I just listened to a Ted Talk by Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk who is sometimes called "the happiest man on earth." He is not only a monk, he is a happiness researcher who bases his conclusions on scientific evidence. He proposes that altruism is a necessary lens for making decisions because these individual decisions show caring for one another and ultimately future of the planet.
A quote: "Empathy alone is not sufficient ... you need the greater sphere of loving-kindness."
Here again, is my "shadow." Am I doing enough? I could say when I was a teacher, that it was an altruistic endeavor. Yes, I got paid, but my motivation was not the pay, or the summer vacations. My motivation was that I was trying to make a difference in the lives of my students. I was also an activist, trying to make a difference in the teaching profession.
Now that I am a writer, living a creative life, letting my intuition be my guide as to how I spend my days, am I being altruistic "enough?" Should I be doing more? Should I volunteer more? As I bring that question up to the universe, here is the answer:
You know that your essence is to make the world a better place, somehow. You are grounded in caring about others, about the world, which is altruism. From this core, this essence, you are venturing out into the unknown, following your intuition. Because your core is caring for others, whatever you create for the world will have this essence. There is much work to be done and you never know just what will make the difference. You will know when you are on the wrong path, you will feel it. It will not jive with your core.
Think about monks and nuns who spend their whole lives in prayer, believing that the prayer is altruistic, helping and healing invisibly. You are doing the same thing. Your art is your prayer, your gift to the world.
Diane Aoki is a writer who explores other modes of creativity as her intuition leads her.