August 13, 2022

Art & Lifestyle:

Farmers Market @ Airport Aug. 14 -

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Theater Holding Auditions for ‘Clue’ -

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Hoyer Seeking Photos for Annual Contest -

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Shakespeare Heads to St. Mary’s City -

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Why Do We Give?

Art at the Bottom
By Viki Volk
Publisher

Art at the Bottom logoIt’s the giving time of year. It’s better to give than to receive. Give unto Caesar that which … and so on and so forth. But why do we do it? Why do we give?

Studies suggest it isn’t for as altruistic of reasons as we like to say. In fact, it is the talking about it after we’ve done it that humans seem to like the best.

So is it a natural impulse or one we have learned? And if prodded about it, as Tom Watts suggested, might we abandon the practice all together?

The behavioral scientists report that gifting is a need, even something of an impulsive need, to make us feel better about ourselves. And that it is emphatically not rational. Indeed, the more rationality put into our gifting the less we give. We do not want to think about gifting. We want to feel good.

We want what behavioral economist James Andreoni described in 1989 as the “warm glow” of self-satisfaction from committing to a worthy cause. Conversely, neither do we wish to be thought cold-hearted or uncaring.

Patterns of giving shift with societal sympathies. Charities of a particular generation fall out of favor. Another generation’s sense of civic responsibility overtakes services once the provenance of giving. The impulse, whatever its trigger, is of long standing. Across time and cultures the specifics of charity vary widely, yet gifting continues.

Giving, even quite specifically fund raising, has been recorded since at least Plato who endowed an academy he’d founded. Philanthropy is considered a cornerstone of English law from whence derives our own.

In the United States giving exists, among other things, as a tax-accounting technique which in turn spurs contributions to charitable organizations. A great deal of community, educational and artistic funding happens in just this way. Indeed, it is the nation’s taxing agency authorized to designate bona fide charities.

Whatever else  gifting ultimately means to us, it is clear that we do it, and we want it recognized and even rewarded.

But also, no matter how huge the gifting business has become or how pragmatically our good deeds tally in dollars and cents, the basic impulse remains at the core, one person extending something to another without expectation of return. That is at the root of every ultimate act of giving.

As is my wont when confounded by thorny philosophical queries, I sent this one on to a deeply religious woman capable of snarking with the best of us, but who typically tsk-tsks away cynicism of this nature.

She responds, “I believe giving is an automatic response to being filled, overfilled with love.  Do you remember the first time you saw your daughter, the first surge of uncontrolled love?  It is a natural response of the heart to connect, and lift up others.  Sure there’s a payoff of relief, but I also think the payoff is we become more than ourselves.  We connect with God.”

Yeah. Overfilled with love and universal connection. There’s a good reward. That feels warm.

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