A Life Lived for Others
Selfishness is our fatal flaw. All people are guilty of vaulting ambition to fulfil ones desire, an exorbitant aspiration for elevation. It is an instinctive tendency derived from innate human nature – the human condition thrives on prideful ways. Despite our reluctant acceptance of this foible, when evaluating this biblically rooted, epidemic of selfishness, we humans have not evolved much. Indeed, Lucifer, was cast from the Heavenlies as his ambition was to exceed God Himself, and from there, mankind followed suit. In fact, right now, your mind is probably too consumed with where you are to be next, running through your schedule, that I wouldn’t even be surprised if this speech is a blur to you.
Good Evening Mr Van der Vliet, Mr Elliott, dedicated teachers, parents, students and of course graduates of 2019. Despite undertaking six lessons a day, thirty lessons a week and six hundred lessons a year that each foster the Queensland Education Curriculum, the most valuable concept I have come to learn has stemmed from rather my experience with others these past years, that is; a life lived for others equates to true satisfaction – ironically, an ideology certainly not learnt from my ‘Pathways to Success’ textbook (that breathes merely numeracy, literacy and the ‘6 steps of how to ace your QCS test to ensure you top every other student’).
A 2011 survey conducted in the US, revealed that the second word most quickly adopted by babies – was the word ‘mine’. Perhaps, a modern audience may argue that this is merely due to a self-centred upbringing. However, the confronting truth is that we are all innately narcissistic. Even Mary Shelley’s historical tail of monsters – both inhumane and human, Frankenstein, surely seeps of this social ill, as reflected in the protagonist of Victor Frankenstein, whose self-centred nature reaps tragedy and his ultimate downfall. This human nature is inevitably reflected in modern society’s devotion to egotistical ways, from our Western culture that shouts materialism, to current political leaders. We have a tendency to put ourselves first, and others second. For instance, when you see a group photo, who is the first person you look for? Yourself, of course. Because if you look good, it’s a good photo. What others look like is irrelevant. Emotions such as selfless-love and humility, have little or no place in today’s utility functions; a narrow selfishness is pervasive.
However, contrary to the ways of our human condition and societal patterns, the most rewarding and fulfilling satisfaction in life, yet, derives not from the accomplishment of one’s hopes and objectives, but from the knowledge that one has helped others achieve theirs. This principle, is fundamental to individual success. It is the underlying reason that we can celebrate today – not of our individual achievements, but rather to find pleasure in the accomplishments of those around us. When we humble ourselves to acknowledge that a life worth living is a life devoted to those around us: family, friends and even strangers, we reap satisfaction in return.
During the brink of World War 2, Corrie Ten Boom’s rebellion against Nazi forces exemplified her seek for others that triumphed the toxic temptation of selfishness, through challenging selflessness – that ultimately reaped goodness in return. Irrespective of the dire consequences, Corrie’s fiery Christian faith kindled the fruition of a ‘hiding place’ for Jew fugitives and refugees from Nazi tyrants. Despite this leading to numerous years in Schevenigen Prison and Ravenbruck Concentration Camp, Corrie’s servant heart saw her sharing the Lord’s love among fellow prisoners, that sparked new faith in multiple lives of fellow prisoners.
Today, we are confronted with the choice of what to do with our independence. We may choose to live a life for ourselves – to invest our time, gifts and our minds in the construction of our own ambitious careers, thus living comfortably, avoiding having to get our hands dirty in the problems of people less fortunate than we. Perhaps we choose to get ahead in life, and leave others to fend for themselves. No one will despise us if we chose to live this way. In fact, it is what the world expects us to do. Thus, living for ourselves would pave the easy option – see success for ourselves. However, that is all it ever will be. Success sought for oneself cannot exceed oneself. It dies when you die. It cannot reproduce. Success sought for others however… is immortal. It manifests, time after time. It cannot spoil, perish or fade. Deeds done for others always outlive the initiator, words of encouragement echo into eternity.
Today marks the triumph of one challenge for us, as well as the inauguration of another. Today, on our departure, it is my desire that we would collectively find fulfilment in the knowledge that ‘only a life lived for others equates true satisfaction’, that despite the fact that we live in a society that valorises selfish paths, I challenge you to not conform to the patterns of this world, but to rise to the challenge of selflessness.
Year 12 Valedictory Speech