Archive for the 'sharing' Category

The other side of the roast beef sandwich issue

November 28, 2013

I figure if I have had a hang-up about a guy doing me wrong and withholding something from me (see previous post), I (or the person whom I am helping) probably did something that was perceived in a similar way by a guy.  Here’s a spiritual story that shows a fundamental, spiritual version of this part of the paradigm.  (There’s a version involving sex and what turns out to be an underage girl, but we’ll pass over that one.)

A girl is recognized as having potential to develop as a mystic, and her younger brother feels left out and envious of her training and status in the community.  To placate him, she promises to “bring back” whatever she learns and experiences from her good fortune.  Unfortunately, once she has had the learning and experiencing, she realizes they are not something that can be had vicariously or by proxy.

Of course, her brother doesn’t understand, when she is not forthcoming with what she had promised him.  He feels wronged and betrayed, and here we go with a long and damaging feud.


A continuum

October 22, 2013

Giving a gift, reciprocal giving, profiting, profiteering, behaving greedily, embezzling.

I think these postures all exist on the same continuum.  They have to do with where we draw the line between our self and others with regard to sharing and exchange.

One of the flaws, in my opinion, with many popular forms of conservatism (whether it’s an inherent flaw with conservatism, I haven’t thought through) is that it focuses on the perceived shortcomings of other people.  Conservatives would do well to keep the focus on the self.

The other people are deemed takers, apparently, not makers.

Making may be all well and good, and even necessary and wonderful, but it matters what else is accompanying it.  Once we get beyond reasonable profits, in my list, I think we’ve got a problem.  I think we’ve created a wobble in the spin that will eventually make the system collapse and turn into a different system.

It’s easier, maybe, to see the problem at the level of relationships between individuals.  Relationships with people who take emotional support from another and never provide it, for example, collapse.  The person who has given and not received may collapse or they may figure out what’s happening before they collapse and leave or get the emotional support elsewhere.  Or it may be that friend who always asks for a more tangible favor but never does one in return.  Eventually that relationship founders.  It may be the spouse put through med school who then divorces the spouse who worked to pay the bills.  It could be the kid with the bike who takes the money to buy the sodas at the store a mile away but drinks them all before they get back to the group.

In some way there is exploitation.

At a personal level we probably don’t endorse this kind of behavior, either, whether or not we engage in it.

Why, then, should the same basic dynamic be acceptable or even laudable at the level of the group?  And why should we expect it not to have a negative impact on the functioning of the group as a whole?

Moral codes rail against greed for a reason.

Capitalism without greed I think is a very different beast from capitalism with greed, especially greed that is not even recognized by the people whose behavior is rife with it.  Conservatives, in my opinion, seem to confuse and conflate the two systems, how they work, and whether they are morally defensible.

Sixth grade seating

February 28, 2013

When I was in sixth grade, my teacher kept seating me with a particular boy.  The boy had been held back from the year before, but he didn’t seem to have obvious difficulty learning.  I thought he might have been out sick or something.

Well, we all used to look forward to having the seating plan changed every month.  There was some excitement to all the moving around and getting to know other kids and having new people to chat with or pass notes to easily.

So the third time in a row Miss Robbins sat me next to this same boy, I kind of noticed.  He was shy.  We chatted a bit.  He had a heart-shaped face, straight brown hair, he dressed a little more formally than most kids, as I recall.

Then one day he showed me the scars on his wrists and told me he had walked through a glass porch door.  I accepted what he said, even if it didn’t make much sense to me even then.

Eventually at some point during the school year I got a different seat mate, although I think the boy and I got paired up again later in the year.

It reminded me of how my piano teacher used to open up to me about her problems when I was seven, write me letters even over the summer when I didn’t have lessons.

I am not sure what I did for these people as a child.  I was not aware of doing anything in particular other than just being me.  My mother sometimes thought people were crossing lines with me, and I quit taking piano lessons from a different teacher when I was fourteen because the man held my hand too long after he cut my finger nails or showed me some approach to attacking the keys.  I was never sure what that was about, but he, a single, middle-aged gentlemanly man at the time, got married the next year.  I missed seeing his father’s huge paintings in his house, and he had some lovely pianos, too.

Anyway, as I child I was aware of being taken as some sort of trusted confidant, some sort of emotional bulwark.  Gita has tried to explain to me what it is I am doing, or how I present, that people are responding to, but I can’t say I get what it is even when she explains it.

When I try to see my life as a unified whole, and to find a common thread running back to childhood from what I do now, I guess that would have to be it — this way people respond to me, and the way my experience of whatever it is I am doing is quite different from theirs.


November 29, 2012

I think I’d better admit up front that I just like the word.  As I remember it, it refers to those guys who read the entrails of the animals in ancient Rome or Etruria in order to divine the will of the universe, in the way I might put it.  I didn’t much feel like one when I was cooking my turkey giblets a week ago.  But there were echoes of something yesterday as I viewed and discussed swirling flocks of geese above our heads with a priest at a prison yesterday (after pausing in my car to let a rabbi cross from the prison property to the parking lot).  The word for that sort of interpreter I think is augurs — not as wonderful a mouthful of syllables.

I had noticed one flock overhead while I was parking my car.  By the time I got out of my car, that flock seemed to be headed in the opposite direction.  When I came upon the priest as I crossed the lot, there were even more geese circling overhead above us, and the priest excitedly and happily volunteered to me that they seemed to be rounding themselves up into a larger group and massing for flight together elsewhere.  My reaction was to feel grateful he was able to see a pattern where I couldn’t.  He saw this rally coming together like almost the maneuvers of a marching band at halftime at a college football game (my words and image to communicate what he said in pieces and through pointing).  My own sense was of infiltrators leaving voluntarily.

What do I make of this?  Probably an illustration of how what we perceive is filtered through our own human crud.  I think in this case, my crud was probably worse and more negative than my interlocutor’s.  The priest was awestruck, as was I, but saw a positive movement.  I was awestruck but saw the phenomenon through the lens of feeling tired and more overwhelmed by others than I prefer.

If I really want to apply the haruspices idea, I’d make the point of noticing that one of the turkey giblets last week went from seeming like a large whole to splitting open into two connected parts after it was cooked; maybe that image was in the back of my mind when I wrote about the source tearing open and forming the universe.

In any event, I really enjoyed the priest’s explanation and his sharing his obvious excitement and joy in the event.

People who don’t share well with others

September 12, 2012

My current working hypothesis is that people who don’t share well with others are overrepresented in the Republican Party and among conservatives.  (I see it reflected in both their domestic and foreign policies, for example, in their antipathy towards pooling through Medicare or in their insistence on US global hegemony.)  I think people with this tendency flock together, seek out one another’s company, and reinforce one another’s desire to believe this is acceptable, helpful, normal, not something that they need to work on and change.

It wasn’t a trait that was okay in nursery school, why then do some people think it’s okay for adults?