Deep Question of the Day

In lieu of journaling this week, I will be posting a Deep Question of the Day.

Would you rather be a Dorito or a potato chip?


Does being serious all the time actually help us accomplish our serious work?

Proof and Motivation

I believe in being nice to people and in helping out when I can. I believe it’s the right thing to do, and I also believe that it pays off in the end so it’s stupid not to.

My philosophical debate of the day is this: does the “paying off in the end” bit cheapen or confirm the “right thing to do” bit?  Can it be logical and good at the same time?

Proof, by Kodama on Flickr
Proof, by Kodama on Flickr

This came to mind because twice in the past couple of weeks, one of my advanced students, C, asked for help sending videos of her little daughter out to family in Mexico, and also with getting her hand-me-down laptop to join the library’s wireless network.

To me, these are life skills, most especially when your family lives far away.  Limited access is a problem, and when I had the chance to address it for even one person, I couldn’t not.  So I had her come in during the afternoon lull and spent maybe an hour and a half total helping her out.

Then Wednesday evening, I had an unprecedented number of new students enrolling, including four men who spoke Spanish but little English. C was there because one of those men was her brother – she brought him in. She helped him understand the application and the mechanics of his test, and when he was good to go, C also helped me with the three other Spanish-speaking students.

So on one hand, what goes around comes around, and it’s amazing to be part of a cycle of such positivity.

On the other hand, I have this very concrete proof that going the extra mile for students yields more students and more helpers.  Does this proof suck any “good” there might have been out of my desire to help my students?

I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t know where my motivation to serve my students ends and my motivation to serve myself begins.

At least they’re aligned?

On Giving and Sharing

In my previous post I talked a little about giving vs. sharing in the context of poverty and what to do about it. I’ve been thinking about it more since I wrote it, and I think there’s something to the idea.

It’s very grand and dramatic to be constantly giving all you’ve got. In many ways it’s what we’re “supposed” to do. I also hear frequent praise of people who never take but always give. The dirty little secret is that if all you do is give, you will run out of resources to give, be they material or emotional.

Sharing, photo by FuriousGeorge81 on Flickr
Sharing, photo by FuriousGeorge81 on Flickr

Giving is uni-directional. It comes with power politics, careful tallies,  assumed rights, and often times a very high horse. Giving has to be paired with taking.  So maybe the key is to not be focused on giving so much as on sharing.

Sharing flows in all directions. It doesn’t worry about tallying up everyone’s contributions. When it’s done openly and sensitively, it can just keep on going. At risk of using ambiguous jargon, it’s sustainable.

Thinking about life in general through the “sharing” lens feels really refreshing to me right now, so I’m planning to sit with the idea for a while.  Some of the questions I’m asking myself that maybe you’d like to ask yourself too:

  • How would your relationships be different if you shared your time (or your ear, heart, wisdom, patience, etc.) instead of giving it?
  • Would it change your relationship with your job, or your interactions with strangers?
  • Would you be more inclined to share your money with organizations instead of giving it?
  • How would it feel to receive if you were sharing and not giving?