A man jumps into the subway tunnel and rescues a stranger who had fallen onto the tracks.  Actually the story is a little more than that.  With the subway fast approaching this guy pinned the fallen guy down while the subway passed directy over them, missed them by a few inches.  Yes this guy is a hero.  Many people would say this is an act of altruism.  Depending on the way you define that word it either is or it isn’t.  It is my view, however, that these actions are explained by human nature.

This is not to say that anybody would have done the same thing.  If I were in that situation I would be at my computer blogging right now about how I saw some poor shmuck get obliterated by a subway train.  My point, though, is that like other mammals human beings have a built in sense of compassion (the occasional sociopath notwithstanding.) 

The reason this trait exists is that humans who have some level of compassion are more likely to help out their blood relatives and non-related people with whom they share mutually beneficial relations.  These types are more likely to succeed in passing on their genes and living long enough to raise their children to adulthood, therefore compassion holds a biological advantage in the long term and naturally selects over people without compassion.  This translates into the fact that when we, as people, see other human beings in distress we will at least think about jumping in to help.  Although only some of us will actually do something, the rest of us usually at least have enough empathy/compassion to feel guilty.

That said, many people who behave heroically are said to have put their lives on the line when they sprang into action and indeed many of them actually do, e.g. jumping down onto the tracks in the face of an oncoming train, running into a burning building, etc.  When they are called heroes after the deed is done most of them deny that title and say they just did what anyone else in their place would have done.  It is my position that for the most part they are not engaging in false modesty, the vast majority of people who behave heroically do so on the spur of the moment and don’t really think about the odds until afterwards. 

This is not to say that these people are not worthy of praise, I am only pointing out that people often miscalculate risk (in the above-mentioned case the guy who jumped down onto the tracks initially intended to drag the guy to safety until he realized the train was coming too fast for him to do that) and, given the opportunity for people to know the odds pefectly many heroes would probably rethink their initial impulse to act.  At any rate, what many people regard as heroic altruism I see as built in compassionate human nature.

As an aside I am kind of a hero myself.  In the past week I have had two 8-ball table runs, one at Auggie’s Pub and one against this guy named Danno yesterday.  I fully expect CNN to do a story next about me!

12 Responses to “Altruism/Compassion”

  1. This one time I jumped out of the way of a speeding cue ball that some jerk off made jump off of the table, and it hit a pregnant* lady…..

    The lady might have just been fat, but for the dramatics we will call her pregnant

  2. mexi says:

    HAHHAHAA! HAHAHAHHAHAAHAAHAA!!! damn! That story just made my day and I don’t even know why!!!

  3. mexi says:

    I think I like that story because, knowing you as I do, if you had the chance to do it over again and with full knowledge you would jump out of the way of the ball again!

  4. HMT says:

    yer full money mexifish…

    1 thing separates most people – there is either a belief that the universe is a good place or just the opposite.

    This is proof of the first.

    At the core of who we are, if we are able to in the moment drop all the fucken shit we think we are (physical manifestations) we are good. When this is realized things like this happen.

  5. WHAT IS THIS???
    Did you have a happy New Year???

  6. Phelps says:

    If you were the type who would jump on the tracks to help someone, Chester would have gotten real CPR.

    And Cartman was right. If Costa Rica smells anything like Mexico City, it does smell like ass. I thought the old lady in front of my (in Business Class — yay full flights!) had shit in her granny panties, until I realized that it was coming from outside. That’s right, Mexico City even stinks thousands of feet up. I haven’t smelled any place this bad since Las Vegas.

  7. Phelps says:

    Oh, and I don’t feel bad about mispronouncing Mexican’s names anymore. At least I can spell them, even if I don’t say Heberto right. (Actually, I do. My mentor was named Heberto. But you know what I mean.)

  8. HMT says:

    hahahahaha.. fucken solid Mexi..

  9. mexi says:

    Yeah HMT. That’s a welcome back. We thought you had dissolved!

  10. HMT says:

    I’m totally not dissolved, and more (or less) than ever.

    cheers sir!

  11. Phelps says:

    That’s right, shit doesn’t melt, it floats.

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