The truth about ‘Selfishness’

Picture this:

You are stranded in the middle of the ocean, desperately trying to keep yourself afloat as you scramble for air in the smothering darkness.

The night is quiet around you, the world submerged in an ominous silence.

The sounds of your heavy breathing and your hands flailing in the water are the only things that pierce through the quiet.

The vast expanse of the inky blue sea is all you can see, along with a single narrow plank floating a few meters away from you.

What will you do?

You swim to the plank and save yourself from a sure death by using the wood to keep you afloat.

But your choice isn’t that simple.

You’re not alone.

I’m there along with you, scrambling for the same air you fill your lungs with and my eyes are frozen on the same plank that yours are riveted on.

It is narrow, lethally narrow, a close fit for even one person.

The water seems to be rising, your body slowly surrendering to the pull of the ocean. You feel the terror, the smothering panic as it dawns on you that the plank is your only chance at life.

What will you do now?


You have two choices:

You can be the chivalrous one, let me have the plank and save myself, while you surrender to the turbulent waters.

Or you can choose to save your own life and allow me to drown to my death, trade my life in place of yours.

My desperate shouts will fill the night sky, pleas for mercy, but you will not look back.

You cannot.

A few minutes will pass, and my cries will be smothered by the ocean, fading out into the night. My body will be taken in by the inky darkness, as I’d never really existed.

The world will be submerged in the eerie silence again; the silence of sin, the silence of murder.


What will you choose?

Will you be the murdered or the murderer? A victim or a survivor?

Will you kill and save yourself?

Or die with the knowledge that you’d saved my life?


We’ve all been programmed to believe that to take that plank and not look back would be a sin, a cruelty.

That we should choose to be caring and selfless and give up our lives in an oh-so valiant gesture for another person.

We celebrate sacrifice, romanticize it.

And we demonize ‘selfishness’, we look down on people who choose themselves first, people who make the most of the lives they’ve been given.

And yet, we’re all inherently selfish, as human beings, we’re programmed to look at our own lives first.

And at the end of the day, if it really comes to it, we will take the plank for ourselves.

So why then, do we force ourselves to feel guilty for being unable to give without losing ourself in the process?

Why do we torment ourselves to sacrifice as much as we can without giving a thought to our own hopes and dreams?

Why do we make ourselves responsible for the failures and successes of the ones we love?

 


The truth is:

The only fate you can control is yours.

The only life you have power over is the one you’re living right now.

And the only life you are truly responsible for is your own.

Not mine.

And not the person you love drowning next to you.

Give as much as you can, but when you can give no more, know that it is still love to let go.


Even the purest of flames have the potential to destroy.

And even the best intentions can sometimes do more harm than good.

Give up a dream for someone you love, however harmless an action, and there’s a good chance you might have destroyed a relationship that could’ve flowered.

Love can survive the puncture of hatred and scab over. But bitterness and resentfulness will raze it to the ground.

To give because you truly want to is one thing, but to sacrifice because you feel pressured to is quite another.

And the difference between the two is happiness and bitterness.

Your life is waiting for you. And the clock is ticking.

What do you choose?

 

 

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406 thoughts on “The truth about ‘Selfishness’

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    1. Exactly…
      I couldn’t have said it better myself.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts, Niranjan! ❤

      Like

  1. Troubling if this is a metaphor for our daily choices. It can be a way of thinking that justifies inhumanity of all stripes. And rarely in life is there a choice between you or me. Life is almost always more complicated.

    Liked by 11 people

    1. Maybe not this extreme, but I feel like knowingly or unknowingly, we’re always making choices, accepting opportunities, that might have benefited someone else.
      And if we let every choice like that trouble us, we’re probably not going to get very far in our own lives.
      The choices we make may not be the difference between life and death but they definitely affect the people around us, don’t they?
      Very rarely will your actions affect you alone, and no one else.
      Inhumanity is definitely an extreme we shouldn’t be veering towards, but complete ‘selflessness’ can also be debasing in its own way.

      Liked by 4 people

    2. I am very interested in this dialog so I hope you will bear with me by letting me respond. First, I have never met a single person who is completely selfless or would argue in favor of it so I am not sure it is worth debating that point. I am selfish, as we all are by nature, but I am never troubled about sharing my good fortune with someone else and I have never regretted it, even when I knew afterward I made an unwise choice. Acts of selflessness are never debasing to me — they are enriching and, to argue an extreme for purposes of making a point, it is unlikely that the world will change much if I give up my life for someone else. Finally, I do not agree that inhumanity is an “extreme” — it is everywhere in our world right now and since the beginning of time. I wonder whether you know that what you advocate in your posting here has been argued by others throughout history with some very tragic and inhumane results. Again, thank you for letting me respond.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. True and beautifully said! ❤
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts!

      Like

  2. Wow! You got me reading until the end, as well as thinking.. at first I was thinking it’s an easy choice, but in reality it is always survival of the fittest; to whoever reaches the plank first and who would stay after fighting for it..

    Liked by 8 people

  3. I think people apply this idea a lot to their personal relationships, that to be self-less is romantic. So often instead of love, this leads to resentment of the other person for own decision to be unhappy.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. So true…
      I can definitely relate to that and I think that’s why this idea of ‘selflessness’ irks me so much.
      Too many of us have become victims to this misplaced notion and it’s time we realized its okay to put yourself first without worrying about the rest of the world.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts!
      It really means a lot to me ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Choosing the plank and letting the other drown will kill your soul. But not choosing the plank will kill you altogether. It’s a difficult choice but at the end of the day it’s always the survival of the fittest. So amazingly written!😊

    Liked by 8 people

    1. True… but life is all about the hard choices, isn’t it?
      Your soul may rewaken, but you will never rise from the dead.
      Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to share your thoughts! ❤

      Liked by 3 people

    1. It’s what we all hope for, but often, it’s best to prepare for the worst and steel yourself beforehand.
      To take the plank requires its own kind of courage; something not many of us has and greatly undervalued at that.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! ❤
      It really means a lot to me…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Natalie.
    ‘We look down on people who choose themselves first, people who make the most of the lives they’ve been given’ Yes!!!!!!!!
    I love this so much!!!! It’s a really horrible kind of conditioning that helps keep us all down. By writing about it you help people begin to question it and support those who have embraced the alternative to stick with it.
    I have been fighting this same battle, to live my life. It is ridiculous really how hard it is for us all to do what really should be a natural thing for us, to live. Anyway, I am finally doing it, and it feels fantastic and amazing. I am writing about it (blog and book). It is great to read someone else who feels the same way. All the best. Rachel x

    Liked by 7 people

    1. I completely agree…
      And the worst part is, often, trying to be ‘selfless’ just results in you becoming bitter and resenting the person you sacrificed for; its something you live with your entire life and it’s not doing either of you any favours
      I’m so glad you finally realized its okay to give yourself permission to be happy, regardless of the world around you.
      And you’re writing a book? Wow. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but I think the odds of me gong sky-diving are better than that. 😉
      Somehow, that sort of a commitment is just so daunting for me and I really admire people who have that sort of courage…
      Good luck, Rachel!
      I hope your words touch more and more hearts with each day! ❤

      Like

  6. I would have been the person would have done the Honorable thing and gave my plank to somebody else.
    I have grown up trained like the good little girl to behave properly and do the right things at the right times. Selflessness was one of those things that was at the top of the list of expected things along with being perfect (And of course perfection is truly unachievable).

    This was an intriguing read and it captured me from the beginning. As I read through and kept reading it was like a picture of myself and my struggles to make the other decisions that were not selfless like I was trained to do. Being selfish isn’t always being selfish; it’s being a survivor and forging a path for yourself, your children, and your grandchildren. It’s also teaching them to follow in your footsteps and setting the example and that standard high for them not just through your words but through your actions so they can see that you live what you say.

    One rule I have live by is, if you keep putting the same effort into something, you’re going to keep getting the same result.

    I stopped putting the same effort in by not being the person who takes all of the abuse, or give up everything for people, or thinks they have nothing to offer. I started being that person who makes calculated decisions and only gives what they can to the point where it doesn’t hurt themselves. It took planning, goal setting, a timeline and persostence. It will take upkeep to make sure it continues so that I can continue to be that role model for my grown children and grandchildren.

    Being proud of making those types of decisions does not make me a bad person, arrogant, selfish, or mean (all of which I have been accused of on this journey). It just makes me a strong minded person set on a path in the right direction ruffling the feathers of the other people who are not ready to step into the new.

    So Natalie, terrific read.

