generosity is good

Generosity makes everyone involved feel good. Both the recipient and the giver derive pleasure from the act of sharing, albeit in different ways. (It’s better to give than to receive?) Generosity is one of the easiest ways to instantly manifest joy, to create what’s commonly understood as “good energy.”

We all like getting surprises; we all like being thought of by others. What’s less universally appreciated is the benefits that accrue to the giver: a sense of well-being, of bigheartedness, of grace. When you give from the heart, you have no motive other than to brighten the life of someone else; when you do, the sun shines on both of you.

“Give until it hurts” is a popular credo in the political bribery industry. But true generosity involves no pain. As the kids say, it’s all good.

We’ve been making a point of reminding ourselves to be . . . → Read More: Generosity

Family Problems

family problems

In the aftermath of the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, where thousands died and hundreds-of-thousands more were left homeless, almost everyone I spoke to asked the same question: My Filipina wife — was anyone in her immediate family affected?

Everyone was greatly relieved to learn that, no, none of my wife’s immediate family members were harmed by the storm. To these kindhearted and compassionate inquirers, the absence of death, injury, or property damage to my wife’s closest relatives was a great relief, a kind of silver lining to the dark cloud of death that descended on her birth country. By some sort of strange spiritual calculus, it was understood and taken for granted that blood relations are intrinsically more important, more valuable to us, than everyone else – with the exception of those who are welcomed bloodlessly into the family through adoption and marriage. . . . → Read More: Family Problems

Sharing, Caring, Giving

candlelight vigil for victims of bad people

Thanks to our good looks, superior intelligence, and unimaginable privilege, we’re rich! Do you know how much calla lilies cost at a reputable flower purveyor? We’ve got hundreds of them in our garden. Blood oranges? Also hundreds.

We can’t eat them all, so we give them away. Same thing with our money. Since we’re into sharing, spreading the goodness around, we’ve decided this year to take a portion of our vast wealth and endow a nonprofit foundation – a charitable foundation – to serve our brothers and sisters, to lessen the suffering of every living creature, to leave the world a slightly better place than we found it.

So many issues. So many problems. So many broken people needing to be fixed. If we were Bill Gates or Carlos Slim, we’d have the kind of money to back an infinite number of projects. Alas, we’re not that . . . → Read More: Sharing, Caring, Giving

The Benefit of Benefits


“Guinnessport,” is not a British drinking game. It’s a new sport/lifestyle choice that fetishizes (and glorifies) obsessive-compulsive behavior. Guinnessport contestants compete to hold the most certified records in the Guinness Book of World Records, including the record for holding the most records (367, at present). Activities like cycling underwater. Carrying a brick in one hand at waist level. Standing on one foot. Clapping.

The top Guinnessport athletes hold more than 100 of these records simultaneously. To accomplish serially and consistently such arduous feats usually requires extensive training periods. As with most athletic pursuits, to be a successful Guinnessportsman means devoting most of your waking hours to nothing but Guinnessport. Your life’s work is to set soon-to-be-broken records.

The cynics among us might be tempted to point out that Guinnessport is a colossal waste of time and energy, and that this maniacal (and egocentric) pursuit of trivial . . . → Read More: The Benefit of Benefits

The Time to Care About Disaster Victims

food bounty

President Obama sent us an email a few days ago, and this time it wasn’t to ask for monetary support of his healthcare reform boondoggle. He was asking us (and the millions of others on his OFA database) to help Haitians.

He wrote: “Despite the fact that we are experiencing tough times here at home, I encourage those who can to reach out and help. It’s in times like these that we must show the kind of compassion and humanity that has defined the best of our national character for generations.”

It’s not clear why we must show compassion and humanity “in times like these,” as opposed to every day.

