“I’ve never done anything altruistic in my life. I would like to do something for someone else for a change.”
“I’m talking about something important, not silly stuff like do someone’s laundry…”
That’s the answer he gave me.
The question was: “Is there something you haven’t done in your life yet, something you’d really like to do?” He asked it, not me. But my answer was much more predictable: “I would like to travel to the edges of the world, go whale watching in Antarctica…” (always realistic, my dreams).
I was rather stunned, really. There we were, holding our beers in a smoke-filled bar in Berlin, in early January 2013. We had been talking about travelling and life, about dreams and regrets. Not your average bar chit-chat is it? That’s what I liked about him. He had been looking at me from across the bar, dressed in a preppy blue shirt, half of it sticking out of his jeans. He approached me and we started talking.
It wasn’t the usual boring stuff you hear in similar situations: “Do you like Berlin/London/Paris/whatever?”
“Sure, it’s great (What you want to say: No, it’s pretty lousy)
“What do you like to do on your free time?”
“I like reading” (Want to say: I kill cats)
Needless to say, I never remember talks I’ve had in bars, especially the ones which occurred after a few drinks. His comment, however, stuck in my head from that night on and I keep coming back to it from time to time. Do something altruistic. For someone else. Have I ever done something big for another person for no personal direct or indirect gain? Not really. How altruistic can one be?
For those of you who want to dwell on this, here’s some food for thought: Is pure altruism possible?