    Liked by 6 people

  7. This struck so close to home. The concept of selfishness, as both pejorative and as decisive action, has had an enormous affect on my life. If I can unscrambe my thoughts sufficiently, I may use your blog as inspiration for one of my own. Will pingback (if I can figure out how to do it!) or at least credit you.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. As it has on mine…
      I’ll be more than honoured if you do!
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  8. I would have been the person would have done the Honorable thing and gave my plank to somebody else.
    I have grown up trained like the good little girl to behave properly and do the right things at the right times. Selflessness was one of those things that was at the top of the list of expected things along with being perfect (And of course perfection is truly unachievable).
    This was an intriguing read and it captured me from the beginning. As I read through and kept reading it was like a picture of myself and my struggles to make the other decisions that were not selfless like I was trained to do. Being selfish isn’t always being selfish; it’s being a survivor and forging a path for yourself, your children, and your grandchildren. It’s also teaching them to follow in your footsteps and setting the example and that standard high for them not just through your words but through your actions so they can see that you live what you say.
    One rule I have live by is, if you keep putting the same effort into something, you’re going to keep getting the same result.
    I stopped putting the same effort in by not being the person who takes all of the abuse, or give up everything for people, or thinks they have nothing to offer. I started being that person who makes calculated decisions and only gives what they can to the point where it doesn’t hurt themselves. It took planning, goal setting, a timeline and persostence. It will take upkeep to make sure it continues so that I can continue to be that role model for my grown children and grandchildren.
    Being proud of making those types of decisions does not make me a bad person, arrogant, selfish, or mean (all of which I have been accused of on this journey). It just makes me a strong minded person set on a path in the right direction ruffling the feathers of the other people who are not ready to step into the new.
    So Natalie, terrific read.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Exactly.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts, Oneta!
      I’m glad my words resonated with you ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I think NOT. I have drowned 3 times but have survived on the shoulders of better and stronger swimmers than myself. As diverse as God made us, we don’t all possess equal abilities and strengths. You and I are living and thriving today on the blood and sacrifices of others. Now I’m not saying ‘give what you don’t have’.
    On the condition of the only plank, I might let you hold on to it because I’m a better swimmer than you. If help didn’t come in time, I will let go in peace knowing I have given YOU a chance to Live.
    We are all connected whether we live or we die

    Liked by 8 people

    1. We definitely are, but it’s when we go into the ‘give what you don’t have’ territory that we are truly tilting onto the negative side of this spectrum.
      And I can personally say that that’s what romanticizing selflessness makes us do; we start to think that we ‘must’ give, whether we can or not, and most likely lose ourselves in the process or become bitter and resentful.

      To give because you truly want to, and to give because you feel its the ‘right’ thing to do are two completely different things.

      Growing up in an environment where nothing was celebrated more than acts of ‘selflessness’, I’ve seen too many people around me give up their lives and dreams for someone they love and end up hating them, blaming them for what went wrong.
      It was depressing, to see so much love reduced to utter loathing just because of one choice, a choice made by pressure to be the ‘good’ one, do the ‘honourable’ thing.

      To me, the plank was merely a hypothetical, and a metaphor at that; how you chose to interpret it is your own choice.
      But the problem is, if you chose to let me live, I was wrong, you wouldn’t die.
      You would live but likely end up hating me, and hating yourself for standing back.
      And I would live, and end up feeling guilty about that ‘sacrifice’ you made for me, feeling as though I didn’t really earn this.
      ‘Neither of us would be the better for it’ is what I believe and that’s what I have personally seen.

      But then again, we all have our own opinions, shaped from our own experiences, and nothing can be ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ here…
      I’ll definitely agree to disagree and thank you for a different perspective ❤

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Darling, I see what you mean. It’s wrong to be pressured to give what you don’t have. (I personally believe in going against stupid societal dogma that deprives individual’s life & happiness.) LIFE is give and take. And it should be balanced. Looking at it through your experience,; Absolutely! I should add that women, especially, are subjected by this rhetoric (selflessness) which is not reciprocating. They are told to give until there’s nothing left of them. How cruel! I too know women who resent their family because they’ve given too much and received none. Without the balance and freedom to give and take, there will only be resentment and chaos.

      But seriously Natalie, I won’t let you drown, not when I can save you somehow.
      You have to be okay with receiving grace when given. 😍😍

      Liked by 4 people

    3. I’m going to have to disagree with you a little here. I don’t believe that for every success there is a failure that is paired with it. If someone gets a job, yes, there are is a group of people that didn’t get that position, but who is to say it’s a failure? It sounds like looking at things that way only considers what is immediately in front of you.

      What if someone tries to traditionally publish a book and gets a string of rejection letters from publishers. It’s how the writer chooses to respond to this that would more accurately categorize it as a failure. Do they press on, refine their work, and make it better to get picked up to publish? Or do they think their work is no good because no one picked it up and stop writing? That sounds more like the failure to me. The failure here resides with the one person who stopped chasing what they wanted as opposed to someone who got better and stronger through opposition to achieve what they wanted. The same could be said for someone going for a promotion or a job. If it’s not given to them at the time they want, does that mean they fail? I would argue no. They could end up in a better job, or change companies. It’s possible they didn’t’ have enough experience and weren’t ready for the job. There can be many reasons why something doesn’t work out for someone and it can have no reflection on an individual at all but be subject to circumstances beyond their control. It is how they respond that can properly define a failure vs a success.

      As people we are inherently selfish. It’s part of our nature. The metaphor of the plank in the water is a little hard to swallow to justify taking the plank for yourself with the betterment of the world as your motivation. That circumstance will have to reside with the individual in that moment. What are the two of you trying to live for? Can you live with the decision to take the plank or relinquish it to the other person? It also reads as if you are the only one to make the choice of what to do with the plank. Is this other person not going for it at all? Real life is rarely this kind.

      But say that it is up to you, giving life to someone else, even at the expense of your own, isn’t something to readily dismiss. Soldiers, police, and others risk their lives, and sometimes lose it, so that others live. Sometimes those saved are older, younger, less intelligent, less talented, or even less moral. Are they doing the world a disservice by acting this way? After all, the argument here is you can only give the world your best, and your best is only provided by your own survival over someone else? Perhaps your best is saving the life of someone else? What effect would that have on a person? What effect would that have on you? If someone were to give up their life so that you could live – if they were the one to give you the plank in this scenario – would you consider that person a failure because they didn’t take it for themselves?

      The thing here is, in the moment of the metaphor, it’s impossible to say what the right choice is. Decisions that are like this usually happen in an instant and there is no way to know the best outcome and what would or should have happened. You try to do the best you can in that moment. There are many who believe that they will give an account for their life, and something like this would weigh as to how they lived their time on this earth. It’s an impossible choice, but it’s one that you would have to be comfortable living with in the time you had left on this earth.

      If you’ve read all the way through this, thanks for reading. I don’t mean to incite an argument or be purposefully contrary, but felt there was more than one aspect to the conversation. I love discussions like this and have enjoyed the comments from everyone on here.

      Liked by 5 people

    4. I think this post was more along the lines of trying to save other people and “fix” them. In a co-dependent way. For instance, your child is addicted to drugs and you have spent all your money time and energy trying to “save” them, because you know it’s not them, you know they are better, but in trying to save them, you have gone broke, you have lost your health, your peace of mind and your other relationships have gone to hell.

      Or, maybe you are in a relationship and you are trying to “save” that person from themselves and show them how wonderful they are, but in the process, you hand yourself over to them, all your control, all your independence and you “lose yourself and your voice” because you made them more important than you.

      I could be wrong, but that’s the message I got from this post.

      Liked by 6 people

    5. I can definitely see what you’re talking about…
      I just went back to the post and reread it, and now that I’ve taken some time away from it, I can read it with a fresh perspective and see how it could have been ill-suited to what I was trying to convey.

      I used the metaphor of a plank mainly to highlight that sometimes, you don’t have to take it upon you to have the responsibility of saving the world at the expense of your own self. That it’s not always ‘cruelty’ to take an opportunity when it presents itself.
      We all are inherently selfish, but its not the action itself that matters here. It’s the morality behind it. From a third person’s perspective, would it have been wrong to take the plank? Would you have been judged for it? Would you have thought less of yourself?
      The emphasis was supposed to be on the feeling of guilt behind your action; not the action or the circumstance itself. The pressure we feel to ‘sacrifice’ is what I was trying to get across. Sometimes, we act because of that pressure; not because we truly want to.
      Shanshe here has put it beautifully.
      Personally, I’ve grown up with that sort of pressure ruining the lives of those around me, the belief that you must sacrifice everything you want for the people around you.
      Giving, when done from the heart, out of a desire to help, is freeing. But sacrifice done out of an obligation simply leads to bitterness.

      Becuase this was such a personal topic to me, maybe I let my emotion cloud my thinking. I didn’t realize that the post may not be as relevant to people who hadn’t experienced what I had. As a writer, I’ve always found it difficult to separate my life from the paper, especially when so many of our beliefs are shaped by our own personal experiences. I’ll definitely try to set more clear boundaries between them from now on, so the message isn’t hindered or misshapen by emotion.

