An epidemic is plaguing college campuses across the nation. The deadly Egoismus viral strain is spreading like wildfire, and with each day that passes the percentage of college students who succumb to this disease grows exponentially. Victims of the Egoismus disease exhibit degeneration of mental stability as well as loss of physical wellbeing. Cures and treatments have been theorized and tested far and wide, yet there does not seem to be a concrete solution to this growing contagion. However, a recent study provided by the world’s leading metaphysicist, the fourteenth Dalai Lama, alludes to a very simple and pure solution. It can be cured by nothing less than a simple act of service and compassion. The Egoismus strain, meaning selfishness in Latin, is the burgeoning sense of self-centeredness in many college students. The misguided sense of selfishness that college students typically portray must be surgically removed from the college body, or at the very least addressed and remedied.
“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone,” are the famous words of our 40th president, Ronald Reagan. Yet, many college students in this day and age focus on only the first part of President Reagan’s memorable words. Bolstering this sense of false hope and futility in service and compassion is the sense of “I” that many college students carry. Yes, college is a time to “find oneself” and reap all the benefits of the college experience, but there is a better road to obtaining the happiness we crave at BC: through compassion.
The Dalai Lama refutes this selfishness argument in one of his essays by saying, “From my own limited experience I have found that the greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion.” While citing mental discontent and loss of physical health and wellbeing as general symptoms of a selfish attitude, he further strengthens the argument against an “I” culture with his powerful point, “Interdependence, of course is a fundamental law of nature.” Human beings, from the moment we are born to the day we die, live in a web of love, compassion, and dependence. From a mother’s care for her child to a professor’s advice to a struggling student, service and compassion fill the cracks of our otherwise selfish, lonely, and sad lives. Thus, by denying this sense of service and compassion, just as prevalent yet invisible as the air we breathe, are we not denying our nature, our identity, and even more our humanity?
This “Universal Altruism,” in which the Dalai Lama has so much faith does not manifest itself in blatantly obvious ways, however, but rather in the small yet nevertheless important decisions and actions in our everyday lives. Opening the door for someone, helping a stranger carry a burden, just smiling at someone with worry and grief etched on her face are all individual threads that together build the gigantic web of compassion and service that we reside in, a web that every individual gains from and must in return strengthen.
Refuting this sense of “I” that we all carry, regardless of age, race or gender, is not easy. The Dalai Lama states, “Of course, our self-centeredness, our distinctive attachment to the feeling of an independent, self-existent “I” works fundamentally to inhibit our compassion. Indeed, true compassion can be experienced only when this type of self-grasping is eliminated.” Then should the typical college student drop everything and join every service organization within the gates of his or her university? No, the compassion and service that surrounds humanity is genuine, sincere, quiet, yet powerful. Whether as large as helping an entire nation or as small as a smile to a stranger, the power of true compassion lies in the intent rather than the action, and is usually followed by a sense of inner tranquility, peaceful contentment, and most of all genuine happiness.
The sense of “I” in many college students has proved destructive to the college community as well as humanity as a whole. The Egoismus viral strain, however seemingly unstoppable, is characteristically unique. Its very cause, we humans, may be the cure that eventually eradicates it from the college as well as world body. Armed with the panaceas of compassion and service, individual by individual, organization by organization, and college by college, we, the college students of America and the future leaders of the world, can battle this epidemic.
How does one train to fight this epidemic? Go to medical school? Join every service organization? Completely deny individual wants and needs? Although Boston College does offer a wide array of sincere service organizations, intertwined by the motto, “Men and woman for others,” this is not the only solution. No, the answer to true compassion does not cost a small fortune, consume every moment of your day, or completely change your identity; it lies in the simple advice of the Dalai Lama, “Treat[ing] whomever I meet as an old friend. This gives me a genuine feeling of happiness. It is the practice of compassion.”