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“The evolution of cooperation is one of the ten most challenging problems of the century”
-Journal of Science
When looking at the idea of selfishness, we must consider its opposite, selflessness. A selfish individual logically should not cooperate with his peers, as serving his own interest should be his primary concern. The only reason for cooperation in this scenario would be if the cooperation somehow better served the individuals primary needs. When basic needs, food, water and shelter are considered as a problem, logic would produce selfishness as the solution.
Yet when we look at the world around us the evidence of cooperation is everywhere. From the eradication of smallpox which was claiming up to two million lives per year; to the Vienna Philharmonic orchestras 177-year history; humanity appears to cooperate constantly.
“The world says: ‘You have needs – satisfy them. You have as much right as the rich and the mighty. Don't hesitate to satisfy your needs; indeed, expand your needs and demand more.’ This is the worldly doctrine of today. And they believe that this is freedom. The result for the rich is isolation and suicide, for the poor, envy and murder.”
-Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Perhaps more than most, those in addiction understand the truth of this quote. Addiction is the fulfilment of one’s own needs regardless of the consequences and impact on others. It is by its very definition a selfish act. Then why are those in addiction often the most dissatisfied and in need of help? Should not the self-seeking lead to contentment, as the world would have us believe it is our needs that are most important and key to happiness? Obviously, something is missing.
As far back as Aristotle, society has attempted to answer this problem of cooperation. “The social animal” was an idea that humans cooperated because, as with bees, it was in their nature. One does not ask why bees work together; it is accepted as a part of their being. Therefore, if humans were viewed in the same light, it would make sense for them to cooperate. As our knowledge of bees and humans has increased, this theories flaws have surfaced. Firstly, bees cooperate because they are a family, with the Queen being the mother and the worker bees her children. Humans however cooperate with those outside of their family, often better than those within their family.
The attempts of academics and philosophers to explain cooperation all fall short. The studies do give us some interesting facts though. Studies show a link between self-centredness and addiction. They also show volunteering as a method of countering addiction in self-centred individuals. On a broader scale it has been shown that beyond a certain level wealth adds no happiness and in countries where the wealth gap is greatest, the wealthy are more unhappy. These four points all illustrate the flaw in selfishness and how pursuit of our own needs above others lead to individual and societal discontent.
So, what is the answer? We at Healing Wings believe the opposite of addiction is meaningful relationship. The connections we form that are of worth not only make life valuable, they counter the self-serving nature of addiction. That is why we focus heavily on restoring our resident’s family relationships. These earthly relationships are just the beginning though, true fulfilment and purpose can only come from a relationship with God.