Generosity, often associated with kindness and giving can exercise both deficient and excessive virtues spanning from selfish to wasteful. The Aristotelian Golden Mean is defined as the “course of action that avoids the extremes of character.” Those extremes being both deficiency and excessiveness. Generosity is often viewed through a religious lens, exploring one's humanity and their relationship to God. In Christianity, the view of generosity is not purely with one’s relations to God but also, “the loving divine Parent, whose sacrificial self-gift into the world makes possible human fellowship in the divine life” (University of Notre Dame, What is Generosity?”) Generosity has a unique relationship to both the individual self and the community, as it becomes controversial when one begins to question, “how much is too much?”--”What will I have to sacrifice to be charitable and giving?” It becomes one moral and ethical duty to sort out and find their “Golden Mean” in the midst of a society that weighs on extremes.
This image demonstrates the virtue of generosity in its most pure form--the act of giving. The older man in the photo is accepting something from the other hand in the photo. The mysteriousness and wonder of the photo is derived from how little information we have when viewing it. We are unaware if this act of giving was prompted by an action or simply out of "kindness"-- a character trait that often goes hand in hand with generosity. With either perception, it is clear that the unclaimed hand is providing the older man with something--a simple and generous act.
“Real generosity towards the future lies in giving all to the present.” - Albert Camus
Often our society relates the idea of being generous back to the notion of the gifting of materialistic items--this photo contradicts that notion with the display of teaching. Teaching and learning is essentially a metaphor for giving and receiving--one may not recognize the gift in the present but it is later acknowledged--similar to Camus' quote about time and generosity. The University of Notre Dame states that, "As soon as something is recognized as a gift, the receiver becomes indebted and obliged to offer a return; free gift thus collapses into economic exchange. A gift can only exist so long as it remains unrecognized by both giver and receiver." This food for thought is designed to make one wonder about the consciousness and genuine aspect of giving.
Generosity in Relationships
How Much is Too Much? A constant theme in literary works is generosity--it is timeless and essential to humanity. Some works nearly scratch the surface of the virtue, others explore them in depth. The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry, depicts a couple in the midst of an economic struggle but deep in romance and love they both make sacrifices to please the other. Della decides to cut her hair in order to fix her husband's watch--her husband decides to sell his watch in order to buy combs for his wife's hair. This is an example of how sacrifice intersects with generosity--their own acts of kindness have led them to lose their most prized possessions. Some argue that this is too much generosity--that being generous should not have to require personal sacrifice. While others argue that this is the right amount of generosity to realize the meaning of a relationship.
"It is not enough to help the feeble up, but to support him after." Shakespeare also explores generosity in his works as he declares the importance of continued kindness and support.
In my research I have struggled with the relations with oneself and one's community when it comes to generosity. How do relationships relate to generosity? Must one be recognized in order to be truly generous? How can one exercise generosity without another human to be the receiver? Has our society become one that gives just to receive or to reward? Aristotle explores the aspect of selfishness, or looking out for oneself. "The generous person does not give indiscriminately, but seeks to give in a way that is good and fine. This, in turn, requires giving to the right people, in the right amounts, at the right time, with pleasure, and without looking out for oneself." (University of Notre Dame, "What is Generosity?") Initially I did not examine amounts or quantities, rather I thought about recognition and our society. I now understand that there is, according to Aristotle, a right amount to give and receive, while preforming a selfless act--seeking no reward or recognition. I also found myself processing Aristotle's use of "the right people" time and time again, with thought I now know that giving the right amount to the wrong person could lead to harm (ex. giving money to a substance addict/giving your keys to an intoxicated person.) The examination of amounts relates back to Aristotle's Golden Means--which explores moderation in terms of virtues.
"A man who suddenly becomes generous may please fools, but he will not deceive the wise." Phædrus. Generosity gives way to a