The Art of Giving – II

The last post, The Art of Giving, introduced the key elements of giving: sacrifice, sharing and compassion. It is not enough to understand the definition of the three words; the words must be integrated into one’s code of living; the experience represented by the words must become an objective that pays a conscious reward. In other words, giving must become a priority experience beyond prejudice.

This sounds irrational but in practice it is more like a commitment similar to healthful practices: committing to walking every day, dieting – even commitment to going to work every day. The responsibility to sustain a viable lifestyle is not set aside. Rather, it is more like adding flavor to a recipe. If one can interpolate adding flavor to a recipe to adding happiness and fulfilment to one’s life, then one understands how the three words function.

However, interpolation is not easy. Consider the following:

Most US citizens decry taxation. Taxes are an imposition. Taxes are misspent by idiot legislators. Taxes do not do anything for one’s immediate situation. How difficult it is to switch one’s attitude from decrying taxation to one of personal satisfaction gained by sharing the load of national need. The three words must be deployed in order to change one’s attitude. To be sure, sacrifice is personal in nature but it also is collective. Democracy, in the hands of idiot legislators (prejudice), is an overhead that must be sacrificed as well. No act in any endeavor is free of inefficiency and inadequacy. But the key is to capture the personal satisfaction gained from sharing instead of paying – belonging to the team rather than being a victim. Compassion is the elixir that drives toxins from one’s spirit.

Prejudice is the worst sin. Prejudice is disruptive to the art of giving more than any other act or opinion. To focus the discussion of prejudice a bit, two of the common prejudices in the US are race and laggardness. Racial prejudice is easily defined; laggardness is widespread but ill-defined. Laggardness can be interpreted as someone who doesn’t appear to want work hard, doesn’t have a job but accepts ‘handouts’, or simply has a lax attitude about cultural worth. It is debatable that the working class has a more intense prejudice against laggards than they do against skin color. The darkest African American can gain respect through hard work; a laggard will never be respected.

If someone has a desire to recognize a need and provide a gift to that need, in many people an unconscious prejudice steers the individual away from nonwhite charity or providing aid to the unemployed. Many will give to abstract charities similar to wounded veterans, orphans, animals, diseases, and other charities that do not focus on race or laggards.

It must be said that in Africa alone 20 million humans are bereft of health and face death by starvation and common disease but are disregarded by those who are better off. This prejudice is associated with economic class. In the US, the world’s most intensely capitalistic nation, this prejudice is the most irrational and most dehumanizing of all prejudices: The successful deserve to be successful; the unsuccessful deserve to be unsuccessful. In other words, if one is lucky, that is their role; if one is unlucky, that is their role. Tough luck, kid.

Sadly, in the US it is this class that is opposed to government providing discretionary funding to their fellow citizens or even providing health care regardless of social circumstances. In other words, government is for the lucky. Otherwise, tough luck, kid.

Having defined these three common prejudices, one realizes how difficult it is to implement the three words sacrifice, sharing and compassion. One would have to suffer a massive change in their attitude and social identity. We can’t all walk the road to Damascus with Saul.

What can we do? What act will help the most? Where do I sacrifice and share to provide a meaningful gift?

It takes a godly intervention to change deeply rooted definitions of self. Fortunately, humans are of different social persuasions. If one were to elect to government candidates that first accepted the role of government to emulate intervention above espousing a commitment to serve your best interests and instead of being an economic hawk, you may have an amazing influence in promoting sacrifice, sharing and compassion as an element in the government’s gestalt.

Hints about a candidate’s understanding of the art of giving are reflected in the candidate’s lifestyle. Is the candidate a racist? Is the candidate an elitist? Is the candidate one who can afford to campaign but otherwise has no redeeming social qualities? Unfortunately, the common answer to all these characteristics is yes. The best gift will be to find a candidate that understands the art of giving.

Ancient Mariner

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