      I’m definitely with you on that; there’s always another side to the conversation and I, for one, absolutely love hearing it. It helps me broaden my views, and see the world with a different pair of eyes so thank you so much for a new perspective.
      I’m honoured that you would take the time to read my post and share your thoughts so eloquently and it was truly a pleasure reading this comment!
      Looking forward to seeing you around and hearing more of your thoughts!

      Liked by 2 people

    6. The idea that you shouldn’t sacrifice so much of yourself to help a hurting individual, I can completely get behind. To put so much of yourself out for someone that they end up bringing you down instead of allowing you to help bring them up, is a risk. We want to help others and may even be willing to go to extremes to do so, is a very real danger to hurt those with the best of intentions. It’s important to safeguard yourself in this respect.

      The popular piece of advice is to write what you know, and I see where it comes from. No one has a better perspective to write your experiences than you. Keep writing what is important to you and let it come from your own experiences. It is your voice as a writer. If you’ve been hurt by someone when you put yourself out there to help them, that sucks, but you can also take that and make something out of it. I enjoyed your post and the discussion that’s followed. I look forward to reading more from you in the future.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Were you to ask me now, I would prefer drowning. Living through another day is far worse than letting the icy cold water fill my lungs, smother me. I rather greet ‘death and as old friend’ and end it all.

    Liked by 5 people

  11. Yes I think life is precious and we should always hold onto it. But I also think people should not be afraid to be giving in less dire situations than this.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. True… but you can only give what you have and it’s this pressure to be ‘selfless’ that causes us to think that it’s somehow wrong to put yourself first and sustain your life and dreams before looking at the world around you
      Give too much and you lose yourself in the process.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts, Vanessa!
      It really means a lot to me ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Took me a bit, but I finally “got” what you were saying… I’m the codependent who drowns trying to save others, because I see in them what they do not see in themselves.

    I think I have caught up on your blogs, or at least what’s on this particular page and I DO love your writing, the images you bring to life in my head and the questions you force me to face and how it makes me be honest with myself, if ONLY to myself…

    I look forward to reading more! Thank-you for sharing yourself and your talent with all of us!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I can definitely relate to that; I’ve spent far too much of my life trying to help everyone around me and ending up feeling inexplicably guilty when I fail…

      Thank you so much, Shanshe! ❤
      That means more than you could ever imagine to me.
      I'm so glad my writing could impact someone else's life that way and I'm honoured and grateful that you took the time to read and share your thoughts with me.
      Thank you again, for your kind words. You just made my day ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Perhaps it will be coming from the outside point of view, but at certain times when you’re picky and allow just a handful of people into your life, selfishness is not necessarily a bad thing, the world doesn’t need you although people do. Would I rather help someone out or be selfish and ignore them? Would I rather reach my goal crushing competitors down or find my own way around? No.
    Would you intentionally hurt someone you love because you always comes first? Most of the parents is sacrificing themselves for their children, instead of giving all out for their sake, should they be selfish?
    I’m writing poetry what wouldn’t be possible without selflessness, same as my chivalrous manner – I’m confident in myself and my power, there is enough for me to share some. Still, quite refreshing article and I do agree with being selfish every now and then.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m in complete agreement with whatever you’ve said, but when it comes to giving so much that there’s nothing left of yourself, you’re not really helping anyone. To give because you want to and to sacrifice because you feel pressured to are two completely different things; one leads to happiness while the other leads to bitterness.
      Thoughts?

      Liked by 2 people

    2. There comes balance. In the world where the competition is a must, we have to be selfish, we are expected to be selfish over being selfless. That’s why I admire those people having a sense to share without wanting anything back. However, you’re right. It cannot go too far, it won’t help anyone, more likely triggers the guilt. I wouldn’t lift my finger if someone puts a pressure on me.
      To summarise, follow the flow and operate between two of these as you wish, seeing the worst book called I don’t give a fuck pointed frustration that arise when you give and not receive anything back, it stings when you expect something back, when your don’t, you just did something good and there is no reason to reforge anger into brute selfishness. River like topic 😂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I love questions like these. They were my favorite part of philosophy classes in uni.

    It’s so easy to say that something is objectively “selfish” or “wrong” or even “evil” until you take that concept and break it down into the worst-case scenario – the situation that no one wants to believe they’ll ever face. What happens to those preconceived notions and beliefs when you’re faced with the unthinkable, and how will you reconcile that with the moral “truths” you’ve been holding so dear for so long? Knowingly ending a life is something that most people would consider “evil” and “wrong”, but as you’ve illustrated above, what about when it’s your life that hangs in the balance and neither party involved did anything to deserve such awful circumstances? Is it still evil to consign someone to certain death so that you can live another day (and perhaps return home to your children and partner, all of whom will be negatively impacted if you die)?

    The world is very much littered in shades of grey… rarely is anything as black and white as people would like to believe.

    Thanks for writing such an interesting post! 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Haha, I completely agree. It’s definitely hard to answer questions like these and frankly, I found myself wondering whether posting it was even a good idea after a comment with someone asking me ‘why I had to be so cut-throat and only think of one person drowning as a scenario instead of sharing the plank’
      So many people have really misunderstood the point of the question itself and reading those comments and trying to defend myself was just draining.
      But I find myself drawn to scenarios like these: there’s something addicting about pushing that lime between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and seeing how far the grey really extends.
      Thank you so much for one comment that didn’t leave me feeling like an insensitive brute for daring to suggest that you may have to ‘kill’ to survive.
      This really made my day ❤

      Liked by 2 people

    2. People are just prone to search for the happy ending, no matter how improbable. The question posed wasn’t “how can both of you make it through this” but rather “only one of you can survive – if you attempt to share this plank, it will sink, and you both die. What do you do/what is the “right” or “moral” option?”

      It’s admirable that so many people would be desperate to save both people involved. That kind of solution simply isn’t always going to be a viable one, however, and it’s a shame that people saw this as an attack on their beliefs (or an indication of yours, which I find to be the bigger issue =/) rather than the interesting philosophical discussion that I think you meant for it to be.

      There was nothing insensitive about this post IMO. Some people really did just miss the point, it seems. It’s a real shame that you’re feeling so awful after posting such an interesting topic, but I’m glad I could help make the situation a little bit better, at least. 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  15. Great job starting discussions with your writing! That’s a great skill to have. I think the conversations in the comments are just as interesting as the piece itself (which is VERY interesting, so kudos). I thought it was especially good when you said “your soul may reawaken, but you will never rise from the dead” in one of your responses. That is really insightful. I guess it just comes down to whether you want to take a chance and see if it will reawaken or not when faced with tough decisions.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you so much, Alyssa!
      Exactly… and in the end, its just a matter of your personal beliefs and morality, isn’t it? It’s why I like questions like these: there can never really be a concrete ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ like we’re lead to believe.
      I’m so glad you liked it!
      Thank you again for taking the time to read and share your thoughts… it really means a lot to me! ❤

      Like

  16. Great post!
    I read somewhere that the @plank decision” should be made on the value of a person’s ability to contribute to the continuation of the species. So, if there was a man and a woman, both being equally fertile, then the woman should be allowed to live, as she has a limited number of eggs to contribute, which makes them more valuable. However, if she isn’t fertile, then the balance changes. It seemed a very cold/analytic way at looking at the value of life.
    The conundrum that I’ve always thought on is: once we have children we are supposed to set everything aside and give them the best life possible, preparing them for their personal success and the world, but if we give up our dreams in the process are we not teaching them the same? Won’t there be a likelihood that they’ll grow to have children and give up theirs dreams as well?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mmm I got a few comments like those over here, but frankly, it chilled me that the woman should be given life simply for breeding. It seemed very degrading in a way, however ‘generous’ the act.

      Exactly: I grew up in a society that thought like that: you grew up learning to take care of children, you married for children, you spent the rest of your life growing them up and then you died when you could contribute no more. Life is a not more than a breeding ground in such situations. As individuals, we have so much more to give than just new individuals, and its sad, especially for women, that we’re forced to think this way.
      How will the world progress if we spend all our time expanding our horizons instead of developing what we already have?

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your views! It really means a lot to me ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Wow! So very true. The point of putting others before yourself is an issue I deal with all the time. It is my nature and has been my whole life. Just recently have I seen the value of being self aware and self-caring and how important it is.
    Thank you so much! It has touched a lot of people, obviously, by the comments. Well done❣️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much!
      I can definitely relate to that and I”m so glad you learnt to step out of that mindset…
      It really means a lot to me that you took the time to read and share your thoughts ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  18. This is beautiful. Honestly it would depend on who I was with I imagine. The fight for survival would most likely take over but I always wondered why Rose didn’t get into the water to die along with Jack. What if living never wanting to live without the person you are with decided your coarse? I think it takes two people sacrificing life to romanticize death.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Definitely…
      There are always two parties involved in anything pertaining to ‘romance’, isn’t there… romantically involved or not, maybe love itself is the problem. We put love on a pedestal and expect it to do magic, resurrect people from the dead; when it doesn’t have that kind of power.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! It really means a lot to me ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Very well said. It makes me think a lot. But sometimes, selfless people tends to forget the grieve they cause to their close ones when they get hurt by their selfless action. I think that is also selfish of them, in a way.

