"I think it all comes back to being very selfish as an artist. I mean, I really do just write and record what interests me and I do approach the stage shows in much the same way, " David Bowie exclaimed.
Most endeavors have selfish motives. But the effects are much more important.
The effect is what determines selfishness or selflessness for people, it seems.
Artists specialize in inherently selfish acts. Art mostly is about the self.
I am writing to you because I like writing. I like to converse with people. Sometimes, I might be helping you. Sometimes, I might be simply writing my thoughts. The common denominator in all my writings however is that I write because I like it. Hence, it is a selfish act. A selfish act does not make its effect selfish.
Artists and scientists, by indulging in selfish actions, have propagated selfless acts and dreams in others and themselves. Many physicists do physics because they love it. Their intentions are many times selfish. But their effects have been selfless and helped humanity in many levels. The advancement of the medical field or food production can be seen as an example that has helped the world.
By focusing on one's benevolence, you potentially waste energy that could be focused on your work/creation. Being mindful of your action means focusing on your action singularly. When I write, I write best when I focus simply on my own writing. When Mozart composed his music, I am certain he did his best work thinking about his own ideas singularly. When Feynman started teaching Physics, his love for Physics and his "selfish" act of propagating that love, produced many fine scientists, artists and people of that generation, I am sure.
Brandishing an act as selfish could be acting on incomplete information. The effect might be selfish while the intention might be selfless. Brandishing an act as selfless could be acting on incomplete information. The effect might be selfless while the intention might be selfish.
A selfless effect is much more important than a selfish effect no matter what the original intention is. The examples cited are sufficient to see that and one could come up with many more examples.
The truth is that asking such a question is irrelevant to your actual work as fun and tempting such discussions are. However many words we use to describe and analyze this situation, the fact remains that work which has a selfless effect is much more useful and effective at solving problems and propagating the collective conscious forward.
There is a catch
It is, of course, very important that you do not quash other people's dreams, work or feelings. Being selfish is not a linear endeavor. You can look out for yourself to improve your work and still not quash other people's work, dreams and feelings. One needs to be selfish with the highest ethics to be successful and human. If one does treat others in a way that profits themselves but harms other people in any way, the effect is obviously selfish as well. In any event, the effect has to be truly selfless to justify their own "selfishness."
I would like to assert that I am not talking about a "Me, Me, Me" kind of selfishness where the world revolves around a person, the kind that is associated with a person with narcissistic personality disorder.
The "selfishness" I am talking about instead is the kind that focuses your energy on improving your mind, your body, your actions, your work, your environment, your relationships and your condition.
A selfish act which has purely selfless effects is definitely not a paradox. As a matter of fact, it appears to be the norm in artistic and scientific endeavors.
The Sad Part
We probably need a new word for this kind of "selfishness" as the same word to describe an act that advances positive ideas is confused with really selfish acts that have disdainfully negative effects.
This is selfishness which frees you from negativity. This is selfishness which makes the world better. This is selfishness which clears your mind and provides nutrition to your mind, body, friends, family and your work. This is selfishness which advances you. This is selfishness which respects other people and never tramples their dreams, hopes, feelings. This is selfishness which instead inspires you and other people. This is selfishness which transmutes the selfish intention into a selfless and benevolent effect. This is selfishness which needs another set of consonants and vowels.
Do your best work. Work on what you love. Be selfish in your own advancement. On the way, make sure you are following the highest ethical standards. Let your creative juices flow. Make it worthwhile.