Dec 13, 2018

A intentional meditation on intention and meditation


Today is (or was) Day 46 of Sam Harris’s Waking Up Course. I suppose I could wait for Day 50 before reporting, but here I am, and this is what I am writing.
Maybe I’m early because I’m looking ahead. I haven’t been reading SlateStarCodex so I did some catching up and read Scott’s review of “The Mind Illuminated”) and after a little research, I decided that was the next book for me. Last night I started reading it, and yes, it is the next book for me.

How I got here

That’s how I started the first draft of this post. I sat down and intended to write. Words appeared. And it’s a great illustration of one of the insights I’ve gotten from reading “The Mind Illuminated.”
Here’s the money quote:
…while it may not be obvious, all our achievements originate from intentions. Consider learning to play catch. As a child, you may have wanted to play catch, but at first, your arm and hand just didn’t move in quite the right way. However, by sustaining the intention to catch the ball, after much practice, your arm and hand eventually performed the task whenever you wanted. “You” don’t play catch. Instead, you just intend to catch the ball, and the rest follows. “You” intend, and the body acts.
Hey, Future Self! Pay attention. This is important.
We don’t do much. We intend things. And things happen.
I think, therefore I am. I intend, therefore I do.

What happened?

I sat down to write. That was my intention: write a blog post. I hadn’t picked a topic—and therefore I didn’t intend what I would write about. I just intended that I would write. So when I started to write, the first sentence in this post just appeared. It seemed OK, so I didn’t decide to change it. So I kept going. There’s been a lot of editing and backtracking and rearranging of this post since then, but that first sentence is pretty much as originally written. It set the direction.
I repeat: I intended to write a post, and the mind/body/computer acted and produced a post. I did not write that first sentence. I intended to write and the sentence appeared. I can assure you that I am not writing this sentence. (Or this parenthetical remark while editing.) I am not writing and did not write any of it. Trust me. I’m watching myself very carefully right now. I know what I am doing and not doing. Not writing.
A paragraph ago I did have an intention that I could have articulated as something like explain this better and the first sentence in that paragraph, I intended to write…, appeared. Later, I went back, looked at what I had written and thought something like this could be clearer and after a few moments my fingers typed a clarification.
Once in a while, a sentence appears in my mind before it appears in the document. I consider it and I’ll decide something like "Ok, that's good," and then my fingers will type the sentence (or something like it) or I’ll think something like "that's not quite right" and I wait for something to appear in mind or on paper or in a doc. Most often things appear in the document, not in my mind. I look, I type. Boom!
So what I’m doing is mostly intending and occasionally deciding. Not writing.
It takes more intention to post what I’ve written. I intend writing and open my Drafting document and put my fingers on the keyboard and the writing appears. Odds of producing a post used to be low. I think that was because I needed to make too many intentional acts to get a post published. I’ve simplified that by using the process I wrote about in Authoring, improved. Each step in the process has intentions wired in. I just make decisions, follow the process, and the rest happens automatically.
Here’s how it works. I keep writing until I decide something like good enough. I copy/paste the draft into Grammarly. The intention to correct/edit is present by default. So as soon as I paste, the mind/body/Grammarly system takes over and corrects and edits. When Grammarly tells me that the copy is clean, I copy/paste it into StackEdit. The mind/body/StackEdit system guides me to read, check formatting and put in links. Maybe I change what I’ve written. If so, I copy/paste back to Grammarly to make sure I didn’t fuck something up. Then back into StackEdit. Finally, if I decide good enough I copy/paste to Blogger. I convert it to Markdown, and press Post. Every step follows from the original intention. It seems to work reliably. If another intention gets in the way, my meta-intention is to continue where I left off. And I do.
No more orphaned drafts. No more zero days.

I don’t do anything

Culadasa’s point and mine is: I don’t do any of this stuff. I don’t know how to make my body type this sentence. I don’t even know how to think it up. Sometimes it appears in consciousness and I decide typeor nope. And sometimes it skips consciousness and just appears on paper or in a Doc. The point is: I just intend and decide, and I get a result.
That’s a long side trip into the working of my mind because I am right now fascinated with it. That’s where this post started out. I intended to write something. And then I intended to report what had happened 46 days into the Waking Up Course. And then a sequence of changes in intention got me to this sentence.