    Thank you for dropping by my blog also. Definitely a fan to yours now. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. True…
      I’m so glad you liked it!
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! It really means a lot to me ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  20. I agree with you that sometimes, we have to make ruthless decisions. This theme has played out in my life before, and probably will again. For example, I used to have a friend, “Jack,” and we discussed living together. He didn’t want to move into my apartment because he wanted to make a commune in the woods. I suggested some ideas for a compromise, such as pooling our resources to get a house with a yard, but he declined. He wanted the lifestyle on the extreme end of the outdoorsy spectrum, and while I would’ve loved having access to more animals, plants, etc, it would’ve still been a very difficult lifestyle for me, such as how it would’ve been very far from anywhere I’d need to go to run errands. Someone on a forum told me, “I doubt it’s your life goal to live in a woods commune. You didn’t want to do that before you met him, did you?” and I felt the validation I needed to not uproot my whole life for him. I grabbed my “plank” by staying in the city.

    I’m sorry that some people reacted badly to your post, but I suspect that some people may feel validated by your post to not do things for other people that would make them suffer, like the poster on that forum did for me.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Mmm, I can definitely relate to that: people let you believe that love is all you need in a relationship but as the years passed, I’ve started to learn that its the least important thing to hold a relationship afloat. Opinions, culture, religion, environment, desires, all of that can and probably will set you apart and you might not be strong enough to recover.

      That’s what I’d like to think… if at least one of them did, then I’ll be glad.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment! It really means a lot to me ❤

      Liked by 3 people

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed reading my work, Ana!
      It was my pleasure…
      Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and comment. It really means a lot to me ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  21. This Plank thing – wow. We do it ever day in so many exquisite ways, via words and lifestyle choices, I mean this is it. This is how humanity attempts peace ; lil and larger decisions, involving open or subtle exits. Provoke- share, loved it but ouch, y’know ? :)))

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha, I agree… but our world isn’t just hearts and flowers, it’s the pain and thorns too
      I find that we tend to blindside ourselves to that part of our lives.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! It really means a lot to me ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  22. Powerful post. As an ex-Catholic, I think I grew up with a lot of these feelings of guilt – I was taught them by the nuns and priests. The pastor used to stand up in front of us and say “you are all big nothings”..But you can at least become more balanced in helping others and helping yourself. The trick is to know when to choose what.

    And thanks for following my author blog. I’m now following yours.
    I do have another blog which is more personal and more opinionated.
    https://onlychildwrites.wordpress.com/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha, I completely get that. I grew up in a very familiar society, except the pressure was more from family and culture than religion. We grew up believing that it was ‘bad’ to want anything for yourself without checking in with every other person on the planet first. Completely exhausting, not to mention emotionally and mentally draining.

      It was my pleasure, Sharon. I’ll definitely check it out!
      Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and share your thoughts on my site!
      It really means a lot to me ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Honestly, there’s is alot of hypocrisy with the human race.
    Many of us would say that they would sacrifice their life to save the other but truth be told the percentage that would actually do that is beyond little. I reckon it’s some kind in *nobility complex* we have to always look like some kind of hero.

    Instinctively many would choose to save their own life and yeah there is nothing wrong that… guilt tripping people to feel bad about putting their own needs first is not right, fine there are exceptions where self sacrifice is voluntary and even that’s okay
    But no one should label the other selfish simply because they prioritize themselves first.

    This is a very thought provoking post.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I completely agree…
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! It really means a lot to me ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  24. I think I would need to be in that situation to know which would be stronger, my terror of drowning or the horror of drowning someone else. Drowning would be more painful in the short term but the guilt of drowning someone would last a lifetime, even if it did fade due to acknowledgement of the circumstances.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. That is sooo true. We often often made to guilt trip because we thi k of ourselves. It’s not wrong to be selfish sometimes. It’s wrong when you can help without causing yourself any trouble and yet you refuse too. Great post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly. I’m so glad my words resonated with you, Lavanya…
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! ❤

      Like

  26. So true and so well explained. The words that you used and the way you presented your thoughts and ideas are so effectual. It makes your blog stand out from all others.Absolutely loved your post! Happy writing!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much, Anupriya!
      That means more than you could ever imagine to me…
      So glad you enjoyed reading it!
      Lots of love ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  27. I’d take the third option, which is wait for the other person to do the honorable thing and offer the plank to me. I’d say “you sure?”. They’d say yes and I’d say “Okay” and swim away. There. Problem solved and no guilt…

    Liked by 4 people

  28. One: we’re “programmed” to make the selfish choice because of our fallen, sinful nature. That is a problem we must all constantly work on fixing.
    Two: greater love has no one than this, but to lay down your life for a friend.
    Three: I would ask if they were in a salvation relationship with Jesus. If they weren’t, no question, I would give them the plank and tell them to go find a Bible and a church. (At least, I know that’s what I should do. In my fallen, sinful nature, there is always the chance I would do the selfish thing if faced with the choice. But I’m working on that.)

    Liked by 3 people

  29. Outstanding post. I would have to say, why do I have only two choices? I understand the concept, but I would like to think that people are at their best during such trials in life. I choose the third choice…I choose to save both. Thank you for sharing such wonderful insight. E.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you so much, Elizabeth!
      Well, two choices because, sometimes, the plank simply isn’t big enough. There’s no way you could have saved both. I’d like to think we show both our best and our worst sides to the world when it comes down to decisions like this; but more importantly, they act instinctively, pure want, the self- stripped of all meaningless courtesy and pretence.
      Thoughts?

      Like

  30. Very interesting. Thanks for sharing this. I look forward to reading more of your posts.
    I do probably more bitter giving than I should. It’s difficult for me to change my nature though and I am a giving person by default but I have long ago lost my trust in people to not take advantage and that really takes a lot of the enjoyment out of giving depending on the situation.
    In the situation with the plank, where it is between me or someone else. It would depend on the person who is there with me. If it is a young and innocent child. I’d give them the plank in a heartbeat so long as there was a guarantee that doing so would save them. If it was someone I cared deeply for or loved. I’d almost surely do the same. If they were a random stranger though, then I would have a much higher probability of taking the plank for myself. Of course, because we are strangers, they would be trying to fight for the plank too, perhaps to both our detriment in the end.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Of course… the question was hypothetical, but even more importantly, metaphorical. I merely meant to say that it’s okay to want to take the plank for yourself in the end, to put yourself first. Like we all would probably do.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! It really means a lot to me ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  31. Thank you for this. Really made me think about some things I’m currently learning to work through. One thought I had was not only do we harbor resentments for people we reluctantly sacrifice things for, but in turn I find many of those people end up harboring resentments for us in the same way. To not “let things scab over” as you put it, even if the sacrifice behind it is out of good intention, we deprive the other person of the choice to forgive (or not to forgive) us. Sometimes it becomes a matter of having enough trust in someone else to allow for conflict, and to respect someone else enough to allow them to base their decisions on who we really are as opposed to what we believe they want out of us. Sometimes self sacrifice becomes coercive in that sense, where we eliminate another person’s options in order for us to gain a desired result or reaction for ourselves, which ends up being more selfish than pursuing what we wanted in the first place. Thank you again for the beautifully articulated post.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Exactly. That’s exactly what I was trying to get across. Self-sacrifice, under all that romanticizing, ends up doing more harm than good and it’s really sad how we all feel so pressured to give up our own wants anyway…
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! It really means a lot to me ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  32. This was an interesting read. It’s very thought provoking and now you have me looking at every single aspect of my life. I was raised thinking I had to always put someone else first. Now I’m older and there are more and more situations where I wish I had put myself first. Alas, I am a coward. Thank you anyway for the beautiful read.

    Liked by 4 people

  33. are we meant to die alone or live together, maybe that’s the wrong way around. I believe that moments like the plank are moments unknown, until we are there.
    Yes this is survival of the fittest but together we are stronger than anyone individual, I like to think that a combined effort in survival but fail is a better outcome than the individual needs.
    Love the post, very thought provoking.
    thank you

    Liked by 3 people

  34. In the romanticized world we all wished we lived in one would find a way to save both people by either splitting the plank or sharing it UNTILL both people are saved. But the world doesn’t work that way.. we must have winners and losers ! Selfishness has little to do with life and death…in this case one has to be sure of survival…only the strong survive!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Exactly… thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! It really means a lot to me ❤

      Like

  35. This is thought-provoking Natalie 🙂 I would say it depends on the situation, and, there are different kinds of ‘right’.
    http://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/essay/law-essay/rights-meaning-features-and-types-of-rights/40373
    For example, a parent would most probably let their child take the plank and that would be right (for several reasons). Everyone might think that a person dying of old age or illness should give up the plank! These scenarios are played out in ‘disaster films’.

