I know an old, bitter woman who served as a spiritual guide for many years.
She would selflessly help those in need. Praying for whoever needed it.
She gave everything away.
Except for it wasn’t a gift.
Gifts are a one-way thing.
A giver gives without any expectations.
A gift with an expectation is a muddied one-way transaction.
She said she was giving, but she wanted something back.
I don’t blame her. She doesn’t have much money and wasn’t paid well for the services she provided.
This happens to people who give up monetary payment for payment of the soul all the time.
Artists, spiritual people, teachers…
I write so many words and get nothing back.
When I made less money and people sent me an email with a story of gratitude my reaction was a toss-up:
1. I would think Yes! THIS is why I do this, spreading these ideas DOES matter and people ARE being helped by the things I write.
or, if I was feeling poor and sour that day..
2. Yeah, that’s great, your life is changed, are you going to pay me for it? You didn’t even buy my book you ungrateful… grumbles and grumbles and resentment.
This is why so many artists are unsatisfied in their lives.
They give everything without asking for anything back. They go to the depths of hell to bring back a story to change the world.
Terry Gilliam, the amazing director of 12 Monkeys and other movies that only happen when a storyteller goes to uncomfortable places in his own soul, talked about this briefly in the new (great) documentary For No Good Reason.
(I’m paraphrasing.) “We changed the world and created new freedoms… of course we got depressed, people just wanted to go shopping.”
They tried to change human nature when they couldn’t. He wasn’t happy with the payment that the world offered him.
The new passion-obsessed culture has us convinced that our work needs to fill all of our buckets: our money bucket, our soul bucket, our relationship bucket, our passion bucket, and all the other buckets.
It’s a dangerously dumb ideas – one that I subscribed to for too long.
There is no living man more obsessed and dedicated to business than Warren Buffett, yet he plays hours of bridge a week. John D Rockefellar said that he was able to maintain such a great work ethic because he shirked and had other hobbies. The men who expected most from their work still understood they had to find other fulfillment elsewhere.
What am I saying?
1. Don’t expect to get paid for doing what you love. (Keep monetary transactions clean to avoid resentment.)
2. Do your work with a sense of purpose instead of demanding purpose from your work. (Write poetry before and after-hours.)
3. Don’t do anything you want to do if you’re hoping to put somebody in your debt. (The ledgers of reciprocity are helplessly fuzzy.)
See life for what it is. Don’t be afraid to be rational in one place and irrational in others.
Aesthetics matter sometimes, sometimes they don’t.
Don’t grow old resenting people because they never gave you what you thought you deserved.
Don’t be that old woman. Don’t pretend to “give” when you’re transacting. Don’t enter into one-sided transactions.
If you like this, I hope you share it.
Of course, I’m not expecting you to.
I wrote this because I had to.
It was a gift to me. Then to you.