the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others
I had an interesting conversation recently. A friend and I were chatting, when the idea of altruism came up. Iʻd heard the word before. Somewhere. Of course I had. But what exactly does it mean? His response was that it was something along the lines of selflessness. It was an interesting conversation, and it lingered with me.
Humpback whales are a good example of altruism. Scientists have studied it, and their findings were surprising. They didnʻt follow the straight lines of normal scientific predictions. Why would these animals spend their time and energy to protect other animals from predators when there is no obvious benefit to themselves? It is unprecedented and remarkable. It shows that there is still a world of things we don't know and don't understand. As a conservationist, I am left with a new respect for these animals. But this concept also gets me thinking.
We live in a world where people are focused on themselves. I'm often guilty of it too. People make decisions to benefit themselves or make themselves feel good. It might not be a conscious decision, but isn't it true? Our culture feeds it to us, and we eat it up. But does it really make it as happy as it promises that it will?
Perhaps we can take a lesson from these humpback whales. What would it look like if we did something kind for another person, just for the sake of caring for that person? What would it look like if we genuinely listened to someone instead of just thinking about ourselves? What would it look like if we all took little (or even big!) steps toward keeping our oceans and our planet healthy for not just ourselves, but future generations?
I like this idea of altruism. What about you?
Maddie Buresh is a writer and photographer with an unquenchable desire to explore the great outdoors, from the ocean to the mountains. She finds joy in trying new things, living in community, and crafting stories that encourage people to go outside, have adventures, and enjoy this big, beautiful world.