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Radical Generosity — Part One

March 10, 2010

The genesis of joy is generosity.

And if generosity is giving, giving beyond ego can be called Radical Generosity. Ego is fine, really. I have nothing against it. Without it, it would be tough to negotiate your way in the real world. Only problem is, you invite this driver called ego into the car to chauffer you around, and soon he’s telling you where to go, and soon after that, stuffing you in the trunk. Ego and happiness (which is more about gratification and getting your way) can be friends. Ego and joy, not so much.

When you give to another, you give to yourself. Giving gives the giver. And this is evidence that we’re all connected.

This idea of radical generosity was exemplified by my dear cousin Gary. (May he rest in peace). One day Gary was out with a bunch of his friends at a restaurant, and there they encountered the meanest, rudest, and most ornery bitch of a waitress the dining industry had ever known. For reasons that eluded and baffled all of them, this woman made snide remarks about their food choices; brought them the wrong food (which she practically threw at them); and took every opportunity to be offensive.

 So what did they do? A few felt humiliated by her; others felt enraged. They could have complained to the management and maybe have gotten her fired. 

At the least, Gary’s friends wanted to stiff her — but he would have none of it.

“Do you like her energy?” he said.  “So do you want to add to it? I have a better way to get back at her!” 

 Now you’re probably wondering what they did. One could fight fire with fire, but only if one is prepared to have everyone get burned. 

When the bill came, Gary asked his friends how much cash they had on them. The bill came to about $45.00 for the 7 of them (hey – this was 25 years ago).

He then proceeded to empty his wallet of the $40 in it, and placed it on top of the bill. Somehow, he persuaded everyone to do the same, leaving about $155 on the table!

It’s not just that they got to see the look on the face of this poor, unsuspecting soul who didn’t know what hit her. It’s how they felt….for days and weeks after! Gary couldn’t say if this woman was transformed by this. But they were! Their dark rage and humiliation was instantly transmuted to a radical, happily irrational, and empowered feeling.

Radical generosity generates joy.

Splurge on your brother for a big birthday gift, and you feel great, and hopefully he does too, and everyone’s happy. Splurge on your brother for no reason at all, and send the gift anonymously, and it will bring you joy.

Today’s Joygasm:  “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.” — Mark Twain


11 Comments leave one →
  1. Dave permalink
    March 10, 2010 9:46 am

    Come on people, now, splurge on your brother, everybody get together, try to love one another, right now!

  2. March 10, 2010 2:13 pm

    That’s definitely taking the high road! Kill ’em with kindness_ oops, did I say KILL? Does it work even when you’re cursing the person from the inside? Or do you have to be “really pure” in intention, thought and deed when giving to a nasty one? I say, best to do it anyway (if you believe in karma- or not). The outcome may actually be a lifting of resentment (or cause us to go broke….)

    • March 11, 2010 5:43 am

      Giving to someone you’re “cursing on the inside” is Radical Generosity in action. It lifts you past your reactions and past what they did to spark your reactions.

  3. March 10, 2010 4:45 pm

    OKay, how much cash are you wanting from me Charley? Just give me numbers and cut the bullshit.

  4. Jennifer permalink
    March 11, 2010 4:20 pm

    My name is Jennifer and I am Garys daughter. I’ve heard bits and pieces of this story but never the whole thing. I remember him saying if you can’t tip then you can’t afford to go out and eat!
    My dad was indeed the most caring, gracious and joyfull person I’ve ever known, even 25 years later I’ve never met anyone quite like him. There used to be a store called Sugarmens. This store had everything from food to hardware kind of like an upscale Wall-Mart would be today. God help us all when we would take our family trips to Sugarmens we all would get excited because we knew Dad was going to go nuts buying things! Let’s face it joy comes in all sizes! We weren’t rich in fact we just got by most of the time. I have two brothers and one sister me being the oldest. When I say Dad would go nuts shopping my brother Mike and I would feel like it’s Christmas because we could get the chocolate AND the strawberry quick!!! Oh glory days and they were!
    One of the biggest life lessons I learned because of my father is that money truely does not buy happiness. We were just getting by and I think those days were the happiest most joyous days of my life.
    Dad absolutly loved to make people happy and I know this brought him great joy! Once a year a group of fishermen on their way to Canada would stop by to hear my father tickle the ivorys. Dad was a phenominal piano player and singer. Every year they would tip him hundreds of dollars because they loved him so much! One morning I’m sound asleep and my dad is sitting on my bed. I hear something completely annoying in my ear. I told my dad that I’m tired go away! Again I hear that annoying sound in my ears except this time he wouldn’t let up! I finally turn around and say WHAT! He’s smiling the whole time and what do I see in his hands??? Two one hundred dollar bills! Being a teenager I freaked out! The joy radiated off him and was contagious! He did this kind of stuff all the time it’s true do something for someone because you get high from it! Just a nice perk I suppose.
    I could go on and on but basically my father was living proof that joy is contagious making others feel good makes you feel better!

