fifty dollars

I wish to explain myself.

I believe in self-determination. It is my responsibility to decide the life I want to live, and to live with the consequences of my decisions. I should not let anyone else dictate my life for me.

I do not live in a vacuum. Very often, I will also need other people to do things for me. I try to create an arrangement where both people benefit. I believe in mutual self-interest. It is no good to force other people to do what I want.

To convince the other person to do something for me, I might use the excuse that what I want is “right”. Maybe I might say that it is only right that a mother cooks dinner for her son. Who decides that this is “right”. Do I decide? Does society decide? Is it “right” because it’s always been done that way?

Or perhaps I think that what I want you to do is “good” for you. I might say that you should exercise  three times a week, and I might feel very strongly that it will increase your happiness. However, these are only my standards, based on my experiences. You are your own person, with your own unique experiences and values, only you know best how to be happy. It would be presumptuous for me to tell you what to do.

I think it far better to let other people be. Let them do as they see fit. They are walking on their own roads to happiness just as surely as I am.

Consider how you wash my clothes for me, clean the house, buy food, prepare dinner for me, provide a room for me to stay in. Am I thankful? VERY! But I do not expect you to do this for me because it is only “right”, or because you have always done so. Mutual self-interest. Do what is best for yourself, and I will do what is best for me. If you do not like preparing dinner, if you do not like buying food for me, if you no longer wish to provide a room for me to stay in, I am sure we can both discuss our preferences and settle the matter in a manner that will benefit us both. Mind, I am not suggesting you kick me out right away :P.

Is this a heartless, calculating way to live? I let you decide. On the contrary, I believe that mutual self-interest creates more happiness. Instead of forcing someone else to grudgingly act under obligation, we would have more people acting in their self-interest. This is a wonderful thing.

I had already decided to stop giving the $50 monthly allowance when Valerie asked me before flying off to Korea for an advance. I wanted to change my mind then and give her the money. It would have been the easy thing, the nice thing to do.

When I started working, you told me that I should give Valerie $50 a month. I did it because you said so. It was the easy thing, paying $50 a month to avoid conflict.

A nice guy avoids conflict. A man makes a principled decision and stands by his choices.

Valerie, I would slip into your room and place the $50 under perhaps a sheath of paper on your cluttered study table so it wouldn’t fly away. Then I’d return quietly into my room and perhaps an hour or so later when you discovered it, you’d come over and say, “thanks, kor”, and I’d nod my head to complete the ritual. It was my way of saying, “hey, I’m here for you”. I don’t regret the money I gave you at all. Mom, you had this in mind when you wanted me to give Valerie an allowance. I understand that.

But now that Val’s finished her last semester, I thought I would make a small statement. I wanted to make a principled, thoughtful choice. Not because something is “right”, not because it’s always been that way, but because I wanted to live by 2 principles – mutual self-interest, and self-determination.

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2 thoughts on “fifty dollars

  1. You are slipping into some heavy, almost existential thought there Tim.

    And yes, it is a pretty heartless and calculating way to live.

  2. Cannot agree more. I’m going to start to do that, but somewhere I’m still afraid of the discomfort that this thing will cause me.

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