We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Monday, December 31. 2007
The New York Sun reports that those who give generously are happier people. Is that news?
The problem with the article is the cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Do happy people give, or does giving make people happy? Or are there other variables that independently produce those results, as it turned out with eating broccoli?
I think that happy people take joy in much of what they do, whether it is giving or anything else. Still, giving is a pleasure for many reasons. Receiving isn't always enjoyable, for even more complicated reasons.
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Dr. Joy Bliss, Interesting post. I particularly note,
"Receiving isn't always enjoyable, for even more complicated reasons."
It is why welfare, except in extreme cases (fire, loss of breadwinner, death, etc.) does more harm than good. Particularly long term 'receiving.' After 40 years, welfare, by whatever name you refer to it, has not really changed much of anything. Although we do have the richest poor in the world, most have refrigerators, heat, indoor plumbing, access to education and medical care, and TV's, usually large screen TV's.
'Receiving' damages, rather than enhances, self-esteem; and in my sceptical old age, I wonder if that hasn't the point all along - to keep people in poverty and oppressed rather than the other way around. That way, a large block of people are more easily manipulated.
In my experience, working with a program for kids that encourages creative problem solving, that solving a difficult problem is the best self-esteem builder in the world.
I'm not sure welfare is the best example of 'giving' in this instance. Dr. Bliss is not talking about government but individual people in general.
Welfare may keep the uninspired and worthless in poverty, but what it does for the country as a whole is prevent the rise of a huge criminal class that would cost more than welfare.
Generous people are happier. I would rather give generously, simply because (selfishly) one feels better with an open hand than with a clenched, grasping one...
But although giving can bring much joy to the giver, it can be as complicated as receiving....What if one happily ponders a gift, and the recipient rejects it, is blase about it, or takes it for granted? What if one gives consciously or unconsciously hoping for reciprocation? What if one offers oneself and no takers? Hell hath no fury and all that....
Then, one sometimes gives patronisingly (noted in the blog recently, about the arrogance of giving to the "less fortunate.") What I call the Ferragamo human rights syndrome , from the NYT with full page ads next to articles about relief camps.
One aspect of giving is that it is fun to acquire stuff, but one can rationalize it better when it is for others, rather than mere dragonish hoarding for oneself. On the other hand, teenaged offspring frequently bust me for this: Mom, you just got it for me because you like to buy things...
I know that I am not alone in giving stuff when I feel unloving, or guilty. Also, that I can talk a good game, but that talk is cheap. Time spent, loving actions, are harder to share than glib words...
Off to exchange ill-chosen gifts I gave the puppies for CHristmas....so a little jaded, perhaps....
It goes against what I want to believe, but it is easier to give when you have. And if you "have", then you are more likely to be happy. I would suspect that the ratio of "happy + able-to-give" people is higher than the "happy + need-to-accept" people.
Happiness depends on case by case hardwiring and survival circumstances.
All living creatures prefer to do what they've been grown to do. It's when stuff that's contrary to their nature gets forced on em that they get fussy, especially if it has nothing to do with their own perceived survival requirements.
I agree with Dr. Bliss. The dynamics of gift-giving and gift receiving are complicated. I wrote about this briefly last week.
"it isn't surprising that it can sometimes be quite difficult to find just the right gift. Like any human activity, gift-giving and receiving can carry multiple meanings -- some positive and some negative. The complexity of meaning expressed by a gift reflects the complex, often uneasy, intertwining of social relationships with our internal lives. There are situations in which giving or accepting a gift could be destructive, while in other circumstances giving and accepting gifts could be beneficial. And, the meanings could also be mixed, containing both good news and bad news for bearers and/or receivers. Consider that the narcissist's discomfort with the experience of need and gratitude [because they imply a state less than perfection] might make it difficult for a narcissist to accept a gift. On the other hand, not receiving a gift might constitute a grave offense to the narcissist's sense of entitlement.
Gift-giving is complicated.
Do you remember the very short piece by Freud where he analyses a slip he made on the letter he wrote to go along with a gem he was giving to a friend. His daughter (Anna?) helps him to come to the conclusion that he was torn about giving the stone and keeping it. Any gift worthy of the name , he concludes, must cost the giver a little pain.
Interesting, Dr. X. Mulling over a relative who is never satisfied with the gifts showered upon him/her, who feels entitled to God knows what, who sulks every year disappointed by the gifts of mere mortal harried family members,who gives cheap, nasty gifts to all yet finds fault with anything less than perfection received by him/her. Same person habitually gives people things they never asked for, seldom like, and then throws a tantrum at their "base ingratitude" (while recipients snarl that he/she only gave them things he/she wanted so as to be able to buy him/herself more stuff..."
Re: #7, didn't know that Freud had said that about the cost of a gift. Remember Jesus' words about the pearl of great price...
Personally, I've always found that, when in doubt, one should buy the better gift, and the hell with the January credit card bill. Nobody in my family ever said "Oh, you should have got me the lower quality one..." And at least if one is generous, even if the person is ungrateful tho one has to eat PBJ lunches for a year to fund the extravagant gift, one can console oneself that one tried, one was kind, one gave up something one wanted oneself to attempt to please the Emperor/Empress of the world described in my first paragraph.
To some extent, when dealing with greedy, entitled feeling relatives (who are pitiably empty inside, veritable black holes for taking and never giving), one cannot ever give them ammo for a whine about "You never give me anything good..."
Gift giving is a fraught experience in my family...nothing happy about it!
Fortunately there are generous elderly women in the family who send us occasional fat checks with strict instructions to spend it in secret on some luxury that "he/she" is not to know of. Hidden indulgences please one so much more, while he/she is ungrateful for the gift one spent a year paying for!