Back to the beginning

So back to the original intention: what’s changed by Day 46?
First, there’s no doubt that I’m 45 days older. I won’t attribute that to the course. There’s a high probability that I would have aged by that much anyway. But I intended to write about what’s changed, and words like this are the first ones that appeared in the original draft.
Second, and more salient, I’ve found that I really, really, really like meditating—or at least meditating Sam Harris style. The other times I’ve tried meditating it’s been like medicating. “Here’s this bad-tasting medicine. It’s good for you. Trust me; you’ll be glad you took it. Hold your nose and swallow it.” Yuck! No thanks.
I quoted Sam in my blog post, Waking up with my personal coach:
It’s almost impossible to exaggerate how deep and interesting and transformative this simple practice of paying close attention to your experience can become.
He’s right.
I’ve found that watching my mind at work is really interesting! And that’s surprising. I mean watching the process by which intention and decision lead to a finished piece of writing. Fascinating.
And who would think that sitting there with my eyes closed, viewing the inside of my eyelids could be described as “fascinating.” But there I’ve been, sitting there with my eyes closed, viewing the inside of my eyelids, fascinated.
And now I’m watching things that I’ve taken for granted or noted in passing and then taken for granted. What is it that I can really do and what’s an illusion? I seem to be able to control my attention—to a degree. I seem to be able to intend things, but not everything that I intend happens, and not everything that happens is the result of a conscious intention. I seem to be able to make decisions. I’m not sure what else, but attention, intention, decision seems like a pretty good start.

Behind my eyelids

Back to looking at the backs of my closed eyes. At first, I saw what you’d expect to see: nothing. Or rather, undifferentiated blackness. But then things changed. I started noticing that the blackness was not uniform. Here it was a bit blacker and there a bit lighter. Somewhat interesting.
And then, after a bit, it seemed as though my whole visual field was changing. There was a cloud of blackness that was flooding into the area of not-so-blackness. And then the not-so-blackness flooded back. And part started to lighten. Interesting.
And then after a while, there were dark clouds flooding into and out of the lighter area which started to become lighter and lighter and become a bright cloud, not just a white area. Which was cool.
And then it seemed as though the dark and the light clouds were moving in a way that began to reveal something behind them. I could only see glimpses, but it was not just another cloud. It had texture and pattern. And…whoah! I wonder what’s going to happen!
And then the clouds vanished, and the entire visual field was an intensely colored pattern—orange and brown and yellow. Kind of a Tibetan motif, I guess. That’s pretty cool! And all I was doing was sitting and watching it happen.
Now stuff like this hasn’t happened all the time. To be precise, it has happened mostly never. But because, as Miracle Max might say, mostly never isn’t completely never. So I’m always interested in seeing what’s going to happen.
That? Something like that? Something different from that?
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Dec 11, 2018

We are each at the center of a universe, made of knowledge in bodies of once-living stars

We are each at the center of a universe. We are each made of knowledge incorporated in bodies made from once-living stars. We and the world around us are full of potential.

These are facts as well as metaphors.
I am the child of many stars—as are you. We each contain knowledge accumulated over billions of years—much of it knowledge without a knower. But someday, perhaps it will all be known.
Each cell of each of our bodies contains knowledge, written in its DNA, that could create any number of human children, each a twin to us. That is the potential of that knowledge. To realize that potential requires a human female child, embodied, grown to maturity, or its equivalent: a mother. The knowledge with the potential to produce the body of such a mother is in that same DNA—but requires its own mother to realize it. Somewhere, in the timeless history of the universe, is the mother-to-us-all.
DNA does not contain the knowledge required to sustain a mother through the months that it will take her to assemble a new infant from her unknown knowledge and more star-matter. She needs people around her and her child-to-be, who can sustain her and support her, and who embody that knowledge. We call that knowledge by names like culture and community also collected over billions of years.
I am here because my mother helped the zygote-that-became-me produce the infant Me-At-Birth. The zygote had the potential to produce the infant, and both had the potential to produce each of the successive versions of Past Me up to the version of Present Me who is writing this. And I have the potential to produce a better version of myself.
But only if I make sacrifices. Generations of Past Me have sacrificed ( and sometimes not) to bring Present Me here— this morning, this moment, this place, writing this. And Present You, where you are, when you are, reading this.
I have been given gifts. Shall I not offer something in gratitude?
I first give thanks. My thanks connect me to those who have gone before me. If they have died to bring me here and now, they have not died in vain.
But perhaps they have not died. Maybe they live within me because, as Miracle Max says, they are only mostly dead. Sometimes they speak to me, and sometimes they seem to suffer. If so, I embrace their suffering—embrace them as they suffer. And I hope to ease it and relieve it with my gratitude and the knowledge that they have not suffered and died in vain.
I am grateful. Today I will sacrifice what I can. I will die so that Future Me can wake tomorrow, better than the Present Me that woke today.
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Dec 9, 2018

