“For as these were made to perform a particular function, and, by performing it according to their own constitution, gain in full what is due to them, so likewise, a human being is formed by nature to benefit others, and, when he has performed some benevolent action or accomplished anything else that contributes to the common good, he has done what he was constituted for, and has what is properly his.”– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 9.42
A true humanitarian is always altruistic — he acts selflessly in the service of others without thinking of personal gain, praise, or recognition. We must always strive to help and rescue others, regardless of their race, color, religion, or nation. Without an ounce of resistance, prejudice, and social toxicity, doing so helps us get closer to the Higher Power. Because this is how nature designed us to be — it is our function to do good for the species into which we are born. In other words, altruism is in our DNA.
It’s wise to know that helping others might not be a piece of cake. There’s a good chance that performing a meaningful and selfless act might not bring us instant pleasure; it could be incredibly challenging and test our resolve multiple times. However, the joy that we get when we rescue a person in trouble is deeper and long-lasting. As Zack Paul shares, “There is certainly joy in carrying out our duty to humanity. I’ve found that the times I’ve been the happiest have not been when I was most comfortable. They haven’t been when I was on the beach sipping mudslides. In fact, many of them have been when I was rather uncomfortable… They’ve been when I was volunteering at a psychiatric hospital in Poland without knowing a word of the language. They’ve been when I was in the mold-infested basements of Mississippi helping families rebuild their homes after Hurricane Katrina. They’ve been when I was feeding people with Cerebral Palsy or helping them use the restroom. These times were not marked by ease or comfort, but by a deep sense of joy that comes from contributing to humanity in a meaningful way.”
Eknath Easwaran echoed this sentiment as he wrote, “When we are trying to help someone, it is we who get great joy out of it. If we try to rescue someone who has been unkind, the joy is even greater. This is a secret all but forgotten in our modern world: we find a much more lasting joy in rescuing others than in trying to save ourselves, because in rescuing others we are making sure that we will be saved by the Lord who is within.”
The life of a philosopher, yogi, and humanitarian demands acting with selflessness, serving others in times of adversity, and contributing to the greater good whenever possible. We can all take inspiration from the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and use these words by him as a compass to living a life of meaning, joy, and contentment: “For all that I do, whether on my own or assisted by another, should be directed to this single end, the common benefit and harmony.” (Meditations, 7.5)