The Thought for the Day – Gore Vidal

– Men are unfathomable, aren’t they?
– I agreed. Actually, I have found men quite fathomable. They look entirely to their own interest.  – Gore Vidal, Creation


Gore Vidal is featured regularly here at the Thought for the Day, and another introduction is not necessary. In fact, if you are a regular reader, you may well be familiar with him on your own. For our money, Vidal provides the insights into us humans you pay us writers to provide better than anyone and it is likely he will always be regarded as one of America’s foremost men of letters.

I have found men quite fathomable…

Us humans are, in fact, rather fathomable: we will look out for ourselves and our own self-interest. History’s long march – the great cacophony of time – shows this and us humans have advanced in spite of it.

Mother Nature, of course, is responsible for a lot of this. Her only concern is keeping our species alive and growing, so she sees to it that getting fed and getting some are our strongest instincts so it is hardly a surprise our human experience is comprised of six billion people each leading largely random, selfish lives.  

Overcoming daily selfishness to see our existence in a collective instead of individual context is difficult. To completely do it may not even be possible. Fortunately, not everybody’s self-interest involves conquest and domination. We’ve found that most people, in fact, are basically good, knowing that society works best when part of our time is spent looking out for others.

But we can’t spend all our time looking out for others. We must spend time on daily cultivation and living the life we were meant to live.

Selfish? Sure, of course it is. But it is also necessary. All of us we’re born with certain talents and all of us are issued 24 hours each and every day. If we are going to get the most out of our time on this planet, and thereby do ourselves and everyone else the most good, we must work hard to get the most out of the talents nature gave us. 

They look entirely to their own interest…

We must be selfish enough to live the life we were meant to live. This does not mean a life of avarice or rapacity. It does not mean the mindless accumulation of things and it does not mean spending your life reacting solely to outside influences.

It means using our time and our talents to live the life we were meant to lead. When we are doing this we are leading the most unselfish life of all, a life that does us and others the most good.

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