The slippery slope of sacrifice

Seductive sacrifice

Sacrifice is a powerful and seductive idea. That makes it dangerous. If we don’t handle it with care, sacrifice can fuck things up. Or we can. So let’s be careful. Let’s not let its hypothetical benefits blind us to its disruptive power.
Our lives need to be in good order and balance, and new ideas and new experiences introduce chaos. We’re used to small amounts of chaos, and when it arrives, we can adapt quickly, often without thinking, and possibly to our benefit.
But new and powerful ideas can destabilize us and produce more chaos than we can readily absorb. Until we can restore balance and order, other small changes can drive us further from stability. The benefit we might have gained from the new could be lost. We might end up worse. We must be careful about introducing ideas and practices that are too new and too powerful.
Sacrifice is such an idea. Sacrifice sounds good in theory: you give up something that you value for something that you value more. You make the world a better place. What’s wrong with that? You don’t want to do it? What’s the fuck is wrong with you?
When you present such an opportunity to yourself, why wouldn’t you say yes to yourself? Jordan Peterson in [12 Rules for Life] (https://www.amazon.com/12-Rules-Life-Antidote-Chaos/dp/0345816021) again.
Maybe you don’t trust yourself. You think that you’ll ask yourself for one thing and, having delivered, immediately demand more. And you’ll be punitive and hurtful about it. And you’ll denigrate what was already offered.
Once you start to sacrifice, when do you stop?

The slippery slope

Until you’ve achieved perfection (not this likely this week), there’s always something you could do that you would admit was better than what you’d otherwise be doing. Unless you’re perfectly shortsightedly selfish, you’re already making some sacrifices. When do you stop sacrificing? How much is enough?
We can always imagine a world that’s a little better. Indeed we can imagine many better worlds. I can imagine a world in which I do more, and I am pleased about that. But I can also imagine one in which I do less—a world in which I take on fewer responsibilities.
TANSTAAFL. Both futures come at a cost. Obviously, the one in which I do more requires sacrifices. Less obviously, the one in which I do less requires sacrifices too. To do less, I must give up caring about Future Me. I must give up caring as much as I care about the people and things that I care about—the ones that would be better off. And I don’t want to do that.

What kind of person do I want to be?

Here’s the critical question: “What kind of person do I want to be?”
Let’s suppose that I could know the greatest good that I could do and to do it I had to leave my wife and family and devote myself to whatever-it-was. Let’s make it easy to make that sacrifice. In that future life, I would endure no hardship. I’d be honored for my contribution. I’d meet someone who I would love more than my current wife. She’d have kids who I’d love more than our current kids. Every aspect of my future life would be objectively and subjectively better than my present life. I’d have to sacrifice a part of my current life to do it, but look at how much the world and I would gain.
Who wouldn’t take that deal?
I wouldn’t.
Because I don’t want to be the kind of person who would do that.
I would not criticize a person who would. There’s nothing wrong with making a huge sacrifice for a huge benefit. I just don’t want to be the person who makes that particular sacrifice.
I don’t want a better (different) wife or a better (different) family. It would be great if the wife that I now have and the family that I now have could become better. I hope they do—if they want to— and I will make sacrifices to help them if they want and if I can. If they become worse, oh, well. Shit happens.
I want to be the kind of person who stays with them and who helps them when he can, not the person who abandons them, even for a good cause.

Today is my last day

I keep getting a clearer picture of the kind of person that I want to be—or more accurately, the kind of person that I hope that Future Me can become. Because, I wrote here, today is my last day.
If you’re going to die, why not die for something that matters? Why not die in the service of the greatest good that you can achieve through your living and dying?
People say: “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” And that’s true. But it’s also true that “Today is the last day of my life so far.” At the end of this day, I’m gone.
So here’s how I’ve been spending my last day so far. I spent part of it helping Bobbi. I spent part of it writing this. I want to be the kind of person who spends his last day doing those kinds of things.
Perhaps I could have done better. For a while, I considered writing about something different. I did some research. But this was the best thing that I could find to write about, and this is the best thing that I can write on that topic in the time that I’m giving myself. I’m glad I’ve spent part of my final day writing this. I’m sure that Future Me will be grateful.
I wrote it with the Pats game in the background. I could have turned off the game and focused more on writing. But I’m not convinced it would have been any better—that the sacrifice would have gained anything. The writing was always my priority, and I think this came out well.
And the day’s not over. There’s still a lot of potential left. But first I’ve got to stop doing the fun part—writing—and do what it takes. This is just a potential post until I hit Publish, which—by the time you see this—I will have done.
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Dec 8, 2018

