“Do unto others what you want others to do to you” an extremely popular phrase which many of you, like me, follow.
We have always been taught that by following this phrase, we are being good people by valuing others’ welfare as we would want others to to value ours.
Personally, I treated this phrase as the backbone of my actions, believing that this made me a better and more considerate person – someone who places others before myself. Every action of mine and every advice I gave was rooted to this phrase, in the hopes of molding myself and the people around me to be the ideal selfless person.
Only later on in our Philosophy class’ discussion on Levinas’ Being Human, did I realize my mistake and how far from selfless I was being.
In our discussions of Totality, Infinity, and the difference between Decartes’ and Levinas’ positioning of the subject, I learned that the backbone of my “selfless” actions actually molded me to become more selfish. I would only offer my help to others, because this is what I wanted others to do to me. A going out of myself to the Other, only to return back to myself. All the while I believed that my actions were in support of the other, when in reality I was still at the center of it all.
True selflessness comes from being for other people regardless of their status, their beauty, and whatever they can offer you. True selflessness is to be of service to others without any motive other than for the benefit of others. To reach out your hand to someone, expecting a reward in return is not being selfless – to continue living this way and advising people to “do unto others what you want others to do to you” will never breed a society which is truly ethical.
The ill-fitting backbone of my actions, however, was replaced by a newer and better fitting ideal. “Be a person for others” as Sir Garcia would always remind us after almost every lecture. I never truly understood the meaning behind phrase, its deeper and much more beautiful meaning was introduced to me through our class’ discussion on Levinas’ Being Human. To be a person for others is to simply be there for the other person, with no catch, no assurance of any reward, no self-driven motive to come to another person’s aid. You are truly being there for the other person, acting as their base, supporting them for them wholly. This is what it means to be truly of service to another person.