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Generosity

Just as freedom, which fundamentally means a loving friendship and respect for each other and the natural world, is such an important concept to embody and practice, so also is the concept of generosity towards each other. Indeed, the world is rapidly moving into a mega-crisis on a planetary scale that will either enforce these concepts to be adopted worldwide, in business, politics and religion as well as socially, or else the planet (i.e. ourselves and nature) could be destroyed by us—or, at least, by those who continue to be selfish and greedy regardless of consequences.

Generosity means sharing with others, wisely and helpfully, whatever we are blessed to have beyond that which can support our basic needs. This is actually a natural extension of true friendship and respect for each other.

Acting generously is not only a virtue; it is a moral imperative for the survival not just of human societies but of humanity as a whole. As Plato pointed out so well in his Republic, a society in which the distribution of wealth culminates in a small elite being excessively wealthy at the expense of everyone else, with extreme poverty at the other end of the scale, does not survive. As we have seen so often in history, whenever society has reached that condition, there is a revolution, usually bloody and nasty. This is already happening in many countries of the world right now, and I imagine it will inevitably spread to countries which are peaceful at the moment unless this problem is addressed and satisfactorily solved.

Our whole economic system, and how we think about and handle money and resources, needs to be reassessed and redesigned on a planetary scale. And economics is not alone in this; politics and religion are also involved, or affected by it. Greed for power, wealth, influence or fame is corrupting. Essentially greed comes from selfishness, egoism and a lack of respect or acknowledgement as to the contribution others make.

It is said that we are going into a golden age, or even that a golden age has just begun. Both statements may well be true and indeed I believe they are true, but a golden age, like anything else, has to be built, and all good buildings need decent foundations as well as good design, craftsmanship and materials. Well, it seems clear to me that a golden age is not an age of selfishness and greed, because an age ruled by selfishness and greed is not golden. The latter is the description of a dark age and is what, overall, we have been enduring for so long in the world.

 

 

 

A golden age depends on people not being selfish, not being greedy, not being possessive. A golden age depends entirely on loving and caring for each other—in other words, friendship, as in “striving together in friendship”. Another modern phrase for this, especially in terms of business, is “win-win” rather than “I win, you lose”.

The old motto, “striving together in friendship,” seems to me the proper basis of any golden age. In the traditional wisdom teachings, it is striving together in friendship that produces harmony and a proper expression of love. This was considered to be the foundation of all good things. Once such harmony is produced, then beauty ensues—a beauty of character, a beauty of soul, a beauty of environment, a beauty of life—which in turn bestows joy or happiness, because we naturally enjoy such things and exalt in them. They do us good. Joy is known as the golden quality—the quality of light itself, or of enlightenment. This is the nature of a golden age. It is far removed from a dark age. And it starts with striving together in friendship, and such friendship is generous, or else it is no true friendship.

Strife and friendship were once referred to as the Twin Pillars of life, which the classical world symbolised as Mars and Venus. In the myth associated with this, Mars and Venus love each other for eternity and, in their love-making, produce Harmonia (harmony) and Cupid (love). Strife in its proper sense means striving as hard as we can to achieve something. If we don’t have that impulse, life becomes boring and we don’t get anything done. We have to have some of that Mars quality in order to achieve anything. But all striving has a motive—a motive not only as to what we want to achieve but also how we are going to achieve it. The motive is the other pillar. If the motive is friendship, then we will achieve really beautiful things together, but if we don’t have a friendly motive and just go all out for ourselves, selfishly, then the strife turns into war: we make war on other people; we impoverish and enslave other people; we grow rich and empower ourselves at other people’s expense.

There are still a lot of people as well as organisations and businesses in the world at the present time who are striving only for themselves. They are actually making war on everybody else to do that. Maybe they’re not all killing anybody, but it’s still war.

However, by striving together in friendship, and with generosity substituted for greed, the four worldly attainments (power, wealth, influence and fame) would become wonderful, life-enhancing gifts for the whole world.

 

 
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