Self-discipline and sacrifice

This morning I realized that self-discipline was my ego’s attempt to tyrannize the rest of my psyche. Self-discipline’s ministry of propaganda had convinced me that my ego wanted what was best for me. My failure to comply was evidence of my defective character. I should condemn myself for weakness, inconsistency, and moral failure. I believed this. But like ministries of propaganda everywhere, this one was full of shit.
This morning as I thought about sacrifice, I saw through the con. Sacrifice and self-discipline both seem like ways to make a better world. Not so. I realized why I’d spent my life resisting self-discipline even as I had tried to enforce it. Self-discipline is tyrannical, and I oppose tyrants. Why wouldn’t I fight myself as a tyrant even as I tried to tyrannize myself?
Jordan Peterson captures my reaction (my emphasis):
Who wants to work for a tyrant like that? Not you. That’s why you don’t do what you want yourself to do._
You’re a bad employee—but a worse boss.

The difference

Sacrifice is the voluntary surrender of something of value to gain something of greater value. Self-discipline is the attempt to force yourself to gain value by brute and brutal force.
Look it up. The dictionary always knows. Discipline is “the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using punishment to correct disobedience.” Obey! Rules! Punishment! No wonder I’ve resisted. Even in service of something good, self-discipline is a blunt, crude tool. There is no caring, understanding, compassion, or charity in it. Self-discipline is the weapon of the inner bully, the psychological dictator, the totalitarian of the soul.
Fuck self-discipline.
Let’s go for sacrifice. (And not self-sacrifice, either. That just lets tyrants, and worse take over.) Let’s go for real sacrifice.

Sacrifice and the sacred

Sacrifice shares its root with the word sacred. Sacrifice is a holy endeavor. It’s a spiritual act. When you correctly label an action as a sacrifice, you elevate it. I do, anyway. YMMV, but I hope your mileage is similar. It’s a pretty good ride.
Of course, there has to be a higher purpose. Otherwise, it’s not sacrifice. It’s waste. Wasting your potential is an even greater sin than selfish refusal to sacrifice when you’ve got the chance. Trust me. I’ve been there.
I celebrate my abundance when I sacrifice some of my abundance. When I sacrifice a more limited resource—like time, of which I can never have enough—I acknowledge that even though what I have is limited, what I have is sufficient. And what I am sacrificing for is worth it. Or it’s not a sacrifice. It’s a waste.
Coercion has no role in sacrifice. If you think you’re being coerced to sacrifice, you’re not. You’re being coerced, alright, but not to sacrifice. Sacrifice requires an open, giving heart. Coercion requires a thug and a victim.

A simple procedure

To sacrifice, you need to decide on the higher good you want and what you are willing to let go of to realize it.
Consider the potential in your life. I don’t know you, but I’m sure you’ve got a lot of potential. You might want to use some of that potential to make a better self. You might want to make a better family. You might want to help someone in the family. Or the community. The world is full of potential. Everywhere you look you have a chance to create a higher good, something that’s worth your sacrifice.
If you can’t find something that you’d like to improve, check again. No matter how good things are, something can be better. The world is not perfect. It’s full of defects and full of potential. Find something. Not just for the world, for yourself. Sacrifice is paradoxical like the paradoxes of gratitude and forgiveness. The more you give, the more you get.
Now see what you can sacrifice.
Make a list (or keep a record) of what you do during the day
Rank order by most beneficial to the world at the top, most beneficial only to you at the bottom
Cross off anything that’s necessary to your continued well-being. You might want to sacrifice brushing your teeth, or eating, or getting enough sleep, but those are probably bad ideas. But an occasional skipped meal might be a good sacrifice.
Start at the bottom of the list and find things that you can sacrifice and then look at your list of higher goods to see what you could get for what you sacrifice.
You can’t sacrifice everything that isn’t necessary, nor should you try. But it’s certain that there’s something, however small, that you can comfortably—even gladly—sacrifice. If you can’t anything then either you’ve “set your house in perfect order” (congratulations), or you are lying to yourself about what’s essential. Respond appropriately.
Or do it the easy way. Just ask yourself what’s worth sacrificing. You know the answer. Start there.