    I will give a personal example of my own ‘selfishness’. When I was newly married many years ago to a man much older and with children half-my-age I put my own desires and needs ‘on hold’; everyone else, including the husband came FIRST. Completely! I had been conditioned in my biological family to come last anyway so this was a natural way to be. But, I was further losing my IDENTITY becoming a shadow, a shell-of-a-person. Deep down I was miserable. I felt cheated by life. It was only after I left the relationship that I realised I was also worthy of sometimes being first, having my voice heard, pursuing my own dreams, buying myself treats. I became happier and thus affected the people around me in a healthier, more positive way.

    Love Faith xo

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I can definitely relate to that…
      That was exactly what I was trying to get across: to sacrifice because you truly want to, and to sacrifice because you feel you have to are not the same thing.
      I’m so glad you could put those instilled beliefs behind you and live your life the way you want to, the way you deserve to.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! It really means a lot to me ❤

      Like

  36. Beautiful and enlightening. I am curious as to what inspired this post. If it was an experience of your own or maybe someone you love or maybe a stranger. Not that you had actually been ‘stranded in the ocean’ but maybe “stranded” with an idea. Thank you for sharing this. Truly beautifully curios.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much!

      Well, mostly by watching the people around me give up all their dreams and aspirations for someone else, watching relationships crumble because of the resentfulness this stirs up… it’s so sad that we feel forced to give our lives up for the people we love when all that results in is broken relationships and bitterness.

      Thank you again, for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! It really means a lot to me ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    2. You are most welcome! I agree so much that it sickens me to see when people give up. For me, poetry is my passion, but I have written so many that some have been lost, long gone for me to share to others or even keep for myself, and the thought that I could lose something that I created is shameful. Not that someone else has caused this, but why should I give up writing for a different life, when my life has so much to inspire my work!? Hold on to what makes you YOU! Even if it makes you selfish. Thank you again!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! ❤

      Like

  37. This is an interesting and thought provoking post. It would (for many people but by no means all) be natural to allow a stranger to drown while you take the plank. However, where that person to be one’s own much loved child or lover, then it would not be such an easy decision. Indeed, in the latter case many people would, I believe sacrifice themselves in the hope that their child and/or lover would survive. We are, indeed selfish creatures (its inate to our nature). We are, however capable of great sacrifice, for instance firemen who deliberately go into blazing buildings and save others thereby putting their own lives in danger. I’m not sure whether taking that plank would constitute murder. Certainly holding the head of the other person under the water causing them to drown would be murder, but leaving them to their fate (while morally dubious, to put it mildly) would not be murder. Best – Kevin

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can agree with that… thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts, Kevin! It really means a lot to me ❤

      Like

  38. That what’s a deep story on what really brings character into us all . But it should always remind us to all listen to what our soul is saying not what our minds have been trained to think … fear or flight . .

    Liked by 3 people

    1. True… thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! It really means a lot to me ❤

      Like

  39. I always cringe when I read about someone who drowns trying to save their dog. If I thought I could drown, I would not do it, but maybe these people don’t realize the danger to themselves and have the idea that they can be super-human.

    I once witnessed a red-tailed hawk allow it’s two nestlings to freeze to death. Why? Because something had apparently happened to its partner and it realized that to try to raise the two young by itself was to risk its own life. A breeding adult is more valuable to the population (and to itself) than two helpless young that may not survive to adulthood. The adult would probably live to breed again. Only humans choose to be sentimental over something like that.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Exactly. We humans have a tendency to romanticize everything under the sun, and sacrifice, especially when it’s for love, is no different.
      And I simply loved that comparison! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, it rarely happens that someone agrees with everything I say but we can definitely agree to disagree. 😉

      Like

  40. Somehow, I’d still try to find a way to save us both. Neither of us should have to die. Perhaps we can tread water by holding on the board together without putting all our weight on it. I prefer to be optimistic that way. It’s like Kirk and the kobayashi maru, if you get my Star Trek reference.

    Liked by 3 people

  41. This has so much truth to it, I’ve never thought of selfishness from this perspective before. As much as caring for others is important, it’s frivolous if you yourself aren’t taken care of first.

    Liked by 3 people

  42. That’s a very good piece of writing and thought provoking. What would I do? Well my ego wants to be a hero. But the reality is that I honestly don’t know. Best be honest I guess. Can anyone really say until they are living the reality? I’ll be up all night now just wandering what if….

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much, Jon!
      I’m so glad you liked it ❤
      Haha, true. You'll never really know until it is life or death, will you?

      Liked by 1 person

  43. Hi Natalie, I am a bundle of confusion. This is one of the conflicting things I always have to deal with. Sometimes I want to help, yet I hold back, not sure if I have the purest intention or I am just doing it to feel and look good. Sometimes this gets to me so much that I feel that some kindness just disgusts me. Lovely read by the way. Can we take turns for the plank? XD

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ve been in that position so many times, it’s almost eerie how you’ve managed to describe that feeling so perfectly…
      Haha, thank you so much! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  44. Hi! Let me first say that your writing is beautiful and evocative; setting the scene in an empty ocean helps to really emphasize the difficulty of the decision between selfishness and selflessness. I think you also point out a very important aspect of the topic: at times (and in moderation, of course) selfishness can be the moral choice. In a toxic relationship, for example. The selfless thing to do is to “stick it out” and keep trying, despite how futile it may be. The selfish thing is to decide that you deserve better and to cut your losses. Sometimes being selfish is the better of two options. Thanks for the compelling read!

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Thank you so much, Lana!
      Agreed, there are so many situations today where we feel pressurized to do the ‘right’ thing when it’s not doing anyone any favours.
      I’m so glad my words resonated with you! ❤

      Like

  45. I CAN’T BELIEVE I WASN’T FOLLOWING YOU ALREADY! *gasps* I AM YOUR FAN NOW! TRULYYY!! It’s not everyday that I come by a blog which is so gorgeous, both to look at and to read, that I just!! UGH….I feel sick with happiness after reading this! God, I LOVE YOUR MIND, Natalie!! ❤ ❤ KEEP WRITING BECAUSE YOU ROCK AT IT! ❤ Have a beautiful day! ❤

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Wow I don’t even know what to say…
      Thank you so much, you have no idea how much that means to me. You just made my day! ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  46. There’s no way that’s going down without a fight.
    Selfishness can be overridden by the conscious and aware person but it’s there in all of us, self preservation ultimately wins, especially in such life or death scenarios.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Maybe, but that’s irrelevant here. The focus here is on how you feel, not on the situation itself.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts here! ❤

      Like

  47. So eventually I read something that addresses the issue of when self preservation, the natural instinct is challenged by the moral imperative. Nicely sketched.
    It is interesting because as I am often reminded in life there is a third and fourth choice. However, our natural inclination is to focus on the life and death issue.
    Having set a similar conundrum to students one came back with the point you could choose to collaborate, the plank is a floatation device for when strength is failing so share the time you have. Another said you could both choose to die.
    The point you address about selfishness is articulated well however I’d like to understand your reasoning on the point of sacrifice because we are all compelled make sacrifices,

    I really enjoyed the post and taking me back to the days when I taught Problem Solving and ethics.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. That’s an interesting point you make there… we do have a third and fourth choice, but for the purpose of this concept, I wanted the emphasis to be on how you felt while making the choice, or how you would judge someone else for making theirs. The choice itself was irrelevant, because mostly, your self-preservation insticts would kick in.
      I meant to say that we often feel compelled to sacrifice our dreams for the people we love, and most of the time, it makes both parties resentful, benefitting no one.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment here! I really enjoyed the new perspective ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I agree with you about the stark choice and how the self preservation response is a two edged sword.
      Sacrifice, my personal viewpoint, I have never made a sacrifice grudgingly, I weigh the outcome before it is made and then accept the outcome. The sacrifice is always made to benefit another or others. So I have never resented any sacrifice, why is that?

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Well, I definitely can’t speak for everyone here… if you’ve personally never resented any sacrifice, then you must be very fortunate in that aspect. I grew up around people who gave up their dreams for family and turned bitter in the process. It was heartwrenching to see relationships go sour that was, and that was the point I was trying to get across…

      Liked by 1 person

  48. A compelling and evocative read!

    How do we really know what we would do until confronted in this very situation?

