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Monk Notes 19 - The Ultimate Gift Is a Life of Meaning

Generosity is directly connected to meaning

Culturally, we have a strange connection to generosity. We hold up generosity as a universally positive value, and yet tend to celebrate individuals in business, politics, and general culture who exemplify its opposite. We may even come to believe over time that personal success runs in the opposite direction of generosity; that selfishness is the path that will bring us to what we desire.
But this view of generosity is shortsighted. While it may be true that selfishness can at times lead to positive external outcomes, the internal result is often devastating. Through an external lens we miss the truth about generosity, which is always bidirectional.

We are relational beings, and we find meaning where we leave our mark; everything apart from our effect on others will ultimately be left behind. Generosity is the river that flows toward meaning. The most generous people are often the most joyful people for this very simple reason: generosity creates meaning in our lives.

That said, generosity costs us something — and it is because it costs us something that generosity is actually meaningful.

However, we can grow in generosity much easier when we recognize that all of life costs something. No matter what we do, every choice we make will come at some cost to our life. The decision for us is how much meaning we hope to arrive at through this cost, and how we choose to allocate this cost.

When we direct our lives towards meaning, we direct our lives towards generosity. Not generosity in the form of perpetual self-sacrifice, or external offerings, but rather the quiet disposition of an orientation toward the good.
The ultimate gift is a life of meaning. And it is only through our own generosity that we can receive it.

All the best,

Steven Lawson

“Without courage you cannot practice any of the other virtues.”

- Maya Angelou


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Featured Art: Kajikazawa in Kai Province, Katsushika Hokusai (c. 1830-1832)