In the bollywood movie "Om Shanti Om", Shah Rukh Khan quite famously said:
"itni shiddat se maine tumhe paane ki koshish ki hai ki har zarre ne mujhe tumse milane ki saazish ki hai....
kehte hai agar kisi cheez ko dil se chaaho toh poori kaynath tumhein usse milane ki koshish mein lag jaati hai"
The quote is mostly misinterpreted, by ignoring the first half in urdu. Atoms in the universe don't conspire get you what you desire. Forget the atoms, you don't even surface in the thought processes of most of the humans in your circle of acquaintances. And those few, who actually do spend a few seconds thinking of you, don't go beyond speculating your opinion about them.
The very hard to accept truth is, among 6 billion humans and trillions of other species, YOU are all alone on this planet - which in turn is a lonely speck of dust circling one of the billions of stars in the universe. We as a species have been so severly scared of this loneliness, that every single human civilization has very successfully imagined the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, all powerful supreme being to comfort their insignificant, insecure, timid selves. Basically, they were wisphering "All is well" to themselves. But that is matter for another post.
Most of the time we spend introspecting, we think about "my problems", "my wishlist", "my grudges", "my crushes", "my weekend", "my blah", "my bleh". The point I am trying to make is we are very self-centered and quite selfish - each and everyone of us. At this alligation, the years of moral indoctrination of "selfishness being bad" makes our innards scream:
"Well, I am not selfish, I think of my friends before myself" - Oh, but you don't. What you care about MORE, is "Your friendship" with them.
"I am not selfish, I help my friends" - Sure you do, but is that truly altruistic? Would you feel nothing, have no grudges against the friends you helped, if they turned their backs when you need them? Let that sink in for a while.
"Oh, but what expectation can I have an old lady I helped cross a road the other day?" - Well, some people help others to feel good about themselves - still counts as being selfish in my book.
"I give to charity - what can I possibly hope to get back from it?" - Charity? Even if you didn't advertize your deed on facebook, didn't brag about it to a single soul, didn't think highly of yourSELF for a millisecond and forgot about it instantly - may I request you to consider helping people learn to earn their living instead of letting them have it without effort. Wasn't there something about teaching a man to fish?
Contrary to what has been preached in sermons and taught in Moral Sciences, being selfish is not bad. Not nearly as bad as faking hypocritical selflessness while knowing deep down that actually we are. What is not good, and may at times even be dangerous, is being dilusional of one's true nature. One of my acuaintances, who relentlessly tries to help people around him and has nurtured an image of himself being selfless, has on multiple occasions ended up losing friends - friends whose growing expectations outgrew his selflessness.
Most of the universally accepted good things people do is because they are selfish. May be we can go a step further and not only accept but also expect people to be human and hence selfish. Doing so will enable us to lower our expectations from people around us. Hadn't Siddharth Gautam said something about not having expectations being the key to happiness, after becoming the Buddha?
Would your opinion about your colleagues be any different if you allowed them the luxury of being selfish and committing mistakes as they too are flesh and bone beneath their skins? Most of the people you are working with are in the job for the money and some for the kick.
The folks running the government and also human - if we entitle them to have some selfish desires we will realize that whatever they do, they do in order to ensure their reelection into the office - secure the prospects of their future selves. Why should they pay any heed to the overflowing drains and potholes on the street of your locality, unless you make it an inescapable hurdle in the process of their getting reelected? What was that about "not asking what the country has done for you"?
We complain about degrading standard of education, but people running schools and colleges are not doing so with the altruistic intention of educating every single homo-sapien on the planet - why should they work any harder unless students demand for better tuition and instead of flocking around for purchasing the degree, refuse to pay for substandard education.
What was that about "being the change"?
In my opinion what SRK's dialog should be interpreted as is - "if you really want something, you have to want it so much, that you MAKE even the atoms conspire to get it for you". The difference is, it is you who goes to work for realizing your dreams.