    You read so much about the selflessness of people dying whilst trying to save others, so it’s hard to really know whether I would choose self-preservation over death.

    Liked by 3 people

  49. Thank you for uploading this post. I love the imagery you give of the sea. It sounds like an unbridled abyss.

    This feels like the story of my family. My parent and sibling have asked me to sacrifice my dreams and goals to help them financially. I had to say no but felt guilty nonetheless for not sacrificing my life goals.

    Liked by 3 people

  50. Call me stubborn but I’m not convinced there are only two options. Drown or be drowned? Nah, cooperation can destroy the false dichotomies society imposes upon us. Together we’ll find the third path or die trying. At least that’s what I believe. Sure, selfishness can be justified to a degree, but I don’t think acceptance of a harsh ‘reality’ is necessarily the way forward. Sometimes you need to refuse to conform to find a better way. Maybe I will take the plank for myself but I’ll do my damn best to keep you alive long enough to find a better solution. Perhaps it’s youthful naivety but I prefer my outlook on life.
    I liked the piece though, thought-provokingas it was. Kudos

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Of course, we all think differently, so we’ll just have to agree to disagree here…. thank you anyway for a different perspective and taking the time to read and share your thoughts here! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Of course it would depend on the situation. Creativity is borne from harrowing circumstances. The most obvious scene that comes to mind is of Rose and Jack, often ridiculed because that door was big enough to hold both. But even if it hadn’t been, alternating might be an option. What I don’t consider an option, however, is accepting either one of the options given without even bothering to search for an alternative. Yeah saving yourself is fun and all but survivor’s guilt is a real thing that I would think most people would like to avoid if possible. And honestly, your snappy suggestion isn’t as ludicrous as it seems. What are the chances the piece of wood is the only thing floating around in the ocean? With the state of our oceans, is it really that hard to imagine something else would be floating around? It’s easy to ridicule the hopeful but your cynicism isn’t exactly helpful in such a situation. So no, I don’t have an easy third option ready for you but just because we can’t see it in this hypothetical scenario with limited information doesn’t mean there isn’t one.
      This will also be my last reply to this comment. I have said all I wanted to say in my original comment anyway. With everyone else, we can agree to disagree.

      Liked by 1 person

  51. I enjoyed reading this conundrum and the ensuing discussion. If I were drowning in the sea I’m sure that I’d be panicked and irrational. However, as an old lady, I’d like to think that I might be rational and if the other person were healthier and younger I might judge that they would have a better chance of survival and would certainly have longer to enjoy the results of that survival. If I reached such a decision and acted upon it, I call it a result or rational rather than unselfishness! It would be hard if we were of the same age and physical and condition – then who knows!

    Liked by 3 people

  52. What a controversial post. I like the creativity and thought put into it. The idealist inside me thinks I would find a way to save us both.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Agreed, but that would defeat the purpose of the question, wouldn’t it?
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts here! Really means a lot ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  53. Thank you… for your words resonate my own experiences that I fail to express. It’s incredible how there are so many people who feel the same things – despite existing in different times and places.

    I appreciate this piece, and you as a writer. Thank you 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Agreed: I’m still surprised when I feel that tug of bonding, reading someone else’s piece and it never fails to amaze me how much people can connect even without knowing a single thing about each other.
      I’m honoured you could experience that in my writing ❤
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment here… it means more to me than you could ever imagine.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Not a problem! It’s what I love about this community – I feel like I’m part of a big family connected by our feelings (as lame as that sounds haha).
      You absolutely deserve it – your writing is beautiful!! I look forward to more from you 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  54. When I came across your website, I was preoccupied with studying about the congenital heart diseases (for the exam I had the next day) but I anyway went ahead with reading your blog post. It really seized my attention. The way you painted the story with your words was truly ravishing. It felt as though I was there in that situation where I had to choose between morality and self-preservation.

    For the wonderful and captivating blog that you wrote, I didn’t want to rush into commenting so I waited for a few days until I got free, read your blog again in peace and decided to comment finally.

    I just wanted to say I am truly happy to have come across your website and I am too excited to read more of your genius writing 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Haha, I was literally laughing out loud reading this because I’ve done the exact same thing so many times and it’s really just come full circle now 🙂
      I’m so glad you enjoyed reading my posts and that my words resonated with you! It really means a lot to me.
      Thank you so much, Divya, for taking the time to read and share this with me… you just made my day ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  55. This makes me think of the one where there is a man driving a one-passenger car in a hurricane. He sees the woman of his dreams, his best friend and a person having a heart attack. Who would the man with the car save in the emergency? He gives the keys to the best friend to drive the heart attack victim to the hospital and stays to die with the woman of his dreams.

    Liked by 2 people

  56. What a read, it challenged me to think deeply of how selfless I am and how selfish l can be and to flash back on many encounters where l helped because of guilt and some where l didn’t help and guilt tormented me… Thanks for this

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for taking the tie to read and share your thoughts here! I’m so glad you liked it ❤

      Like

  57. Hi Natalie, thank you for noticing my blog! I am glad to know that someone would want to take time to read it and follow it. Your posts are so encouraging, I resonate with this one the most, because I’m learning to be selfish these past months so I will be able to love and to care for myself more. I’d love to hear more from you! Have a good day! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was my pleasure ❤
      I'm so glad you liked my post! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment here! It really means a lot to me.

      Like

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed reading it! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts here! It really means a lot ❤

      Like

    1. True… but honestly, I feel like what you do choose doesn’t really matter in this context, its what you feel you ‘have’ to choose.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts here! It really means a lot to me, Rosi ❤

      Like

  58. The only problem with this question is its opposite… selflessness. Does being selfless not count, when looking at that board? And what of option 3, sharing the board? One person holds the board, while the other floats, and then trade! Few things are so black and white, and though a thought provoking argument, again, we are rarely limited to just two options.
    Both could hang on, neither keeping it for “themselves”, merely reserving strength together… Did they just come from a shipwreck? Or from the shore? They could, together, use the board to better battle the waves, and combining their strengths make it back, where neither could have alone.
    Food for thought, still a good read. (Trying to remember where I’d read something similar… :-p ).

    Liked by 3 people

  59. There is a problem here. What you describe is hypothetical and imaginary problems cannot be solved. The real problem is this – we unconsciously follow an incorrect calendar and as a result – we are unable to connect securely to the cosmic currents. Thanks for following my blog.. I will be writing more on this as I believe there is no darkness, only an absence of light that we can shine.. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Maybe not, but you’re missing the point. The focus here isn’t a solution. It’s what you feel you ‘have’ to do. Maybe its unlikely you’ll be stranded alone in the ocean with a single plank, but it’s far more likely that you are expected to make sacrifices in particular situations. The question can be a metaphor for anything at all; it doesn’t have to be taken in the literal sense.
      And ‘there is only an absence of light that we can shine in’ is such a beautiful thought<3

      Like

  60. I’ll save myself…that was my first thought whilst reading…then I felt guilty and felt I should save you even though I don’t know you..but your words reassured me…convinced me that choosing myself is not a sin or even a crime…thank you for this. I really needed that this morning…

    You write beautifully!

    Liked by 2 people

  61. This addresses so plainly what my own writing is so often about. You’ve gotten to the heart of one of my most dear ideas, that it might be okay to let the universe be you-centric for a while. I’d say keep it up as if you were in my shoes, but you’ve got it all pretty well kept. I am a fan, is what I’m trying to say.

    Liked by 1 person

  62. This is the most interesting post I’ve read in a long time, and very relevant to my life. If I was in the water with a child, or someone significantly younger than me, with lots of life ahead, I would likely give them the plank, though I’d try to touch base occasionally waiting for help to arrive. This brings up the relevance to taking responsibility (emotionally) for the failures and successes of my adult children as I work to step back from them. On the other hand, I did let go of the counseling job I did for 30 plus years when I finally had the chance. In the last ten years I worked that job, I kept saying, “I’m not going to let this job kill me.” I feel very little guilt for that and great relief. So many applications and great wisdom in your words. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mmm, I can definitely relate to that, though in different circumstances. I think all of us, at some point in our lives, are guilty of this, though it can be hard to face it.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your story here, Joanna! It really means a lot to me ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  63. Selfishness in humans is easily derived from the ‘importance’ and ‘value’ parents put into their children. I dont mean this in a negative way, but mean its similar to pampering or what nowadays we call “participation awards.” Growing we a are taught the importance of doing all kinds of things, being part of society and such, helping humanity as a whole progress. A big influence was the idea of space travel, going green for the environment, and other movements.

    This put value into our lives, making us worth something and our worth, is how much we can learn in school. Our selfishness grew from the idea that we have some value to our society and we only know our own worth.

    From this in any dilemma many will choose to grab the plank then save the stranger. They know their own value, even if it was a loved one their decision might only hesitate a little but still be the same in the end.