We Americans, some of the wealthiest and rapacious people on the planet, are pretty good at sending boxes of clothing to the Philippines when a typhoon strikes, and canned food to Samoa when there’s a hurricane. . . . → Read More: The Time to Care About Disaster Victims

The Morality of Greed


Anyone who enjoyed a high school or college infatuation with the ideas contained in the popular novels of Ayn Rand knows that characters like John Galt and Howard Roark represent all that is good about capitalism. Their intelligence, determination, and ethics made them heroes — heroes of acquisitiveness passed off as heroes of innovation and progress. Rand, aside from being a master of the potboiler, was one of capitalism’s great apologists, a stirring defender of the indefensible, who masterfully illustrated some of our most treasured nostrums: free markets and free men make the world better for everyone; without an incentive to achieve, everything gets stuck in the socialist muck; it’s a fair game that anyone can play.

How persuasive is she? After devouring her collected works, most people conclude that the only logical, efficient way to organize a society is around the premise of greed. . . . → Read More: The Morality of Greed

The Charity Enigma

capitalist LOSER and his dog

I saw a beggar (and his dog) on Sunset Boulevard the other day. They — well, the human — were soliciting cash donations for “food” from pedestrians. A well-meaning but foolish fellow threw a few bucks at the doleful couple, thereby cleansing himself of whatever sins he had committed in the name of acquiring his gleaming car and discretionary cash. The donator didn’t care that the money he gave would help ensure that the recipient (and his dog) would be encouraged to stay on the sidewalk, where positive reinforcement from liberal Hollywood residents was easier to come by than honest work. All the rich fellow knew was that he somehow felt a little bit better about having more than the other guy.

Not long ago Bill and Melinda Gates announced that they would be dedicating the bulk of their time to giving . . . → Read More: The Charity Enigma

Giving to the World

hands holding each other

With very few exceptions, all of us must work. Our jobs, those five-days-a-week responsibilities that earn us the money for food, shelter, clothing, and recreational drugs, allow us to both survive and feel like we’re actually doing something with our brief lives. Some jobs pay more than others. Some are dirtier than others. Some are fun and some aren’t. The whole panoply of toiling, however, somehow defines us. We are our work.

We’ve noticed lately that the people who seem most satisfied with their job (and therefore their life) are those who feel as though they’ve given something useful to the world. Teachers, physical therapists, computer programmers — they all make a contribution to the society they live in; they add value to life. Currency traders, professional gamblers, land speculators — their contributions are harder to detect.

The givers, we believe, are essentially happier . . . → Read More: Giving to the World

Why People Hate Art

Art Hating is a Tradition

A rich guy we know gives generously to a wide and cheering cross-section of charities: Special Olympics, animal shelters, American Cancer Society, institutions of higher learning. He feels good giving away some of his millions to any cause or appeal, except “the arts.” That he won’t do.

The arts, he’s told us in so many words, have made him feel confused, mocked, ignorant, ornery, and profligate. Frequently his idea of “the arts” doesn’t match with what the arbiters of taste consider the arts; indeed, some of the arts he’s witnessed seem aggressively inartistic and ugly. And why would he want to support that?

Speaking as both an artist and a libertarian, I wholeheartedly support the rich man’s prerogative to give (or not give) as he sees fit. And I understand how “the arts” have disappointed him. (Disappointing and confusing the masses may, in fact, be what some . . . → Read More: Why People Hate Art

How Can I Help?

serving humanity

A friend recently read the entire archive of our collected Thoughts of the Day. Like most people, he found himself agreeing with some of our ideas, disagreeing with others, and questioning the rest. He said he liked our Thoughts – but he was troubled by one of the “recurring” themes he detected. “You don’t seem to approve of charity,” he observed. “But, let’s face it: The easiest way for people with busy lives to help the less fortunate is to write a check and let the charity take care of them.”

How, he wondered, did we propose bettering the world around us if we weren’t willing to give money to the apparatuses dedicated to such improvements?

A few ideas:

Teach an illiterate adult to read. Visit a nursing home. Pick up trash and remove graffiti from public places. Welcome disadvantaged youngsters into your workplace. Pay a homeless . . . → Read More: How Can I Help?