“It’s solely after we demand that we’re damage,” Henry Miller noticed when he weighed the fragile stability of giving and receiving. A requirement is a metastasis of longing. As a result of longing is the defining characteristic of human life, studying to bear our longing with out demanding is the start of therapeutic.
Nothing is extra salutary to the soul than that which comes unbidden and is acquired freely. And but, paradoxically sufficient, it’s in receiving that we most frequently journey up — for to obtain is an act of great belief and great vulnerability. True gratitude has as its object not what’s given however what’s acquired. The artwork of receiving is subsequently the precursor to any sense of gratitude — our deepest wellspring of thanks-giving.
That’s what John Steinbeck (February 27, 1902–December 20, 1968) explores in one of many myriad dazzling passages that strew The Log from the Sea of Cortez (public library) — his uncommonly insightful meditation on easy methods to assume higher and see the sample beneath the particulars.
With a watch to a good friend so skillful at receiving that “everybody felt good” in giving to him — “a gift, a thought, something” — Steinbeck writes:
Maybe probably the most overrated advantage in our record of shoddy virtues is that of giving. Giving builds up the ego of the giver, makes him superior and better and bigger than the receiver. Practically all the time, giving is a egocentric pleasure, and in lots of instances it’s a downright harmful and evil factor. One has solely to recollect a few of our wolfish financiers who spend two-thirds of their lives clawing fortunes out of the center of society and the latter third pushing it again. It’s not sufficient to suppose that their philanthropy is a form of frightened restitution, or that their natures change after they have sufficient. Such a nature by no means has sufficient and natures don’t change that readily. I believe that the impulse is similar in each instances. For giving can carry the identical sense of superiority as getting does, and philanthropy could also be one other form of non secular avarice.
It’s a countercultural notion, this indictment of the greed of generosity, particularly in our tradition of virtue-signaling and performative giving. However solely by acknowledging this explicit type of selfing can we start to understand the great thing about its mirror-image within the artwork of receiving — an artwork more true and extra tender, for it requires not an train of the ego however its exorcism.
It’s so simple to offer, so exquisitely rewarding. Receiving, however, if it’s effectively achieved, requires a advantageous stability of self-knowledge and kindness. It requires humility and tact and nice understanding of relationships. In receiving you can’t seem, even to your self, higher or stronger or wiser than the giver, though you have to be wiser to do it effectively.
It requires a shallowness to obtain — not self-love however only a nice acquaintance and liking for oneself.
The Log from the Sea of Cortez stays one of many most interesting issues I’ve ever learn. Complement this fragment with Seneca on gratitude and what it actually means to be a beneficiant human being, then revisit Steinbeck on love, the required contradictions of human nature, the tough artwork of the good friend breakup, and his Nobel Prize acceptance speech about what it means to be a author.