
Gilbert Roberts (University of Newcastle upon Tyne) – “Cooperation through interdependence”
This expression, the Stakeholder Model, is a version of Hamilton’s Rule, which deals
with a similar situation from the viewpoint of genetic relatedness. Both versions,
if you think about it, are from the point of view of “inclusive fitness”.
Hamilton’s Rule states that an organism will help its relatives to the degree that
they are genetically related, because the more they are related, the more genes they
share, and in helping its relatives, the organism is helping its own genes to survive.
Hamilton’s Rule is given as
r × B > C
“I will help you when the amount by which it benefits the genes we share is greater
than the cost I incur in helping you”.
B = your benefit
r = the proportion of genes that we share
> is greater than
C = my cost
“Ultimate” and “proximate” motivations –
ancient evolution and modern psychology
The original reasons why a motivation evolved are separate from the way we experience
that motivation in everyday life today. When dealing with our friends and family,
we tend not to consciously make detailed calculations of cost and benefit like those
above. Instead, we just feel good about helping them freely without any real thought
Self-interest and the interests of others
You have the duty to yourself and others to take care of yourself and your own interests.
If you don’t help yourself, no-one else can help you, since they are trying to fill
a bottomless vessel.
Inclusive fitness: your genes are designed for you to take care of yourself and
your loved ones. Morality does not make sense otherwise (if each is required to
give more to others than themselves, what right do others have to take from them?
This would need a specialised army of helpers.). Inclusive fitness is the way the
world works, and kindness and service to strangers is a thing of beauty, and necessary
in our modern interdependent world.
Even from a practical point of view, for someone to develop genuine compassion towards
others, first he or she must have a basis upon which to cultivate compassion, and
that basis is the ability to connect to one’s own feelings and to care for one’s
own welfare. If one is not capable of doing that, how can one reach out to others
and feel concern for them? Caring for others requires caring for oneself.
... just as you have the spontaneous wish to be happy and overcome suffering, so
does every other being, in equal measure. ... This basic aspiration arises in us
simply by virtue of the fact that we are conscious living beings. Together with
this aspiration comes a conviction that I, as an individual, have a legitimate right
to fulfil my aspiration. If we accept this, then we can relate the same principle
to others and we will realize that everyone else shares this basic aspiration too.
Therefore, if I as an individual have the right to fulfil my aspiration, then others,
too, have the right to fulfil theirs. It is on these grounds that one has to recognize
the fundamental equality of all beings.
... I can tell you that when I practice altruism and care for others, it immediately
makes me calmer and more secure.
... one of the by-products of helping others is that you also benefit yourself.
... when we talk about altruism and about others' well-being, we should not imagine
this means totally rejecting our own self-interest, neglecting ourselves or becoming
some passive non-entity. This is a misunderstanding. In fact, the kind of altruism
that focuses on the well-being of others comes about as a result of a very courageous
state of mind, a very expansive attitude and a strong sense of self - so much so
that the person is capable of challenging the self-cherishing self-centredness that
tends to rule our life. In order to do that, we need to have a strong sense of self
and genuine courage because these tendencies seem so deeply embedded in us.
I think it's very important not to misunderstand what is meant in the Buddhist teachings
by the idea of overcoming our self-cherishing attitudes. We are not saying that
a spiritual practitioner should completely ignore or abandon the goal of self-fulfilment,
rather we are advising him or her to overcome that small-minded selfishness that
makes us oblivious to the well-being of others and to the impact our actions can
have on them. It is this kind of selfishness that is being targeted, not the kind
of selfishness that seeks fulfilment of one's deeper interests.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama – “Transforming the Mind – Eight verses on generating
compassion and transforming your life”
The teaching “love thy neighbour as thyself” is not only vague, but may also lead
to mischievous consequences. If a man love himself meanly, childishly, timidly,
even so shall he love his neighbour. If a man hate himself, it must follow that
he hate others too. The teaching of Buddhism is definite, and requires us to love
ourselves with a love that is healthy and wise, that is large and complete. To be
effectually generous one must have a confident, tranquil and clear comprehension
of all that one owes to one’s self. If you are asked to love your enemy and return
good for evil, it is because, as the Bodhicharyavatara says, “an enemy is one who
is capable of helping you to acquire bodhi, if you can only love him.” One should
hate hatred and not the person who hates him. This does not mean that one should
show the left cheek, when smitten on the right, but it means that we must fight evil
with good. Passive non-resistance of evil is no morality at all. The meekness of
the lamb is praiseworthy, but if it could lead only to becoming a prey to the rapacity
of the tiger, it is not worth possessing.
