PART VI ...AND EMBRACES PURE ALTRUISM
As the month draws to an end, I watch the bullies become less mean and the sore losers develop a little more grace. I wonder if they’ll turn back into little bastards, but I’m invested, more than I’d ever been. My own behaviour has changed, too. Some modifications are more meaningful than others. I swear less. I’ve increased my contributions to charity. And I’ve got an open invitation to return to the school.
I’ve also been nicer around my wife. One evening, I take her out to a restaurant. “I’m lucky to have you,” I tell her, having been careful not to mansplain the tiramisu. “You’re a great mother. I love you. And you look great in that dress.” She eyes me suspiciously. “This is an old dress,” she says. “You look great,” I repeat. “Are you still being nice for that article?” “I’m finished.” “Then stop being nice.” But I can’t. True selflessness is hard. Even the Jesuits don’t expect perfection. Marsh tells me that we use our own life experiences to infer everyone else’s motivations. This is called “egocentric bias”: “If we suspect that other people don’t believe in the possibility of true altruism,” she says, “this is probably related to our own disposition.”
In short, if we are all nicer, everyone benefits. We can live longer, happier and healthier lives, without having to devote ourselves to slavish goodness. I resolve to volunteer at the school again when the next term starts. Which should still give me plenty of time for a surfing holiday.
INDIVIDUAL GOODNESS CREATES A FEEDBACK LOOP…
BOTH GENEROSITY AND COMPETITIVENESS ARE HARD-WIRED – AND CAN COEXIST
…THAT NORMALISES SELFLESSNESS, SO WE ALL BENEFIT