Saturday, May 26, 2012

Is it heroic to sacrifice yourself for a cause?

People tend to glorify those who give their life for a cause.  I don't see it that way.  When a man dies for his cause, he deprives his parents of a son, his wife of a husband, his children of a father, and his siblings of a brother.  He deprives the world of all the things he might have done in his life -- the writing, the art, the scientific discoveries.

I once started reading Siddhartha, but I did not get far.  It glorified a man for leaving his wife and baby.  To me, that is all wrong.

We live in this world as individual threads in a tapestry.  Everything we do affects other people, and affects the earth.  We cannot possibly foresee all consequences of our actions.  We cannot possibly avoid causing harm to others.  We must act in the this world, despite the fact that there are no perfect actions.  We must act in this world, despite the fact that every action will in some way cause some harm to someone.

But at the same time, we have a responsibility.  When we choose to let someone become close to us, we have a responsibility to care for that person.  We have a responsibility to think of how our actions might hurt that person.  To go off and die for a cause without thought to one's family, or to leave one's wife and baby in search of enlightenment -- to me, such actions are not heroic deeds.  They are abominations, violations of one's obligation to care for others.


  1. the conflict between responsibility to self and to the group is key to what it is to be human. there is no solution to this paradox, it is what makes being human a grave difficulty, and why all religions evolved. to be human is an abominnation and an amazement at the same time

  2. I think I was writing more about the conflict between responsibility to family (by which I mean whoever we have chosen to be close to) and responsibility to community. Often serving humanity at large means giving less to one's family. It is good to serve humanity at large, but I think that serving humanity at large gets glorified as being all good, and the cost to family is not recognized. I'm not saying that it's better to serve family than to serve humanity. I'm saying that we shouldn't glorify one thing as if it is all good, because everything we do is at the expense of something else.