... A sound, good, fruitful self-love is the necessary basis for every virtue, and
therefore also for a true, sound, good and fruitful love to others.
P. Lakshmi Narasu – “The Essence of Buddhism”
Of course, the implication of the above formula is that even if nobody else is involved
in our actions, the imperative of the Healing Principle means that we should act
compassionately towards ourselves.
A loves A when A is necessary for A’s happiness.
Researcher Kristen Neff has found that self-compassion tends to make us more resilient,
while cultivating self-esteem tends to make us brittle and self-cherishing in an
A story is told of a farmer who grew award-winning corn. Each year, he entered his
corn in the state fair where it won a blue ribbon. One year a newspaper reporter
interviewed him and learned something interesting about how he grew it. The reporter
discovered that the farmer shared his seed corn with his neighbors.
“How can you afford to share your best seed corn with your neighbors when they are
entering corn in competition with yours each year?” The reporter asked.
“Why sir?” said the farmer, “didn’t you know? The wind picks up pollen from the ripening
corn and swirls it from field to field. If my neighbors grow inferior corn, cross
pollination will steadily degrade the quality of my corn. I must help my neighbors
grow good corn.”
If we are to grow good corn, we must help our neighbors grow good corn. That is the
connectedness of life. We often get too engrossed in our own success that we forget
those around us and their impact in our progress.
James Wong: Plants don’t just communicate through their root system, but also through
the air by emitting fragrances: volatile organic compounds, in geek-speak.
That's something that Prof. Karban has been studying, particularly with sage brush
plants reacting to insects. ... so what were the plants ‘talking’ about, in inverted
Prof. Richard Karban: The information that is being conveyed is information about
the risk of herbivory.
James Wong: In other words, being nibbled by a plant-eating animal.
Prof. Richard Karban: And plants that are receiving this information are then able
to change their defenses so that they receive less, primarily, chewing damage from
a variety of different insects that chew their leaves.
James Wong: The fact that the message about an insect was not only received but
acted upon is important, because some scientists argue that communication isn't communication
unless there was a beneficial response in the receiver. And that's not just limited
to fighting off insects, as Rick Karban found:
Prof. Richard Karban: Plants that have received cues from their neighbours were
able to produce more new branches and more flowers than plants that hadn’t received
these cues, so that the plants that were receiving the cues were benefiting from
James Wong: ... research has also shown that plants could have a potentially huge
vocabulary of different aromas that they can emit. This may not just be for threats,
but also to synchronise other behaviour.
Prof. Ariel Novoplansky: Some chemical is being emitted by the roots of blooming
plants, picked up in some cases by neighbours, which join them in accelerated blooming,
compared to a situation in which their neighbours are not blooming. My neighbour
is my partner for reproduction, right.
James Wong: The more chance of your neighbour flowering means that from a distance
you’re a more colourful patch, that means the pollinators are more likely to go to
you if you're not the only one flowering.
Prof. Ariel Novoplansky: Yes, and this gives you a higher chance of avoiding the
need to reproduce with your own cells. This is something that humans or mammals
cannot do, but plants can. They can pollinate themselves, and if they don’t have
neighbours, then some of them some of the time pollinate themselves, which we call
‘selfing’. In the case that you have neighbours, it's always better to have sex
with somebody else.
