The pre-dawn hour glowed with a yellow-grey reflection from the heavy overcast. As I sat with my cup of coffee, I felt like I was on the set of an industrialized, kafkaesque movie. It’s one of those movies that pits the heroic struggle between what is right rather than what is acceptable within a social milieu in which religions have become as lost as their followers. Dogma and blind faith rule the day.
Such a heavy feeling isn’t cheery, but it’s an excellent emotion that can enable contemplation and natural meditation.
I looked around at the drab glow. The chemical light of the streetlamps illuminated the thick clouds. In turn, the overcast dispersed and reflected the light onto everything below. I thought about how life consists of giving and receiving. A basic fundamental of living, itself.
If you decide to only give and never receive, you will soon deplete your inner and outer resources. If you decide to only receive and never give back, you become greedy and miserly. This basic aspect of life has often been compared to breathing. In order to live, we must always give out and receive with our lungs. If we do mostly one or the other, we will not live very long.
There are the ancient human and social conditions of want and greed. They are manifestations of the loss of balance in life, both individually and culturally.
Then, I thought about gift giving and receiving. Somewhere, sometime, and somehow, the exchange of gifts became distorted. Perhaps it happened when gift exchange became entangled with the concept of commerce. The natural give and take of life got lost in the world of haggling and bargaining. The desire to acquire more while giving out less became the ideal.
However, what appears to be beneficial to the receiver has hidden costs.
The new western fetish called “Black Friday” is one symptom of a lack of balance. The idea of acquiring the most and cheapest bargains while pushing and harming one’s fellow shoppers is an obvious sign of greed. Besides the possible physical and mental injury to shoppers, are the costs of providing those inexpensive goods to consumers. These prices have come to light, recently, as low wages paid to store employees, sweatshop conditions in Eastern Asia, and environmental damage to the Earth.
We seem to have forgotten what goes around, comes around. If we accept and take one gift, there needs to be the release or sacrifice of another gift. This shows up in every aspect of life. If we fail to honor give and take, grief will ultimately result.
There is the obvious need for giving and receiving in partnerships. If one partner continuously gives out and sacrifices for the sake of the other, there is imbalance and a lack of equality. In the same way, if one partner continually demands and receives more from the other, the lack of balance will cause disharmony. These facts are very obvious, yet they’re often forgotten and neglected.
When one partner tries to get the upper hand or when one partner always plays the submissive role, the partnership will suffer in every case. That partnership will become entrenched in the struggle between entitlement and sacrifice. Resentment will seethe within both parties.
Giving and receiving, represents the unification of two forces, in ebb and flow, for the betterment of both parties. Regardless as to whether the relationship is business or romantic, this balance is necessary for a healthy life. When one receives with mindfulness and gratitude towards the providers, living is pleasing. In return, the acts of selflessness in the giving of gifts, complete the circuit to enable others to experience the joy of receiving.
I looked back up to the clouds and thought about all this giving and receiving that continues on and on, each day.
People asking and giving favors, obligations, contracts being signed, financial debts and debits, oath-making. Harmony between siblings and family, the energies between lovers and friends.
As individuals and society, we can only thrive when there is both giving and receiving.
The Blue Jay of Happiness remembers hearing an old Norse verse. “A man should be loyal through life to friends, and return gift for gift; Laugh when they laugh, but with lies repay a shallow foe who lies.”