Don’t resort to self-discipline

If you’ve found something that you’d like to make better, and you’ve found something that you could sacrifice, but you don’t want to sacrifice it, don’t resort to self-discipline, That’s the road back to hell. Instead, realize that there’s an internal conflict. Find out what it is and find a way to resolve it. There are lots of ways.
Doing this exercise will give you an aspiration—something that you want to make better, a means— the sacrifice of what is least valuable. If it also gives you a problem—figuring out why you don’t want to exchange something for something that’s better—that’s fine. Problems are not bad. As David Deutsch says: problems are inevitable. And he also says problems whose solutions don’t violate the laws of physics, are solvable—given the right knowledge. See: David Deutsch — reading and viewing 1 of several
I’ve sacrificed part of my day to writing this post. I think it was worth it. I hope you do as well.
Got anything you’d like to sacrifice?
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Dec 7, 2018

On sacrifice

The other day I got into a discussion on the internet. This happens. I thought it was a kind of dialogue, and then later realized it was a pair of overlapping monologues. This also happens. It happens a lot when a conversation revolves around a single word or a group of words: try freedom, for example. People can talk for hours about freedom, each carefully listening to the other and responding sensibly. Then later they discover that not for one minute were they talking about the same thing. One was talking about postive freedom and the other about _negative freedom, See Isaac Berlin: Two Concepts of Liberty for the full, classic treatment
In this case, the word was sacrifice. I had outlined a course of action and described it as a sacrifice. I thought that using that word would point us toward a shared understanding of the meaning and potential value of the act. That’s why words exist. They are not just sounds or sequences of letters, but pointers to packages of ideas that provide the word’s meaning. But the word sacrifice has a second sense, one that I had not considered. He was considering the action I’d proposed according to one definition of sacrifice; I according to another. This happened.
So what is sacrifice, and why did I think it was such a good idea? A tour of online dictionaries and some deep reflection made it clear. I think it’s a good idea because I’m a recent convert, and like every convert, I’m overly enthusiastic about my new religion.
In my post, Whatever it takes I said:
I am willing to do whatever it takes to do as little as possible to seem to have worked hard to appear to have achieved whatever I can manage to get away with. And you can count on that!
In this one, written at DW**2’s in February, Doing the hard stuff, I was reflecting on my decision not to take a cold shower that morning:
As I got ready to leave and walked there, I realized that I was avoiding things that I deeply believe would be good for me, but don’t do because they’re uncomfortable.
February 2018.
Things have changed.
It’s taken a lot of work, but here I am, not quite a year later, deliberately doing things that are uncomfortable—but which I believe will be good for me. I get up early and do the things that I think will make me better. I take my cold shower. I clean up. I do my writing. I exercise. I meditate. I’ve gotten rid of things that waste my time. I’ve ditched Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook from all my devices. I’ve turned off Google’s news feed. I’m making my office a comfortable place. I’m volunteering to do things in the community that I’ve lived in for nearly 20 years.
There’s still a part of me that seeks comfort. There’s a part that hates getting up in the morning. There’s a part that hates taking cold showers. There’s a part that wants to read the news. But they don’t run my life the way that they used to. Indeed, according to Internal Family Systems theory, those parts are remnants of Past Me, still stuck in the past and suffering. Instead of fighting them, I’m learning to listen, to be grateful—they got me here after all—and for forgiveness.
In October I did The Stoic challenge and found a philosophic system that I’ve been looking for, all worked out, tested, and packaged up.
I’ve learned that it’s my job to always do my best and not complain about what I get in return. It’s nice to get something nice in return from other people, but that’s now why I do what I do. As much as possible I do what I do because I believe it’s the right thing to do.
I had been learning the lessons of the Stoics on my own. Now I was ready to embrace them. My job is to make myself the best person that I can. It’s my job. And it cannot be done without sacrifice.
Sometimes I’m still a selfish dick, way less than when I was young, but sometimes I am. I don’t think that’s ever the right thing to do and I keep working to be less selfish and less dickish. Why be selfish with the people I care about? I’m living in abundance! Why be a dick? It’s just a bad habit.
Sacrifice, the noun, has multiple meanings, but the relevant one is: “an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.” If it’s more important or worthy, then the decision should be easy. You do it.
For years I tried to improve myself without sacrifice. I was willing to do work to grow, but not too much work. Not to the point of discomfort. I kept looking for a way around it. Now I accept that there is no way around it. And more: even if there was a way around it, I’m not sure I’d want it Part of the value of something is the price you’re willing to pay. I’m glad that I’m doing what I’m doing—this blog post, for example. And I’m happy that I’m willing to pay the price—to earn it by hard work.
Sacrifice is another paradox, like the paradoxes of gratitude and forgiveness you give something up and you get more in return.
There are limits, of course. You can’t sacrifice what you need to survive. And it’s easier to sacrifice from abundance then poverty. But when I can make a sacrifice, I find myself getting more than I’ve given. It’s not just the greater good for which I’ve sacrificed. It’s not a feeling of pride, but something else. Maybe sacrifice is tied to forgiveness. I don’t know. I just know that it feels that I’ve gained more than I’ve given.
Back to Peterson again:
Error necessitates sacrifice to correct it, and serious error necessitates serious sacrifice. To accept the truth means to sacrifice—and if you have rejected the truth for a long time, then you’ve run up a dangerously large sacrificial debt.
Maybe that’s what’s going on. Perhaps the mistakes of my life constitute a dangerously large sacrificial debt, and I’m just paying it down.
Stay tuned, I may understand it someday, and if I do, I’ll share it.
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Dec 6, 2018

