Reflections about Giving

Carol A. Hand

Ultimately we are all alone
in a universe that seems indifferent
to the suffering of so many
our hearts may sometimes feel the pain
yet we can do little to understand or change
the ongoing forces of destruction and oppression

The only response may be doing what we can
to at least ease distress in the moment
when someone knocks on our door
not asking for healing or sanctuary
but merely a temporary respite
from chaos and imminent threat

The forces of harm remain unabated
attracting those who feel they have no worth
like moths mesmerized by a candle flame
that will surely consume them
unless they wake up in time

Perhaps kindness from a stranger
who asks nothing in return
will be enough to lighten the burden of aloneness
for both the askers and the givers
temporarily revealing the importance of compassion

***

A Candle in the Darkness

***

Inspired by real life and two differing perspectives. The first is a reminder of the work of Albert Camus (1913-1060), who

“… introduced and developed the twin philosophical ideas—the concept of the Absurd and the notion of Revolt—that made him famous. These are the ideas that people immediately think of when they hear the name Albert Camus spoken today. The Absurd can be defined as a metaphysical tension or opposition that results from the presence of human consciousness—with its ever-pressing demand for order and meaning in life—in an essentially meaningless and indifferent universe. Camus considered the Absurd to be a fundamental and even defining characteristic of the modern human condition. The notion of Revolt refers to both a path of resolved action and a state of mind. It can take extreme forms such as terrorism or a reckless and unrestrained egoism (both of which are rejected by Camus), but basically, and in simple terms, it consists of an attitude of heroic defiance or resistance to whatever oppresses human beings. In awarding Camus its prize for literature in 1957, the Nobel Prize committee cited his persistent efforts to “illuminate the problem of the human conscience in our time.” He was honored by his own generation, and is still admired today, for being a writer of conscience and a champion of imaginative literature as a vehicle of philosophical insight and moral truth” (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

The other is from Kosmos Community News,

“When did the world break open for you and reveal its radiant light?

“I’m guessing we all have had fleeting revelatory glimpses of the sublime, the numinous. Sometimes it takes a great loss or crisis to trigger the moment of grace….

“These diamond-sharp moments cut through our haze, yet inevitably fade. We may relegate them to a corner of mind as moments of madness or anomaly, but such non-ordinary experiences seem to be in the increase and may be showing us a world more real than the one we think we know” (Kosmos).

***

30 thoughts on “Reflections about Giving”

  1. The very nature of power generally does not bode well for altruistic rule, because power seekers often don’t have altruistic reasons for wanting power. The result is a world of both told and untold suffering. The only way to change that would be if power were widely in the hands of “Great men [and women who] don’t seek power, they have it thrust upon them.”

    Sad to say, I don’t expect to live long enough to see that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Astute observations about power, Mister Muse – a position to avoid if at all possible from my perspective. It’s a weighty burden because too many people have been programmed to accept the right of others, “their leaders,” to tell them what to do.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s so true, how different those perspectives are. Dante hinted that the difference between Purgatorio and Paradiso lay in ones approach towards seeing the same thing. I recall the opening lines from Camus’ novel from many years back: “Mother died today. Or maybe it was yesterday; I can’t recall.” How can we experience the livingness of reality if we are not willing to participate in it? Desolé, ranting. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments, Rob. Your comments inspired me to pull out my copy of Camus’ work, “The Stranger.” I had forgotten how deeply his work had affected me as a young college student. Seeing the world from differing perspectives, “Purgatorio and Paradiso,” presents many challenges, perhaps the greatest of which is learning to live compassionately for the sake of one’s self and others without definitive answers about truth and meaning.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, sometimes I think that is the central trial of our current times. Can we, or will we, individually, solely as a matter of valuing virtue, without any hope of reward or recompense, behave with love and compassion. Simply because we want to do it and insist it is right. I think everyone must at some point grapple with this sort of question. Thanks for your ideas, too, Carol. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The people who ask for too much will always be with us. We should pity them. Their hearts will never be satisfied. I remember Camus was against the death penalty. It could have been seeing heads roll, or it could have been because, the worst punishment is living with our own sins. Those existentialists were always a step ahead.

    Wonderful poem. Keep the candle burning. Take care Good Friend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Bob, and for sharing such important insights. You are right about the pitiful state of those who demand and take more than their share. I try to be philosophical about it, but it often seems that karma takes a long time getting around to them. By the time it does, so many vulnerable beings have suffered as a result of their actions. I agree, though – capital punishment is a barbaric practice. It cannot undo harm, it only adds to it.

      Sending my best wishes, dear friend. Keep listening to stars sing.

      Like

  4. Dear Carol,
    First a word of thanks for the reminder to be kind, truly kind expecting nothing in return. To your reference inspirations, dare I say that these two trains of thought at some level reflect our polarized society today? The difference is that Dreamers and realists alike, I sense that your inspirations at some level appreciated logic.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Ray. Honestly, I think I’m both a thinker and a dreamer, but I am happiest when I can bring both together through well-grounded actions that address real-life issues in creative ways. I used to be able to do that more often, but teaching and creating a garden in a city still give me that opportunity. Sending my best wishes, dear friend. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Unfortunately, it is so easy to refuse to give. Not out of any principled dislike or rejection of giving; a mere suspicion that someone might be trying to take advantage of us will do. “He’ll buy alcohol with any more I give him.” “She might be trying to scam me.” Even a mere “I can’t be bothered today”.

    It is curious how even the mildest fear can cause us to deny a stranger something they may need. I think the more we are aware of that, the less likely we are to succumb to it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So true, Paul. Sadly many of us have been programmed to accept the assumptions of Judeo-Christian beliefs that all people are born in state of original sin. The legacy of Elizabethan Poor Laws of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries embodies those beliefs and created the foundation of the social welfare system in the US. It continues to guide our notions of how to respond to the “worthy” and “unworthy poor.” Sadly, the number and categories of people we deem worthy of help has been growing smaller each year.

      Beliefs like this are especially pernicious. I’ve noticed that I’m often the person those who need help pick out of a crowd. I used to ask myself the questions you raised when I was approached. Until one day. I remember that day when I decided I would no longer judge others who asked me for help. If I am blessed to have something I can share, I will do so without question with the first people who ask. I put what I can afford to give away in my pocket when I travel to a city where I’m likely to be approached and share what I can with a smile. When it’s gone, I simply smile and share kindness.

      Like

      1. Interesting, Carol. I had no idea about how the poor laws became models for our system, but that makes sense of so much. Thanks for sharing that.

        You and I have a similar approach to giving. Like you, I calculate how much I can afford and freely give that away, no strings attached, to whoever asks. Or at least I used to when I had enough money that there was more than a buck or two to give away. I think that system preserves the dignity of the person receiving the money (You aren’t making them jump through hoops for it). The thing is, I don’t run across too many people who do it that way. The notion of worthy and unworthy poor seems so deeply ingrained in our culture.

        Liked by 1 person

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