Because we are Human

Thursday, November 15, 2012

While I was writing a paper on the human reason, I randomly remembered a film by Akira Kurosawa, Rashomon. I watched it over a year ago in my Introduction to Philosophy class. It was quite an old film, but watching it makes you ponder about things regarding life, humanity, and morality. Some questions that popped into my head were on the idea of lying and selfishness. This is not a review of the film, and some of you may or may not agree with me in some points.

Is it okay for man to lie because he is human?

According to Akira Kurosawa's Film, Rashomon, men lie because they are human, and for the bandit Tajomaru, lying is okay. Sometimes people lie to save themselves, or to get what they want. It's inevitable in life. In my opinion, though, I don't think being human is a good excuse for lying. Not telling the truth can harm others, or it can lead to something worse, like breaking of relationships and trust.

I asked the opinions of a couple of people, and they also believe that lying should not be considered “okay.” In fact, it may be one of the things people hate the most. A female friend told me that, “Although humans have a lot of flaws and the freedom of will, we should still choose to be honest and tell the truth. Another student thinks that, “Lying is the same as intentionally deceiving one person. If you can't tell the truth, then it is better to not say anything at all.”

If you're a believer of God, the Bible (NIV) says in Exodus 20:16, “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." and Proverbs 11:3, "Honesty guides good people; dishonesty destroys treacherous people." Honesty shows your character, and when you speak the truth, it helps other people too. Even so called “white lies” are not okay. If a person lies to make another person feel better, I do not think it would work because that person deserves to know what you really have to say.

Can a person live and survive without being selfish?

The word 'selfishness' can mean a lot of things. A definition I got from the dictionary is that it refers to the “arising from concern with one's own welfare or advantage in disregard of others.” In the movie, the answer to my question was 'No.' To be selfish is to be human. In Tajomaru's case, though, he already knew that the lady was the wife of the samurai, and yet he made plans to steal her away from him. The samurai, too, was selfish in the way that he left his wife and was led to the woods in hopes of getting a new sword.

Though there is nothing wrong with doing something to get what you want, but it becomes wrong when the means of attaining happiness hurts others. I agree with the answer that the movie provided because though man can act selfless, he cannot always think of other people first. Nothing would progress in your life if you would not think and do something for yourself.

A friend shared with me her thoughts on this, saying that it is part of human nature to be selfish. “Yes, man is capable of being selfless,” she said, “but men fall short of the glory of God, so I don't think it's possible to entirely not be selfish.” I agree with her on that. It makes one think that although we can be generous to others, we are still, by nature, a little selfish. But that does not mean that being selfish makes you a bad person. The tendency for humans is to do things to please themselves.

An article by Scott Hughes, “Moral Philosophy – Selfishness and Kindness,” describes that being selfish and selfless could be compatible with each other. You can be kind to others and at the same time act according to your own interests, to be happy when another person is feeling happy.

In the view of the Bible, Romans 15:1-2 mentions, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up.” (NIV) This means man must not always think of himself, and when he sees another man, he could reach out and help. ☺

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