What's bs about it? Altruism exists in abundance throughout the human race, and large parts of "nature".
@korsan - I doubt that anyone has ever accused you of that, have they?
A very wise man once said, "The shortest path to finding oneself, lies in losing oneself in the service of others."
Yes, duty, sacrifice, work. Somehow there's a lot to be said for them.
There are other keys to happiness. For example: "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women."
Don't leave out the sackful of kittens and the machette --
So how 'happy' do you want to be? Some might think that 24/7 reruns of 'I Love Lucy', or 'Dark Shadows' would be close. For me a life made up of brush fires, flat tires, and people that have nothing else better to do than collect action figures, would cause a crisis of meaning and the 'Walking Sickness'.
A 'good existence/life' defined as 'praying to God and honoring the sacrements', offers hardly a a reason to get out of bed, unless the sheets need to be washed..;p).
I have been happy, but it is not always possible to notice 'during that moment', without hindsight. Picking my strawberries, counting the tomatos coming on, and watching the progress of our squash, seems to influence my neural transmitters to create a 'happy moment', ahh, or 'damn a rotten berry!'
Staying away from 'civilization', as long as is reasonably possible, seems to increase my frequency of 'happy moments', but today having a small lunch wth local activitists, did seem to float my mood, even if that church run neighborhood garden was suffering heat stress and needed to be watered. After spending hundreds getting it planted, no one thought to factor in a 'green caregiver', argh! I will not volunteer, unless I get two plots for free!
Why does working in the sun, getting dirty, digging up tree stumps, seem to map to 'happiness', sometimes?
Why does watching our puppy resting quietly on the floor, at my feet, after her spay surgery this afternoon, pull at my heart strings? Bringing her home, in 100 degree weather, and watching her suffer in the heat, after her surgery, trying to get home before she dies of heat shock, pulled me out of my rather petty self-absorbtion even if only for an hour.....;-).
RE: "Staying away from 'civilization', as long as is reasonably possible, seems to increase my frequency of 'happy moments"
I am far from agoraphobic, but an hour or two away from my acre in the country sends me scurrying home. When I shop at Walmart, and find a fat lady blocking the isle where the product I want is located, with her shopping cart on one half of thee aisle, and her rear end on the other, and I have to go down yet another aisle, and come up the other side, just to get the product I want, sends me running back home.
What's wrong with the local general store?
Whar Ah live, Podner, they ain't no sech thang --
Forgive me not answering people's points right now, but I'm in a wi-fi caff with not much time. Here's my two pence worth for the time being. Assuming anyone gives a shoot.
It's not true that self-interest is always our ultimate motivation to behave altruistically. In other words, there are occasions when I will happily risk my own safety to help a stranger, specifically, a damsel in distress. Why do I do it? For the sake of the other person. What if I didn't do it? I would feel bad. What if I did do it, and was successful, and still ended up feeling bad? I would have succeeded. It's not my feelings that count, it is the safety of the lady concerned.
The important point is that if I did nothing and just sat back and let the badness take place, I would feel terrible. My self-respect would be in ruins and my conscience would be sorely hurting.
How did I get to this point? There must be features in my history which show me how important it is for the strong to protect the weak; and for men to protect women who are being abused. In other words, experience. The other important factors are strong moral views, courage, and the willingness to do something.
Without all these factors, I might fret about the situation vaguely, but would be likely to do nothing.
Not everybody is going to want to wade in, and that's fine. But it has been found that a person's experiences strongly affect their capacity to feel empathy. This makes perfect sense, and is almost self-evident. The other important factor is having strong moral views and knowing right from wrong.
How does someone get to this point without necessarily having relevant experience?
It would appear that teaching sound moral principles is the answer. More specifically, some very strong underlying philosophy. It is incomplete to say that people only act altruistically out of direct or indirect self-interest.
It is also necessary to teach a number of real-world examples: abstractions are not enough, they are not colourful, they are dry and boring and do not necessarily spring easily to most people's minds. Hence the very powerful parables of Jesus and the stories of particular moral incidents in his life.
Simon - I, too have altruistic tendencies, but there are those who say there is no such thing as an unselfish act. In your comment above, allow me to point out at least two examples that they might use to prove their point:
"I will happily risk my own safety to help a stranger, specifically, a damsel in distress."
Why a damsel in distress - why not an ugly, 300-pound man who wipes his nose on his shirt-sleeve? Because you enjoy expressions of gratitude from damsels, in which case, that is your reward and incentive.
And in the second instance: "if I did nothing and just sat back and let the badness take place, I would feel terrible." - the motivating factor would be your desire not to feel terrible.
But don't let any of that dissuade you - keep doing good things. It really doesn't matter why you do them. We're a world-wide family, and family sticks together. Except at Thanksgiving --