Ah, growing up in the 1980s.
Give them a glass of milk...
Details are still hazy as to what caused Whitney Houston’s death, but I would like to touch upon her admitted drug problem in any case. It’s notable to me in connection with one of her early hits, ‘The greatest love of all,’ whose lyrics [new tab] are a rare phenomenon in pop music: a nod to ‘the virtue of selfishness,’ a term popularized by Ayn Rand.
You would think that someone singing about developing self-esteem early on in a child would be able to face the hardships of fame without developing addictions. But apparently, “learning to love yourself” was not enough to keep Houston out of rehab.
I admit that my depiction of events is quite simplistic, and only the person themselves, if anyone at all, can understand what they have gone through. But my main point is that it is quite easy to sing about self-love (not a euphemism); it’s another thing to direct one’s energies in a healthy, holistic manner.
BEING SELFISH AND KEEPING FOCUS
When one reads Ayn Rand’s ‘selfish’ heroes who succeed against the establishment, this can serve as inspiration for accomplishing difficult feats in one’s life.
I know that ‘The fountainhead’ helped me, in however small a way, conquer a mini-crisis I was facing at the time I read the book. Sometimes, when being driven to do something unexpected or unsettling, you have to drill in yourself, mantra-like, “I have to be selfish here, I have to be selfish...”
However, the desire to satisfy one’s self may lead one to lose focus as to what it is that one actually wants. One might do a ‘selfish’ act simply to make a statement, rather than to accomplish something good. To insist on acting for one’s self doesn’t automatically mean that one’s decisions will be healthy.
Being ‘selfish’ may even indicate a reluctance or fear to expand one’s worldview. This is a prelude to ‘capital consumption’ of one’s mind, that is, an atrophying in mental staleness.
WHY THE SELFISH-UNSELFISH DUALISM AT ALL?
Man is a social being. But seeking self-interest should not be looked down upon. Actually, the problem is in supposing a dichotomy at all between ‘selfish’ and ‘unselfish’ acts. In truth all acts could not be for other than the self. What varies is the timeframe on which such selfish acts are based.
(Private property and free trade have developed alongside humanity’s lengthened timeframes for action. The mentality of acquisition-by-force as exemplified by the state, is a vestige of mindless savagery.)
It is often easier to give in to other people’s wills ― being ‘altruistic’ ― even as this slowly eats away at your potential. It’s tougher to summon enough ‘capital of will’ to assert one’s long-term valuations.
To shun society hinders interactions by which one otherwise attains self-growth.
What is stultifying is not so much doing things ‘for others,’ but rather the notion of an external duty to do so, of acting against one’s longer-term evaluations.
(As we know, ‘duty’ is often cited as a pretext for state expropriation of private property.)
In the process of discovering and realizing one’s values, one must be wary of defying for the sake of defying, in ways that hinder fruitful ‘socially-oriented’ endeavors, or defying out of a narrow view as to what constitutes one’s happiness.
It would be careless to judge Whitney Houston’s character on the little that I know, but her death at 48 years old can serve as a reminder that conscious recognition of one’s worth is only the first step in a long road to self-actualization.