    That does not all mean that everyone is like this. Afterall if we compete for the same job and have the sams degree only one of us will win and the other the loser.

    To win or lose isn’t the question, but it changes the mindset. ‘What do I achieve when I win? What do I lose out on if I fail?’ Many can attest to these questions after all many are still paying their college tuition off. Those of us who have failed at something can see how much value they have and a estimation of those around them. These people are the ones who put forth others rather than themselves.

    So at this point how do we progress after being kicked down? We praise the winners some more. We humble ourselves, avoiding the spotlight because the glammer we used to strive for would only be bittersweet.

    The winners humble themselves to look better, we humble ourselves because we know better.

    Its a matter of interpretation. Understand that nothing is more powerful than words.

    A great example was Nietzsche he wrote a book, died, and then his book raised up Nazis. Didn’t know that? Übermensche. Go figure.

    Best part? He didn’t advocate for it, they just interpreted that way.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mmmm that’s really an intriguing insight you have there…
      I’ve never really thought about it that way, but now that you point it out, I definitely agree.
      Perception is reality, no matter how much we might wish otherwise.
      And thank you so much for the new perspective! It really means a lot to me that you took the time to read and share this here ❤

      Like

  64. thinking about this says more about me and my shortcomings. everyone might want to think she (or he) would be heroes, but the difference between heroes and cowards, selfless and selfish, is in that terrible moment. And then there is the well-documented guilt that survivor(s) have. Man, you paint a really challenging picture! Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  65. Enjoyed the story. Daily life is full of tough choices. Not all are life or death, but none the less tough. Something to consider is that we are not separate beings. All life is made up of one energy. We are all connected so if I live, you live. If I die, you die. I get the purpose of the story is to realize we can be selfish, and it isn’t evil. I’m suggesting that selfishness doesn’t exist except in our minds. We cannot do anything that only benefits us. Everything that benefits us, benefits others. It’s more complicated and more simple than who dies and who lives. We all do both.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s definitely an interesting way to look at it…
      Thank you so much for the new perspective! ❤

      Like

  66. Wow that was amazing and so true! I’m just beginning in this journey of mine to do what I truly love and believe is inlign with my purpose in life. Now I just have to trust the process and do a lot of learning and reading and I’m delighted that I checked out your blog can’t wait to read more!

    Liked by 1 person

  67. Really, I’m OK with selfish when it’s life and death. I bought a weapon when I had children in case someone threatened their lives. But, there are amazing people out there who don’t think that way. I will always remember a Navy chaplain who gave up his life vest to a sailor after their ship was sunk in WWII.

    Liked by 1 person

  68. Humans are born many things, that doesnt mean it’s okay. Not to beat ourselves up but to become better people, ultamatley for the benefit of everyone involved, including ourselves. It’s never good to starve yourself of course,after all you can’t give from an empty tank. But in the imagined scenario of being lost at sea, its a given that I wont commit murder, not because im forced not to, but out of love and trust. You really never know what might change drastically based on choices made.If i let the other person go, I might find another rescue option, or, I might die at peace. Your description is incredible by the way 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  69. Most of us will grab the plank and not think about it till later, I would like to think I would try to take a rest with it then let the other person take a rest with it until something happens to one or other of us. Some people have an unbelievable strength of will and will last longer. Saying that I would still feel massive guilt about being the survivor. But if you are in a situation that continuously pulls you down, leave it and find a more positive life that helps you grow.

    Liked by 1 person

  70. Wow! Very interesting.In my opinion, there are two kinds of “Selfishness”. First one, we gotta love ourselves first in order to be able to love others and second, we gotta love people like we love ourselves.We should stop thinking that everything is selfishness and also be careful and wise enough to realize when we are actually being selfish. I know one thing: The only one who was willing to give His own life for us, and did it, was Jesus Christ. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  71. “To give because you truly want to is one thing, but to sacrifice because you feel pressured to is quite another.”
    accidentaly, i’ve been in this position. no, im not stucking in the middle of the see with another person and should be choosen to be a murderer or a hero, it’s different in imagery. well, i do love someone. he’s 2 years below me we’re at the same high school. normaly when im graduate from high school he used to be go to the next grade. and yeah im graduate and he is up to the next grade. but the problem is when i will go to the university after i graduated i should be postponed until next year, and when i almost postponed again untill i can finally together go to university with him i accepted at university, to be honest im glad cause i felt like im not being his rival, but the other i felt sad cause im afraid that it would be separated us. and beside im afraid if i sacrifice something to him again, he would not do the same as me. but the feeling of love is real. how is your thought about that?

    Like

  72. The adult version of “The Giving Tree”. I loved it. There are many levels to your post. I enjoyed it and have thought about my comment as I read the hundreds of others. On the surface, as a firefighter I don’t wholeheartedly agree. But on the deeper level, I most certainly do. Fantastic job and fantastic post inciting so much debate and helping readers peel back the layers. I am your newest follower!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha thank you so much!
      Well, I didn’t mean it on the surface either. I think that’s something many people don’t understand, which has definitely lead to a lot of misunderstanding here.
      Again, thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts here! It really means a lot ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  73. I liked this a lot. It strongly echoed sentiments I’ve read in Ayn Rand’s “The Virtue of Selfishness” as well as the Stoic philosophy of Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. You’re a very thoughtful writer and I was riveted by this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Andrew!
      I’ll definitely check them out… I’ve heard of the Stoic philosophy and it was certainly intriguing by I haven’t come across the other one
      I’m so glad you liked it! Thank you so much, again, for taking the time to read and share your thoughts here! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  74. Hi Natalie, I love what you do. This has given me alot to think about; immediately I’ve thought if I were in that situation and it was a family member, rather than a stranger, how much would that influence my decision? It’s true that there are alot of people who mean alot to us out there, but even in a situation like that, with people I care dearly about, would I sink or swim? There’s alot you can do with the concepts you right about. You’ve got yourself a new follower! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly… I find the entire concept intriguing and somewhat insightful, hypothetical or not.
      Thank you so much! Glad you liked it ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  75. Hello Natalie, I really enjoyed this blog and read it a couple of times and thought about it a lot. I think we would all save ourselves, except for a parent and child situation. I liked Zafar Satyavan’s comments. I’m new at this blogging business and am looking forward to reading more of your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed reading my piece! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts here! It really means a lot ❤

      Like

  76. To give in because you want to and to sacrifice grudgingly because you feel pressured to reflect two facets of being. You carry the reader so we’ll to this precipice which reflects where one is on the journey of life and our perception of self. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I definitely agree with that… thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts here! ❤

      Like

  77. This whole post resonated with me. But I particularly loved this line:

    “Give up a dream for someone you love, however harmless an action, and there’s a good chance you might have destroyed a relationship that could’ve flowered.”

    Really enjoyed your writing style too. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  78. to love is to lose. its better to lose oneself for another, than for oneself. i’ll always choose the other person’s life. thats why i’ll always lose. still its the right thing to do.

    Like

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts here, Peter! I’ll definitely check it out. ❤
      As for this read, that was definitely not what I was trying to get across… to me, the plank represents so much more than what it physically depicts: life and death. We rarely come across scenarios like this in normal life and I didn't mean for it to be taken quite literally. It could be a metaphor for… anything. It's all about perspective, I guess.

      Liked by 1 person

  79. I dose of reality and lovely honesty!! I like it! Its not uncomfortable it’s just reality but for the majority of people reality it’s uncomfortable. Probably that’s the reason for the fact that a few of humans lives their live as they want to.

    Liked by 1 person

  80. Thanks for stopping by … I like connecting with those who explore complex ideas. And this one… Yowzers!!! I honestly don’t know what I would do, but I know I would travel all of the thought trails you so beautifully described. You really force us to ponder… just awesome… xoxox

    Liked by 1 person

  81. There are over 7 Billion people on this planet. Your unique point of view to me is just as important to anyone else.

    Do not be discouraged that more people don’t read your blog. My blog has about 85 followers at the moment, and that’s okay.

    The reason that people are so divided is something called “normalcy bias” where they can’t see what is coming.

    Keep up the great work here, and I love your blog!

    Liked by 2 people

  82. So gripping I had to read it to the end.

    Here is my take on the analogy: self-love is different from selfishness. Jesus Christ said, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Doesn’t that suggest that you should love yourself first? I think it does!

    Secondly, taking the only available plank and escaping to safety is self-love or self-preservation, not selfishness. But let’s say there were two planks in view, if I seize the two and escape to safety, denying you the opportunity of using one of them, that could be called selfishness or outright wickedness.

