Coded gray.

Wednesday 6 March 2002

Small gift wrapped package

Pic of the day: Beware geeks bearing gifts!

Giver's joy

In Norwegian we have a separate word for the joy of giving. We call it "gjevarglede" or in Book Language "giverglede", meaning giver's gladness. I can't remember any equivalent word in English, but I'm pretty sure I've seen "joy of giving" used in the same way.

The merchants may use this expression around Xmas and such, but mainly it seems to be used by charities and churches. Above all, churches. That should not shock anyone, as there is actually a mention of the phenomenon in the Bible. The apostle Paul says that "God loves a glad giver".

Of course, preachers, pastors, ministers etc tend to love givers more or less regardless of how glad they are, as long as they keep giving. Truth to tell, Paul himself was not beyond shaming his congregation into giving by praising another church that had given more than they could afford, and with great joy, despite suffering much hardship.


Correspondingly, one tends to hear much more about giving than about the joy. That's a shame, really. The joy, and not least happiness, of giving is quite real. It isn't even limited to Christians.

I have mentioned my pet theory on altruism. I believe that we all start our lives as literal parasites, and then gradually over the course of our lives, we change sides. So that for an adult, it is indeed more blessed to give than to receive. This is not something that suddenly happens when you have kids; it is a gradual change. Even small children can be seen beaming with joy when they share their candy ... as long as there is enough left for themselves, at least. To some extent, I think greed is an acquired taste; but overall, children must necessarily get more than they give. Their survival depends on it.

But the survival of the species depends on adults giving more than they get. So we are programmed to take joy in giving. This is no miracle in itself, much as I love miracles. OK, the actual programming is a miracle; God knows how the sequence of nucleic acids can translate into relevant feelings. But it works. When we follow our true instincts, we feel good. We feel right, like we are on the right track. We feel a reward inside. Sharing with others can give this feeling.

The Freudian school of psychology probably still thinks that this is all a kind of "apostolic succession" from parent to child, each generation impressing the next with the need to share. Well, there is always that. But you see how much parental guidance does when it runs contrary to instincts (or the drives that are the human equivalent). It sounds improbable that the teachings of the elders should have so much more success in this area, and especially that this influence would increase when the parents are dead or far away. I think we should rather accept the fact that we are made with an inner guidance; and unless you think it is spiritual all the way down, I'd say that it is probably made of the same stuff as instincts.

(From a Christian point of view, there is no problem with instincts. Our God is also our Creator. A little built-in helpful reminder is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. It's not like we couldn't use that.)


I know from personal experience that the need to give increases with age. I don't think this is true for all people. Just like in other parts of life, some stop at a certain level and don't make any further progress. I know that too, from other areas. But I think the natural development is to take more and more joy in giving as one slides into the typical parental age group.

It can be hard to say where this instinct ends and others begin. Regular readers will know how much joy I take in shopping stuff for my best friend, who also happen to be an attractive young woman (and quite a bit younger than me). So can I be absolutely sure that it is just the joy of giving, and not a subconscious attempt at wooing a fertile female? Or, alternatively, given the age difference, perhaps it's my parental instincts going wild over a surrogate child? And are these even mutually exclusive?

As for the "shop to get laid" theory, I think most instincts would get a hint after 7-8 years of nothing more than the occasional hug (and not every season either). I could certainly buy some quality time with an experienced harlot for less than what I've shelled out over the years. I don't think I would feel nearly as happy; but of course, I shall never know. I am pretty sure, though. I may not know the harlots, but I do know myself somewhat.

I have more faith in the "child substitute" theory. I am indeed more likely to help younger people than older, all other things being equal. And the better I know those young people, the more likely I am to help them.

But there are people out there dedicating their whole lives to helping others, others who don't even vaguely look or act like their children. Perhaps it's not all instinct after all.

Yesterday <-- This month --> Tomorrow?
One year ago: Good old ... games?
Two years ago: Simulated love
Three years ago: Saturday stuff

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