12.17.18 - " The Gift You Give To The World"

Dear sweet babe,

Today I want to talk to you about selfishness

New York City is a selfish city. People will shove you out of the way to get to their destination faster. People will listen to loud music and smoke in the subway cars. People will walk in a line blocking the entire sidewalk just so they can better chat with their huge family. People will do and say whatever they want, whenever they want because “ay! It’s New York, asshole!”
But, don’t let that confuse or scare you, sweet babe: the whole world is like that.
There will be terribly selfish people everywhere you go…there just happen to be a greater concentration in New York, as we are a small island with thousands of people. But, there will be people who will disregard you and hurt you in their pursuits of their own fulfillment everywhere. These kind of people just exist, and there is no escaping that.

So, let’s talk all about them!

I would like to start by having you imagine being young (considering how old you are now, this shouldn’t be too difficult). I would like you to imagine that you don’t know a lot about how the world works. You don’t know how food becomes energy, or why clouds turn into rain, or how people make movies and write books, or even why breathing is so important. You just do what others tell you to do, and then you hope that it will all turn out for the best. Everyone around you seems very invested in how and why you do things. Your mama and papa are always giving you directions, your teachers give you assignments, and, maybe, even your guncle is writing a year-long series of pieces that are all about telling you how to live your life. It begins to seem like the whole world is very interested in you.
So, you become very interested in yourself. You begin to realize that you are changing on a daily basis, with new knowledge shaping how you see the world. You spend most of your time trying to understand these changes you’re going through and wondering about what kind of person you’re turning into, and how you feel about that, and how you feel about everything else in the world. You are enamored with all of the choices you see that you get to have about art, and philosophy, and politics, and society. You are so focused on all of yourself that you forget to think of others. You’re being selfish.

You see how easy it can be?

Now, you’re not a terrible person for occasionally being selfish, but there is a definite line between being self-interested and selfish. That line is listening. When someone is talking with you, where does your attention lie? When you’re walking down the street, what is your focus on? Listening is an empathetic act. It requires that we take time away from focusing on ourselves and our own impulses and drives, and direct that focus outward. So, when you’re having a chat with someone, are you focused on what you’d like to say next, or on what this person is telling you with their words, their body language and their tone? When you’re walking down the street are you focused on where you have to get to and what just happened, or what you imagine will happen next, or are you listening to the mother who’s struggling to get her stroller onto the curb, or the homeless person who just wants a bite to eat from the deli, or the tourists who are wondering how to get to Madison Square Garden? Where does your focus lie?

You will have moments of selfishness, sweet babe. You may even have long stretches of time when you feel like you need to be selfish. I’d encourage you to take that time as your growth time, and when you’re done with your growing, don’t forget to come back to listening. Your selfish time is sacred to you, but your selfless time is the gift you give to the world.


Erik SchneiderComment