    In any case, I got your message: “each one’s destiny is in his/her own hands.” Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Of course… I simply wanted to create a situation where there would be no choice but to be ‘selfish’.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your views here, Victor! It really means a lot ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I really appreciate your point of view, Victor. I believe that when the Bible says to guard your heart, to some extent, it was speaking of self-love and self-preservation, also known as, selfishness. Which is ok. Just because we are Christian does not mean that we are to be doormats. We have to love ourselves enough to love others effectively and that takes a little selfishness.

      Liked by 2 people

  83. I love this and it’s very timely for me. I know I need to look after my own needs better, not subsume them to others in the name of love or my idea of what a good person should be. If I’m not good to myself first then I can’t be fully myself for anybody else.

    Liked by 1 person

  84. This is amazing, came at the perfect time too. Sometimes in life even if you know certain things you need a remainder. The last 1 year of my life has been difficult I totally would have needed this. Definitely worth sharing it could help somebody

    Liked by 1 person

  85. Selfish and selfless are funny concepts. I understand my own immortality is in my words, my deeds and my line. Were I in the water beside you, you would live, and I would die. My own immortality is not in my skin, I am a dead man awaiting his day, and I have already lived life enough to have few regrets. If my daughters were in the water as well, then I am sorry. I would kill you to buy them a chance to live. I would not hesitate, nor give them any say in the matter. Selfish means I place more value on their lives than my own, and lets be honest, if I had to kill a hundred to save them, I am not father to that hundred, but I am to them.

    I strive to be a good person, but before my duty to anyone else, before Queen and country, before my fellow man, before myself, come my children. That can sound pretty enough, but I don’t shy from when that gets expressed by pushing an innocent person off the last scrap of wood far out to sea. Love of real people trumps agape love of the whole of humanity when you have to choose who lives through the night.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s really an interesting way of looking at it. You’ve put it forth beautifully ❤
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your perspective here! It really means a lot to me ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  86. I thought immediately of sharing; not one or the other, but one WITH the other…
    BOTH
    Share the time, share the plank, why should it not be possible?
    There are over 300 comments already. I did not read them all but I’d be surprised if no one came up with the same idea as I do. 🙂
    Interesting thought exercise!

    Liked by 1 person

  87. Wonderful post and very thought-provoking as I can see from all the comments. I did sacrifice my dream of taking journalism or foreign service when I went to college for the sake of appeasing my father who wanted me to become an accountant because he needed a good one in the family. Glad I found your blog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts here! It really means a lot to me ❤

      Like

  88. Everybody’s taking the plank these days. When I was a young un nobody would take the plank. And two Englishman would rather die together while they convinced then other person to take the plank. It’s just not done.

    Like

  89. This is a great post. The only thing I want to say is that I don’t believe taking care of yourself is selfish. Yes, we should do for others when we can. We should make appropriate sacrifices for and compromises with others–especially those we love. But if something would harm or kill us, we owe ourselves the choice of us.

    We should absolutely give the kind of love we want to get. But no love should want or ask for sacrifice and/or compromise that will greatly injure or kill us.

    Liked by 1 person

  90. A post worth reading! You’ve made me realize that I’m not as selfish as I think I am. We all do so many things which we would rather not, just for the sake of doing the ‘right’ thing. Even if it means putting someone else’s life as a priority. I do wish I could save both of us but maybe not. In fact, even the act of saving the other person will be a kind of ‘selfishness’ on my part. That person will live the rest of their life feeling guilty while I’m dead. Not an act of ‘selflessness’, is it?
    An inspiring read, Natalie! I’m glad that I read this today.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are so many different angles you could take on the situation, and that’s why I wanted to put it forth as a hypothetical. Each person sees another dilemna, and every single view is just so intriguing, I have to say, this is one post I really enjoyed reading the comments to.
      I’m so glad you liked it, Rachel! Thank you so much! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It definitely is.
      I’m so glad you liked it, Sheila! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment! ❤

      Like

  91. Can’t be more relatable. You get attached to people and feel obliged to sacrifice your needs for them but then only you are responsible for the consequences of your actions on you. You can’t say tomorrow that you failed because of someone else. You may believe so, but the world doesn’t care about it. The world sees the result and not the reasons.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly what I was getting at.
      To be honest, I’m actually a bit surprised that someone has managed to look at the piece the way I did when I wrote it… there’ve been so many different interpretations of the hypothetical, and it’s really been interesting to read what people think about it, what they see with respect to their own lives.
      But its so easy to get caught up in different opinions and personal beliefs, especialy when its so controversial from an ethical perspective.
      I have to admit, I’d started to question whether I should pull the article down, after the hundreth outraged comment, and I was just reminded of why I wrote the piece in the first place. Of what it means to me.

      So, thank you so much for that, truly. ❤

      Liked by 2 people

  92. Really enjoyed your post Natalie! It reminds me so much of my struggles in “Life or Death Decisions” class in college and also the ending scene to Titanic. He died to save a woman he loved when he could have easily stayed out of the water on the door frame. I guess it does make a difference whether stranger or loved one. Yet, I think of some individuals during the Holocaust that saved strangers at the risk of themselves and wonder if there were higher principles to function out of. I loved one of your last lines, “To give because you truly want to is one thing, but to sacrifice because you feel pressured to is quite another.” Again, thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s definitely something to think about…
      But I feel like the ‘plank’ didn’t have to be just that: a plank. It’s highly unlikely that the average person is ever going to face a life-or-death situation in their lifetime. The plank could be a metaphor for anything, and I guess it’s up to the reader to choose their own interpretation.
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your views here! It really means a lot ❤

      Like

  93. Selfishness is the natural self-directedness of the suffering or threatened organism. If you hit your thumb with a hammer, you will have trouble thinking about anything else.

    To quote my book How to Be Free by Joe Blow : “Self-criticism never made anyone a better person. Anyone who does a ‘good deed’ under pressure from their conscience or to gain the approval of others takes out the frustration involved in some other way. The basis for loving behaviour towards others is the ability to love ourselves.”

    That is not to say that nobody gives their life to save someone else. Soldiers have thrown themselves over grenades to save their brothers in arms. People have died running into a burning building to save a child. But these can’t be acts driven by conscience, because there is no time for that kind of thinking.

    I think our deepest instinct is toward the love of others, regardless of who they are. Love is a form of communication characterised by openness, honesty, spontaneity and generosity. To act on love is still self-interest in the sense that it is to do what we want to do. Loving relationships are rewarded by our biology. The body of a mother caring for her newborn tends to produce the drug oxytocin, which reinforces the behaviour with pleasurable feelings.

    Then there is the question of meaning. We have a hunger for meaning because it makes any suffering we experience easier to bear. And our meaning tends to come from the role we play in the lives of others. When we need consolation for the hardships of life we may look at how the lives of others have benefited from our presence in the world. This was the message of the film It’s a Wonderful Life.

    But, whatever our situation, we will only make ourselves more selfish if we criticise ourselves for being selfish. It’s a negative feedback loop. The guiltier we feel the more we are thinking about ourselves and thus the more useless we are to anyone else anyway. It’s simply not helpful.

    Idealism – the tendency to hold our own behaviour or that of others to an unrealistically high standard – is the root of all evil. It is love’s worst enemy. Our primary instinct is to love our fellows and to seek to experience pleasure in our bodies and avoid suffering. When we live that instinct we can find mutualities of self-interest – we find that what feels best is to cooperate with our fellows in meeting our shared needs and to bond over the giving and receiving of pleasure. It is the wounds inflicted by the criticism of our conscience – which is the internalisation of idealistic demands in the culture we inhabit – which cause us to become insecure in a way which makes us competitive or greedy or prone to addiction, etc. And this sows the seeds of conflict in society. And if the conscience becomes truly oppressive it can become a generator of malevolence – the desire to make others suffer simply because to do so is wrong and thus a way of getting revenge against the dictator within.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That was exactly what I was trying to get across and you’ve written it beautifully, Joe!
      Thank you so much for taking the time to read and share your thoughts here! It really means a lot ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  94. This leaves me a bit conflicted. It has to assume that the other person is a stranger and without any special merit. Then, since my life is as valuable as anyone else’s, I might as well take the plank. But there are so many reason I might decide either way.

    In the throes of extreme panic, there is no thought. You grab for the plank. But that isn’t a thought out decision. It is an instinct and if you are that deep into panic you really aren’t in control any more. You’re a machine. I think what matters is what you would do if you could think about it.

    To take it to an extreme, if the other person is my child or wife, they get the plank. Period. Or even just ANY child. The paternal force is strong in me. OTOH, if that person is Adolph Hitler, I’ll make sure he doesn’t get the plank even if it means we both die together.

    Self love is the original love. It keeps us alive when everything around us is failing. I do not believe it is the greatest love. Self love can spawn an even greater love for something outside our self else there would never be any self sacrifice. We would probably eat our children and evil people would have their way as long as we were confident they wouldn’t come for us.

    Liked by 2 people

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