Practice Great Generosity by Carol P. Christ


Nurture life.

Walk in love and beauty.

Trust the knowledge that comes through the body.

Speak the truth about conflict, pain, and suffering.

Take only what you need.

Think about the consequences of your actions for seven generations.

Approach the taking of life with great restraint.

Practice great generosity.

Repair the web

In Rebirth of the Goddess, I offered Nine Touchstones of Goddess Spirituality as an alternative to the Ten Commandments. The Nine Touchstones are intended to inform all our relationships, whether personal, communal, social, or political.

The eighth touchstone asks us to practice great generosity.

Confronted by the great generosity of village Cretans who have far less than I do, I was provoked to examine my own values. Having been brought up in a family that always had enough to eat but often did not have enough to buy me everything I wanted, I was taught to “count my pennies” and to “save for a rainy day.” I began babysitting at the age of ten and as a teenager used my savings to buy fabric and patterns and sewed almost all of my own clothing. My brother and I fought constantly about who would get “the biggest piece” of whatever sweet was on offer.

The habits I learned early have served me well in some ways. I do not spend more than I have, and I have invested wisely. I am for the most part a kind person, but the practice of great generosity in regard to the money I have does not always come easily to me. Sometimes I give generously to charities, but I am not consistent. (Note to self: you can do better.) Moreover, it is not part of my cultural upbringing to offer to pay for someone else’s meal or to give gifts, not only on birthdays and holidays, but every day.

I sensed that the generosity I experienced among the Cretan people had ancient roots. Now I understand that this practice may have been passed down from egalitarian matriarchal cultures in which the generosity associated with mothers was considered to be the highest value—to be practiced not only by women but by men as well, not only in the home, but in the world as a whole. It is my belief that before war and the spoils of war became commonplace, people were valued not by what they had (or hoarded) but by what they were willing to give. These values were, and in some places still are, practiced in rural farming communities.

In a recent weeks Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been telling Americans that democratic socialism “means that we should guarantee basic elements of dignity and human life: education, health care, housing, food. It’s about guaranteeing a minimum level of dignity in the United States.” I have often said that I would be more than willing to pay higher taxes order to ensure basic dignity to all Americans. (I am not happy about paying taxes to the war machine: Barbara Lee speaks for me.)

In response to Republican attacks on socialism, Paul Krugman examined democratic socialism in Denmark. Krugman noted that:

American politics has been dominated by a crusade against big government; Denmark has embraced an expansive government role, with public spending more than half of G.D.P. American politicians fear talk about redistribution of income from the rich to the less well-off; Denmark engages in such redistribution on a scale unimaginable here.

Moreover:

Danes are more likely to have jobs than Americans, and in many cases they earn substantially more. Overall G.D.P. per capita in Denmark is a bit lower than in America, but that’s basically because the Danes take more vacations. Income inequality is much lower, and life expectancy is higher.

Growing up, I was taught that giving to others requires selflessness and personal sacrifice. In other words, giving is not always “fun.” My parents and my church were wrong about that. Unless we are completely cut off from our inborn capacity for empathy, most of us would be much happier knowing that our neighbors and others with whom we share the world have enough to survive and thrive. Krugman finds that:

The simple fact is that life is better for most Danes than it is for their U.S. counterparts. There’s a reason Denmark consistently ranks well ahead of America in measures of happiness and life satisfaction.

Growing up, I was also taught that “it is better to give than to receive.” I didn’t believe that then, but I am beginning to believe it now.

The eighth touchstone asks us to practice great generosity.

Doing so will not only help others. It will also make us happier to be alive.

 

Also see: Ethics of Goddess Religion: Healing the World , Nurture Life: Ethics of Goddess Spirituality,  Walk in Love and Beauty: A Touchstone for Healing,  Trust the Knowledge that Comes through the Body: Heal Yourself, Heal the World,  Speak the Truth About Conflict, Pain, and Suffering, Take Only What You Need, Think About the Consequences of Your Actions for Seven Generations, Approach the Taking of Life with Great Restraint

 

Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist writer, activist, and educator currently living in Lasithi Prefecture, Crete. Carol’s recent book written with Judith Plaskow, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, is on Amazon. A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess is on sale for $9.99 on Amazon. Carol  has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Bakas.

 

 

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Categories: Egalitarian Matriarchy, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Feminist Ethics, General, Goddess Spirituality

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12 replies

  1. I am very happy to pay the (only slightly) higher taxes here in Norway so that everyone living here can have a good life. It is extremely rare to see a homeless person here unless they are severely drug addicted. All children have what they need, including free medical and dental care – and a small monthly allowance for all parents that helps with some of the basics. The refugees here are also very well taken care of – although I believe we could take in more people. As an American, I am very sad to see what my country of origin has become. Greed and stinginess are not values to be proud of – nor are the wars and destruction we have caused. More sharing creates a better life for everyone, including those who happen to have more.

