Amused yourself lately? Selfishness or Altruism? Conscience will tell

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By Dr. Sastry Putcha
Sometimes simple pleasures, even one like a cruise ship vacation, sheds light on inconspicuous facts and reveals hidden patterns in life.
The Allure of the Seas sails from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and paces its movement at
17 knots/hour through the Atlantic Ocean towards Caribbean Islands. My vacation started. I kept track of the brilliant day. Pristine ocean brimmed with rising and falling waves in fractions of seconds. Sunlight’s reflections surfed elegantly over the waves. Absorbing all the nature’s best felt like leaning on poetic moment while resting on the chair in the balcony of the room. Poetic moment? Delve more into the moment—I reflected.
Nothing is what it seems—Conscience teaches us
Reality is that there is nothing ‘resting’. About five thousand or so human bodies are cruising in The Allure. Each of them is a live body made of about 60 percent water. And oceans occupy 71 percent of the planet earth. Water floating over water! But at what speed? The ship moves around 17 knots per hour. I feel at rest but really. Where I am sitting at rest the planet rotates about 1000 miles per hour and moves around the Sun at about 67,000 miles per hour! Sum of all these facts reduces you and me and all mostly water-bodies residing on mostly water-planet and are always in motion at great speed and never at rest till we die!
What do the above facts make us? Do we exist just for eating gulping whatever comes our way? Who are we? At least our conscience pricks us to look beyond “me”, “mine” “my family” and such selfish and vicious circle and forces us to introspect. Again, cruise trip as case in point.
Selfishness punctured by Conscience
The Allure of the Seas decelerated as if immobilized by my musings. And those musings disappeared into meaningless enjoyment. The mammoth body labored to halt at Labadee, the northern port leased as a resort to Royal Caribbean International. The resort embodies calm enchantment. Thousands of us dispersed all around in seconds. To swallow pleasures greedily offered by this private paradise during the limited duration at our disposal. Timeless time? So it appeared!
But soon after the buying and eating spree and what not we all jumped into the giant Allure that stirred to depart. In no time, immense food and drinks later The Allure reminded us that time to return home has arrived. Back home: reminiscence of the pleasurable cruise trip and the opulence of Labadee beaches and shops helped us float in the pleasures to balance the daily grinding of routine life. That would have continued except for a chance encounter with an Article on online CNN January 21, 2010 “Haiti stops draws ire, support” contributed by A. Pawlowski came into my view (http://www.cnn.com/2010/TRAVEL/01/21/haiti.tourism.ethics/. Labadee is within 100 miles)
Opulence lends hand to the poor – conscience only can tell
That’s when my conscience caught on fire: Simple pleasures as the cruise trip may be, but indulging on a reserved resort in the vicinity of a poverty ridden country? If this is not hedonistic behavior, what else it can be? People upset with cruise stops in a place like Haiti poured ire on the owners and the customers of the cruises. Their vocal voices condemned this whole vacation business and tourists. Like me! Soon facts were put forward. The quantitative details surfaced. The volume of the dollars contributed by each cruise trip to the Haitian economy and trickled to the people was so impressive that in fact not practicing cruise business or not making cruise trips means actually hurting the poor Haitians.
Does this mean that opulence can lend hand to the poor? Wittingly or unwittingly my simple pleasures near a poor country is not necessarily selfishness but is an act of altruism? Or is my conscience losing its sharp edge and concludes that Omar Kahayyam is reincarnated as Bill Gates?

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