When you study philosophy, are you learning about it, or practicing the art of philosophy? Is it knowledge you learn, mostly, or know how? When you study ethics, is it a body of knowledge, or a set of habits and skills, a way of life? When you study literature, do you become a scholar or a poet? If you study medicine, is it to be an expert only, or to heal? Philanthropy is like that too. Other analogies might be vocational agriculture, pastoral care, the art of therapy, or the art of war. Philanthropic pratice is a liberal art as well as a financial, managerial, and legal science. The seed of that art, its inner dynamism, is sown, perhaps, in a child before the age of reason, at the age when we imagine that we will be firemen, great generals, acclaimed athletic heros, saints, or dream that if we concentrate hard we can levitate. If the seeds of love and heroic aspiration have not been sown in a child's heart, no amount of book learning as a grad student will awaken that talent. But without learning, love is blind and heroic aspiration comes to naught.
The hardest of all is the late stage onset of philanthropic aspiration. At age 50, 60, or 70, the high achiever in some hard-headed, even ruthless field, turns, almost out of character, to something more. Hard at that age when the long buried seed begins to germinate, forcing its way through the stony ground. Where do such people go, when the urge to give becomes intolerable? Giving becomes then what used to be called an "existentioal choice," determing the identity, shaping a life by shaping its ending. To create a space for such conversations - does anyone know of such a space?