    Liked by 8 people

  2. Hello Carol, I grew up Catholic sitting in masses day dreaming with the dust motes floating before the stained glass windows listening to the music but not resonating much with what the priests talked about. However, there were a few stories that stuck: one of them is the bible story about the pauper lady who gives a [or the equivalent of] a penny to Jesus vs. the rich man who gave him, I don’t know the equivalent of $100. And the latter said why do you honor her as I gave you much more … and Jesus answer was that she gave him all that she had whereas the rich man only gave him a very very small percentage, something that was very ‘easy’ for him to do with of course, the meaning being that true generosity is uncomfortable and is inherent with an implication that we are all joined and what you need will come to you when you need it.

    A second thought I had was this quote from a book that I had saved: “Although many of the people in Xoxo are poor, there is great expense to make the graves very beautiful. This is a fiesta, so people may spend too much money, but that is all right. Somos muy fiestos – we Mexcians enjoy a good celebration. It is a chance to make a show of abundance and to attract more. To squander is not always bad, we know. We believe waste gives back untold returns of wealth. In the words of our great poet Octavio Paz, ‘When life is thrown away, it increases.’” p.254, Second Hand by Michael Zadoorian

    And yes, that makes sense that the roots of this thinking are matriarchal!

    Anyhow, I love your Nine Touchstones. Thank you.

    And just as a P.S. FAR has really been rocking it lately! Soooo many incredible postings! Thank you all! I have been ‘reposting’ as many as I can! <3

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Karen. In response to the fiestas, these too are part of egalitarian matriarchy, those who have to sponsor festivals and share their wealth. Also, making the graves beautiful is part of what has been called the beauty way (see my second touchstone). When capitalism (or Marxism for that matter) counts only dollars and cents, it does not recognize that beauty is one of the great gifts of bounteous earth and that one of the ways human beings respond to the gift of life is by creating beauty.

      Liked by 7 people

  3. A most thoughtful and inspiring post, Carol! What a refreshing change it is to read an essay written from such a point of view. The prevailing sentiment among many in the USA seems to be: “As long as I, personally, am okay, the rest of you can go to hell in a hand basket.” This does not seem at all in accordance with the tenets of the mainstream religion in this country, which purports to follow a man who said, “Easier is it for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.”

    My beloved late mother (an atheist, by the way) was the kindest, most giving person I have ever known and I want to be just like her. That the capacity for generosity is associated with matriarchal culture does not surprise me at all, any more than the idea that death, war, and misery is associated with patriarchy.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Thanks so much, Carol, greatly enjoyed this post, and especially where you say: “Nurture life. Walk in love and beauty.” Also “practice great generosity.”

    Through the ages and into our present era, there has been some great sharing in the arts by some wonderful women writers, musicians, painters, etc. Just to name a few examples would include the spiritual music of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179), also “The Interior Castle” written by St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582). And in the modern era a great gift of vision and mystical insight are maybe the magnificent flower paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986). So many of O’Keeffe’s beautiful works of art are illustrated all over the Internet too for free — that is, if we simply Google her name. And she didn’t only paint flowers, though I love them, but she did some absolutely magnificent landscapes in New Mexico also and which are now also free to view online.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Each one of these nine touchstone posts has moved me and there is always one sentence or two that stands out star-like. These words really get to me “Unless we are completely cut off from our inborn capacity for empathy, most of us would be much happier knowing that our neighbors and others with whom we share the world have enough to survive and thrive.” Gosh, Carol, I know I would feel ever so much better if people, trees and animals all had access to enough resources to live.. let alone thrive.

    I was also struck by your words about not always practicing great generosity when it comes to money…I don’t have a lot of money but when I give it has to come from my heart – and then I give generously. In order to feel a heart connection I need some kind of personal relationship to someone. I have little connection to corporate charities and simply ignore them…knowing I may be wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. This is a terrific series of posts. As I consider the U.S., especially today under the Troll-in-Chief, I see what must the opposite of generosity and enormous inequality in nearly every aspect of life. I wish everyone in every city and state government would read and consider your Nine Touchstones.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for another great post and for including your personal experience and reflections. The post brought back a memory. One summer during my college years I hired myself out to weed gardens. I took public transportation to get to my jobs. A woman in an outlying working class neighborhood insisted on giving me a dollar to cover my travel, twice what it cost (at that time 50 cents round trip on the T). A woman in a prosperous urban neighborhood gave me the exact amount of my fare. A very wealthy woman in a suburb that required two bus fares to reach did not concern herself at all with how I got to her house and gave nothing. I have never forgotten that the woman who apparently had the least was the most generous.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Many years ago I had the privilege of being at a feast in a First Nation’s Longhouse. Where we would have a “collection”, they had a magnificent “giving” of gifts, each gift shown, passed around, appreciated. At the end of the ceremony (mid day to overnight to next day, I think afternoon!) more gifts (blankets) were passed out to people attending. The “gift-ers” and the “receivers” both celebrated.
    Sometimes I think the best “gift” we can give is a gracious reception. An example locally – a massage therapist gives free treatments to seniors living in a group home. The initial response is: “Oh no! We MUST pay her”. Well meaning I’m sure, but I think we need to learn to receive as well as give. I was reading recently about the “sharing community”. Our “profit” system is killing us, and the rest of creation.

    Liked by 3 people

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