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December 20, 2004


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et alia

I'm flattered and grateful to get a link from the Gifthub.

My 0.02EU (I may not have much to offer, but at least its not in a devalued currency): maybe the wealthy aren't as attuned as they could be to the pleasures and satisfactions that wealth offers. Having more than one's neighbor is, from a calmer perspective more sensitive to and discerning of possibile pleasures, a satisfaction no deeper or long lasting than winning a board game. Is there no one with great net worth, great taste, and great ambitions? What's the point—indeed, _where's the enjoyment_—of the first without education in the second so as to be discerning of the third?

There's probably a significant bit of *malice and competitiveness* in every stirring act of generosity—but it's not the simpleminded, coarse malice of the nasty kid on the playground or the competitiveness of the athelete. Someone so generous as to give away much of what they have for a good cause and expect nothing in return may be thought of as having so completely internalized the strength and power of their wealth *that they no longer feel the need for it*; having climbed the ladder, they kick it away and enjoy the view. As they look down, they certainly feel pleasure as they look upon those benefiting from their gifts—but they also enjoy looking at their former peers—for a *different* reason.

If we judge acts by their consequences, these people are certainly good, and better than the vast majority of us. But if we judge acts by their intentions and the nature of the satisfactions they bring, we might have to withhold such a judgment. "Faire le mal pour la plaisir du mal" is too easy and too ugly: "Faire le bon pour la plaisir du mal" is difficult—and beautiful.


Generosity deserves praise, I would think. Maybe we will get more of what we praise and model. Sacrifice comes in many forms. We give of what we have.

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