In these modern days we hear much talk about "enlightened self-interest." Yet few understand what enlightened self-interest really is and how it serves relationships. These are understandings I want to gain.
Whose interest do people believe I can act in?
One alternative which does not serve relationships is attempting to sacrifice myself or my values for the good of others, known as "altruism." In the first place, altruism is impossible because we are all in this together. What is truly good for one is good for all. What is truly good for all is good for one. I literally cannot sacrifice myself or my true interests without hurting everyone.
Another alternative which does not serve relationships is pursuing my ego-vested interests, or the ego-vested interests of any number of people. As this course has repeatedly pointed out, the ego's interests are ultimately sickness, suffering, pain, and death.
That leaves the final alternative: non-ego or enlightened self-interest.
Those who feel drawn to expanding awareness of their spirit (with less and less intellectualizing) would say one's real or spiritual Self (with a capital "S") is already enlightened and has an interest in mind that is not related to the ego-vested interests of one's earthly persona.
Those who feel drawn to intellectualizing might use the term "rational self-interest" and would probably say something like: "Yes, I want to be in-touch with my spirit, but I also want to stay rigidly loyal to science and reason."
These are differences in viewpoint, but not in substance. Whether one considers oneself to be "spiritual" or "rational" or somewhere in between, the recognition that one's own non-ego self-interest is indeed also everyone else's best interest (the highest good for everyone) is of key importance.
Using the magnifying power of a fictional story to clearly define and highlight the end result of enlightened people acting in their own self-interest vs. the end result of unenlightened people acting on altruistic or ego interests, Ayn Rand in her novel "Atlas Shrugged" illustrates this week's lesson with uncanny clarity.
Since this lesson is not taught anywhere else in our culture, Ayn Rand greatly serves mankind much as a great inventor or innovator. Her work offers a fundamental breakthrough in learning possibilities. "Atlas Shrugged" is must reading.
My primary assignment to myself this week is to obtain a copy of "Atlas Shrugged" and devote a minimum of 20 minutes a day diving into the story. I can get "Atlas Shrugged" in almost any library and it does not matter if I have previously read the novel. If I can devote additional time to reading "Atlas Shrugged" each day, so much the better.
As I read the story, I want to keep in mind the three alternatives mentioned above and ask myself which of the characters seems to be talking about living for others, which seems to be living for his or her own ego, and which seems to be living from his or her spirit.
My only other assignment this week is to stay bright and happy even though the world I will be reading about in "Atlas Shrugged" is becoming progressively a darker and more unhappy place. My job is to keep in mind that I'm reading fiction. If some events in the novel seem very close in principle to events in modern life, I can stay optimistic and in a spiritual frame of mind by asking myself: "What if everything around me is fiction anyway?"
With this course I am learning to stay bright and happy NO MATTER WHAT. So this week's work will be good practice. I can even go back in this course and find some lesson statements to decree as review and to keep my energy clean.
Before going to sleep at the end of each day I close my eyes and allow myself to feel delicious gratitude as I say to myself a few times:
"I love my life and do not sacrifice myself to others or to my ego. My own enlightened self-interest guides me."
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Course in Political Miracles