  5. March 11, 2010 7:52 pm

    You say your ego will soon be “telling you where to go, and soon after that, stuffing you in the trunk.” You make it sound as if your ego is doing something to you. In rare moments of transcendence–or perhaps simply disassociated–I’ve experienced my ego with compassion, as a poor, pathetic, suffering creature, constantly struggling to maintain homeostasis, to buffer and manage the shocks that inevitably arrive from outside itself. The transcendent self has none of those worries, and centering myself in it is a source of joy. But without the struggling ego there would be no transcendence. The ego is not a hijacker or a kidnapper. The ego is more like a hard working servant, always doing the dirty work. The only problem is when we overidentify with ego and see no way out. But that’s us stuffing us into the trunk, not the poor ego.

    • March 12, 2010 8:00 am

      Ed, your response intrigues me. I love “without the struggling ego there would be no transcendence.” But the “us” that’s stuffing us into the trunk is the ego, the “us” we’re identified with. (Hijackers and kidnappers are generally “poor, suffering creatures”.) Otherwise, who or what is that “us” you refer to?

      But if you mean to correct me for my unthinking disdain and bias against “ego”, I stand corrected. We need to find a way to have compassion for this self!

  6. james j bogs permalink
    March 15, 2010 1:33 pm

    Thanks for the joy project. It’s mind blowing.
    Great ideas and insightful quotes.
    I do have one concern and it is not at all intended to be negative. Is there any guidance or advice about how not to enact an “A B Story”?
    An “A B Story” is one in which person A is quite generous with gifts and caring toward person B but B is unmoved or unsatisfied because all the things that A has been doing for B are really what A likes, cares about, dreams about, etc.
    B is doing the same to A, being generous, caring, going out of the way to do things for A, but A is unmoved, unsatisfied because all the actions that B has taken are what
    B loves.
    Hopefully, A and B can evolve into people who incorporate good listening into their way of life, so that when A does kind things for B and B does good things for A, they each are satisfied, fulfilled, completed by the generosity of the person who cares for them because they each have taken the time to connect with the true desires, wishes, needs of the other. Their relationship is complete. Their story is complete, C. It could be called an “A B C Story”, or just a Complete Relationship. To do this it takes a great deal of generosity, but once done it can bring great joy.

    There are different levels of joy. Acting out just for yourself can be joyful, but shouldn’t there be some amount of advice or caution about being so self centered that one might do more harm than intended. I love your project. I hope that it becomes all that you want it to be. I’ll pass the blog on to people that I know.
    Let me know, if you think that the “A B Story” can be of any help.

    • March 26, 2010 6:04 am

      Hey James. Sorry for not responding sooner! (Not too generous of me, eh?) The answer to your story, as you already know, is two-fold:
      1) Use empathy to listen into, and feel your way into the heart of your lover, and imagine — “If I were that person, what would I want to receive?” Also…
      2) Be generous to yourself: Since you find yourself giving gifts and caring that you yourself would like to receive, give it to yourself instead! It’s not as much fun as receiving these things from someone else, but you’d be surprised how well this can work. And this will fill you up in a way where you’ll have more motivation to care what the other person really wants to receive.

  7. Richard W. permalink
    March 16, 2010 8:07 pm

    I recall that story of Gary’s. That is a good lesson for all of us. It’s like the theory behind Akido, redirecting the oncoming energy back to the source.

    This story also reminds me of one of my favorite sayings, by Reverend Ike, no less:

    “Life takes from the takers and gives to the givers.”

    Amen, brother.

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