“Self- Sacrifice? But it is precisely the self that cannot and must not be sacrificed.”
– Ayn Rand (Russian-American novelist and philosopher, in her best-selling work, The Fountainhead)
I was honored in front of five thousand people for my ‘selfless service’ of visiting their village for a lecture series. As the audience clapped and the host glorified me, I enjoyed every moment of the attention I got. A few seconds later, I was given the mike to say a few concluding words. I spoke, more like a ritual than heartfelt emotion, about how I am glad I got a chance to serve the villagers and they mean a lot to me. I declared my greatest happiness lay in serving them and urged them to let me visit the town year after year, for I seek nothing but the opportunity to give. The crowd now roared in approval; if it was my lecture skills that had pleased them, now my ‘humility’ and ‘sacrifice’ had won them over.
After the program, hundreds swarmed at the stage and thanked me. I returned to my room exhausted and soon crashed on the bed. I heard a soft voice within congratulating me, ‘Oh that was a great political speech today.’
I ignored the voice and closed my eyes.
But I didn’t get any sleep and just tossed around. Slowly, a nervous thought gripped me, “Did I come to the village because I love to ‘sacrifice’ and ‘serve’ or is there more to it?”
The truth is I travel to this remote place because of the scenic beauty and the river and the clean air and water. I love the break this trip gives me. This solitude nourishes me and helps give back meaningfully to the villagers. But the essential motivation was not a sacrifice but my own needs. Why did I not tell this to anyone? Instead, I had presented my visit as if I was a tireless missionary, who lived for others, even facing personal inconvenience.
To be continued….