Generosity, Love, and Need


While in Haiti, I was given one of the Reflection Circles books in Creole. My favorite story in it is a story about Generosity, Love, and Need, taken from Plato’s “Symposium”.

In short, what happens is this: A god named Generosity is at a party, and eats his fill, and drinks ’til he falls into a drunken sleep.

Along comes the goddess Need, who figures what she really needs is to have a child with Generosity. So while Generosity is sleeping, she makes love with him, and conceives a child, who is named Love.

Love takes after his father and his mother – he always needs something; he has no shoes, no house. He always feels poor, like his mother. But at the same time, like his father, he’s brave, strong, fearless. He’s full of wisdom.

It sounds kind of ridiculous, but consider: what would love be like without generosity? What would love be like without need?

Maybe I’m just over-sensitive. But here in the USA, surrounded by friends and family who, you know, are pretty far removed from anything resembling “need”, it has felt pretty hard to connect with people. (That exciting book or movie that just came out on Amazon does not count as a “need”.) Maybe there are worse things in life than not having anything that other people need, but it looks to me like this is one of the keys to having a “cushy, alienated life”. In a privileged culture where, when one of your friends or family members wants something, they just go buy it… it can be hard to feel like they need anything from you.

By contrast, I saw a lot of inter-dependence in Haiti. Maybe it was more pronounced for me than for your average Haitian – I wasn’t really halfway competent in washing my own clothes, buying food to cook, cooking food, or any number of other things. But to a certain degree, that’s how Haitians live – they depend on each other, and they’re really quite unprepared to live all alone and only accept goods and services they’re paying for!

Of course, here in the USA, the idea of not depending on other people is something of an illusion, but it really is possible to cut yourself off from depending on people close to you, and have all of your needs met through money transactions rather than interdependent relationships based on the kind of love that exists within a family.

What would happen if we allowed ourselves to be more dependent on the people we care about the most, and allowed them to be more dependent on us in their day to day activities? Is there a way to create more love within friendships and families by doing so?