Why be of service?
There are images of paradise as a kind of ultimate holiday destination where our desires are fulfilled and we are served on by hand and foot. Ignoring the fact that there seems to be a working-class that exists in such places and presumably the working class is as downtrodden as they are in our world, or even more so as it seems to be no limit on your desires in such a place. I have to ask whether our intuition is wrong about what such a paradise would be like, what would it feel like to be surrounded by people whose desire was to serve you without regard to their own desires or wishes. Is there in fact a counter-intuitive version of paradise where you are the one serving?
I love self-experiments, I encouraged everyone to seek out every opportunity in their lives to do so, not only is it a wonderful way to try new things without it having to be a life changing decision. The difference between experimenting with having a daily walk and seeing how it makes you feel, and telling yourself you are now going to walk every day for the rest of your life, is huge, one is light, fun and low-cost, the second feels like a heavy obligation and daunting. When in fact the second is just repeating the first one after having done the experiment and finding out that it has immediate and life changing benefits, you still get to the second one just without the heaviness. That is the beauty of experiments you only repeat them if they are successful.
So to test which version of paradise you would prefer, test it out. I had the first version of paradise, forced upon me, I was lucky enough to spend a several months in Addis Ababa with a friend who had amazing local contacts. We rented a small villa and inherited a maid, personally I have never been comfortable with having help around the house, I prefer to be responsible for myself, and however when faced with the prospect that you were going to put someone out of work, I relented, I am assured that for those months she was underworked, treated with respect and substantially overpaid, but even then I felt uncomfortable having someone do something that I was more than capable of doing myself. I know for some people it would be wonderful, but for me the experiment showed that it is just something that does not make me happy, even when that service is providing someone with an income.
It is not a version of paradise that I want to live in, where people are forced to serve, even where they are receiving something of value value in terms of money. I dislike the use of force in any circumstances, whether it is physical, emotional or economic, and when you force someone else to serve you, it leaves a bitter taste in my mouth, even when someone is grateful for the money, I cannot help but feel that they have been institutionalised, and I am taking advantage of that. Though I certainly look forward to the day when robots do all the boring work and we decide on resource allocation through our universal basic income.
However that is not to say that all service is bad, and the flip-side of the experiment, is taking the opportunities to serve others and seeing how that makes you feel. It is amazing how the reasons for doing so changes the nature of what you are doing, being a minimum wage cook, having to work sixty hours a week with relentless pressure and the threat of being sacked at any moment, is entirely different from cooking a meal for your family. They can both be seen as service, though the difference between having to and choosing to, changes your relationship with the act. If you run the experiment, you do not have to make a big commitment, I know so many of us have service forced upon us that we do not feel like we have anything left to give freely. Though if you look for them there are lots of small opportunities to be of service, you can even serve with acts as small as giving way to someone else when you are driving, it gives you a small amount of data as to how it feels, be the one to make the cup of tea, read a story to a child, and then see how it makes you feel. I find just being present with a state of grace, ease and joy, puts me in the frame of mind where I want to find ways to serve as I go about my day.
You can even reframe how you think about work, ignore the fact you are being paid and take it as an opportunity to serve. Even if the service is to provide the resources for your family, changing where you put your awareness can transform even what is on the face of it one of the worst jobs in the world into work that has meaning for you.
Service comes in four major types, and is worth asking how you wish to do good in the world and what is your strength in doing so. There is the service of providing connection between people, whether that is acting as a matchmaker in love or business. There is the service of supporting others as a parent or friend, there is teaching and showing people how they can grow and there are people who serve in caring roles, who treat people with therapy and enrich their spiritual lives. There is nothing wrong with liking the act of service you are providing, it can play to your strengths and your character, however do not make it dependant on the results you get from it, do not expect thanks or gratitude, do not even get attached to the results, there is only one reason to ultimately to do it and that is for the love of service. Even if it is just writing articles in the hope that it will help someone.