February 14, 2017- Love
“For finally, we are as we love. It is love that measures our stature. There is no smaller package in the world than that of a person all wrapped up in himself.”
–William Sloane Coffin (1924-2006) Christian clergy, peace activist
All of us can get “all wrapped up” in ourselves, can’t we? It can happen in a split second, before I know what’s happened, there I am, all wrapped up in my issues and focused on how everything is going to affect me, me, me.
I think the only way to rout out selfishness―is it possible to do it completely?―is to incorporate it’s opposite into the very fabric of our lives: generosity.
There’s an old movie that I have never been able to get out of my mind. I saw it when I was seventeen. The movie is “Magnificent Obsession” (1954). It’s not a great movie, but the theme at its core struck me as remarkable: The secret to a happy life is to strive always to give to others abundantly and in secret. That’s the “magnificent obsession.” Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson act out that theme, sometimes in ways that would now be considered naïve and unbelievable. In the end, he “gets the girl” and disaster is avoided. But the theme remains compelling.
At the beginning of the film, Hudson’s character is, to use Coffin’s words, “all wrapped up in himself.” He causes great harm to others by his self-centered attitude. The heart of the film is his “conversion” and how he works it out practically in his life.
It’s a study in selfishness recognized and transformed. What I remember first feeling about the film is admiration for the single-mindedness of this character, and of the character from whom he learned it: a “wise old man” archetype. I still admire generous and single-minded persons.
What are some ways you incorporate the opposite of selfishness in your life? Take a moment to consider; there are probably more than you realize.
You may already have a magnificent obsession.
Happy Valentine’s Day!