June 02, 2003

It is at least as much sheer fun to give as to receive.

The virtues as most commonly taught today, are not. Practicing virtues has nothing whatsoever to do with selflessness. Oh, the same superficial cause-and-effect results might turn up, but practicing in a context of determined altruism will create precisely the same amount of positive effect in the world as a stone dropped into a deep lake with a light wind going: a few surface ripples, then -- nothing.

How could it be otherwise, where gifts come with strings? How much is given lacking only the two basic requirements: that it be imagined what the recipient might possibly find joy in receiving; that the giver find joy in its giving? But: it is entirely possible to be convinced one is holding a true discussion with others without once straying from the imperative form. Make the recipient's happiness a requirement, an obligation rather than a sincere hope, and the entire structure collapses from within.

Yet it is so very easy, no sacrifice involved at all. Only two things are required: that one's own happiness not be attained at the expense of another's, ever; and that there be a consequent will to feel another's happiness as one's own. (Never, however, to seek to derive one's own happiness based [entirely] on another's. A person holds responsibility for their own outlook on life. A person equally holds responsibility for those of their actions which affect other people, even if the manner of affecting is not understood.) To combine the two, it is imperative that there be a conscious effort to imagine, not what would bring personal happiness, but what might bring happiness to that other. All things are worth precisely what an individual is willing to pay for them -- but not all payments come in coin-equivalent.

For a limited species, the dearest payment possible may be our willingness to give over, not our deaths, but our lives: our willingness to invest time in someone or something other than ourselves.

Cash-value has yet to translate in any degree of accuracy our willingness to invest the time to understand another without the concurrent 'requirement' of altering that other to our specifications ... even to the point of giving what they might like rather than giving to a clone of ourselves. (Although this is trickier than it might first appear: but it will serve as the general application and a generally useful application for now.) Self-knitting needles were conceived by someone who has never knitted for enjoyment -- for all that was seen in their purpose was how to minimise the labour.

"If you want to learn to love better, you should start with a friend whom you hate."
- Nikka ~age 6

... without trying to change them!

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