Givers dominate not only the top of the success ladder but the bottom, too, precisely
because they risk exploitation by takers.
The fact is, me-first behavior is highly adaptive in certain professional situations,
just like selflessness is in others. The question is, why — and, for those inclined
to the instrumental, how can you distinguish between the two?
But the study also points toward a bigger and more general qualification of the advantage
to being a jerk: should something go wrong, jerks don’t have a reserve of goodwill
to fall back on.
being a jerk will fail most people most of the time.
“I think you can be tough, as long as you’re not toxic,”
He believes that the most effective people are “disagreeable givers”—that is, people
willing to use thorny behavior to further the well-being and success of others.
“The hardest thing that I struggle to explain to people is that being a giver is
not the same as being nice.”
The distinction that needs to be made is this: Jerks, narcissists, and takers engage
in behaviors to satisfy their own ego, not to benefit the group. Disagreeable givers
aren’t getting off on being tough; they’re doing it to further a purpose.
Definition of Goodness:
also known as
a general ethical formula
Arguably, the two most fundamental ethical principles of the human race are kindness
(helping in response to need), and fairness (making sure that everyone in a given
situation is given what they deserve). We “ought” to be kind, we “ought” to be fair.
They are the two ethical principles that support mutual thriving or cooperation:
helping in response to need is the basic transaction involved, whose currency is
benefit/harm or thriving; and fairness means that all concerned are happy with their
treatment, which motivates them to cooperate in the future.
Morality comes into play only when we interact with others – when our actions affect
others. If we combine, abstractly, the individual, universal and maximising ethical
properties of the Healing Principle, with the ethic of concern for others, then it
must logically follow that a general ethical formula should state that each person
affected by our actions, including ourselves, is to receive the maximum benefit and
minimum harm available to them.
In other words, this formula assumes only the ethical values of personal thriving,
and concern for the well being of others.
The ego is the part of you that looks after you and enables you to do things to help
yourself. What your ego does for you, it can also do for others. In that case we
can say that your ego has been expanded.
“Benefit / harm” from the perspective of the ego
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul
and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second
is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang
on these two commandments.”
Jesus – Matthew 22:37–40
He is not a believer who eats his fill while his neighbour remains hungry by his
The Prophet Mohammed, peace and blessings be upon Him
A man is not a great man because he is a warrior and kills other men; but because
he hurts not any living being he in truth is called a great man.
Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations
of strength and resolutions.
Least said, soonest mended.
A week later Swagger rang me. He had bumped into a deflated Tuggy Tug on the street.
He had nowhere to sleep and nothing to eat. Swagger had only £10 in his pocket
but nonetheless he bought a takeaway for them both and took Tuggy Tug back to his
flat for the night. As I put down the phone, I heard Tuggy Tug complaining, ‘I don’t
even want this dry chicken, blud. I can’t eat this dried food,’ and Swagger laughing
at him. ‘Content now? Is your belly content?’
I thought of the many successful men I knew; men of whom the world approved and rightly
rewarded; men who moved people with their oratory; knowledgeable men who could fathom
future trends and who set up foundations for the poor; men who would never steal
a fridge. How many, down to their last £10, would have taken in Tuggy Tug – and
done it with love?
Harriet Sergeant – “Among the Hoods – my years with a teenage gang”
Making kids say bonjour isn't just for the benefit of grown-ups. It's also to help
kids learn that they're not the only ones with feelings and needs.
‘It avoids selfishness,’ says Esther, who dragged out her daughter – an adorable,
doted-on only child – to say goodbye to me. ‘Kids who ignore other people, and don’t
say bonjour or au revoir, they just stay in their bubble ... When will they get the
sense that they are there to give, not just to receive?’
Pamela Druckerman – “French Children Don't Throw Food”
think about other people besides yourself
think about the long term
practise virtue – good habits learned through practice
Colorado police officer who comforted toddler at scene of fatal car crash sang her