Saturday, July 16, 2011

On the nature of philanthropy

I recently perused The Power of Giving: How Giving Back Enriches Us All by Azim Jamal & Harvey McKinnon only to find repeated affirmations of the trite platitude, “the more you give, the more you receive” or various iterations of said cliche such as “the more you give of yourself, the more you find of yourself.” The familiar truism is the driving force behind the chapter 'Why Give?' (and really, the only suitable philosophic answer to that question so I forgive their repeated use of the cliche) accoutered with asterisk.

“The paradox is,” write the authors, “when you give expecting a reward, you won't receive one. Author Earl Nightingale tells a story of a man who went to his empty fireplace and said, 'Give me heat and I'll give you the wood.' But giving does not work that way. In fact, giving functions under the universal law of cause and effect.”

Given its reciprocal nature, philanthropy isn't material as it is experiential. Giving what you can is commendable, but experiencing giving is truly fruitful. In the heart of it, philanthropy isn't about what you give, but how much you can relate spiritually to what you give, tangible or intangible.

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