The paradoxes of gratitude and forgiveness

Late in my life, I’ve discovered the paradoxical properties and the enormous power of gratitude and forgiveness.

Cost and benefit

When you tell someone that you are grateful for something they have done or have given you, you have gained nothing—nor have you lost anything—and they have gained some small benefit through your acknowledgment. When you perform some act out of gratitude, you have gained nothing and lost the time or resources that it took to do whatever you did. The recipient of your action has gained the benefit of whatever you did.
When you forgive someone for a harm that they’ve done you, you have gained nothing, and they have gained relief from whatever burden they were carrying for the wrong that they had done. It has cost you the time and trouble required to express your forgiveness and the risk of the dangerous consequences of reopening an old wound.
So gratitude and forgiveness seem to provide some benefit to the recipient and either a cost or for little benefit to the donor.
That’s the paradox.
Giving gratitude and forgiveness makes you richer, not poorer—providing you have plenty to give.

Utilitarian giving

“It is better to give than receive,” goes the saying. It comes from one attributed to Jesus in Acts 20:35. JC said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Better? Blessed? Whoever said it and whatever was said, it’s true whenever you have an abundance of whatever you are giving.
Jesus didn’t make the utilitarian argument, as far as we know. But I’ll make it for him. If you have a million dollars, the value of a dollar received is about zero. But the benefit to you of the dollar you give to someone else can be substantial if you believe that your dollar has now made the world better in some way. That’s providing that you care about making the world better. (If you don’t care about making the world better, then you’re a terrible person. I forgive you for being a terrible person. But please reconsider what you value.)
To make it better for me to give than to receive I don’t need gratitude, though gratitude is nice. I just need to believe that my dollar has made the world better. I don’t need to know that it has made the world better. The fact that is likely to have made the world better is enough. Every dollar has that potential. (And consciousness turns the potential into the actual) See: Sacrifice to realize potential
For someone who is impoverished, the value of a dollar received may be far greater than the value of a dollar given. So the rule is not invariant. But for anything for which I have an abundance—much more than I need—I can gain more by giving that thing than by receiving it. You can, too.

Abundance

I have more than enough love, so it is better for me to give love than to receive it. I have an abundance of knowledge—better to give (by writing, for example) than to receive (by reading.) I have an abundance of money—so better money than receive. (Although receiving money is nice because then I have more to give.) Deciding who to give to takes time (and practice), and I don’t have enough of either. But I’m working to become better at giving.
I have enough forgiveness. That is: I have done some things that are regrettable, disreputable, and shameful, and have been forgiven of them all. Not by Jesus or God, or even necessarily the person I have harmed, but by me. My imaginary God has forgiven me, too. So I’ve got forgiveness to spare. It’s yours.

Resentment, forgiveness, gratitude

“Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die,” goes another saying attributed to Malachy McCourt. I’ve taken that poison with exactly that hope. The poison hasn’t killed them, and it’s made me sick. I’m not taking it anymore. And I’ve found that forgiveness is the antidote all that poison I’ve taken.
So I’ve made gratitude part of my daily practice. And whenever I have a chance to forgive someone—anyone—for anything, I take it.
Expressing gratitude does not reduce the gratitude I have available. Paradoxically, the more grateful I am, the more I can be grateful.
Expressing forgiveness does not reduce my ability to forgive. Paradoxically, the more I forgive others, the more I can forgive—including forgiving myself.
Judged by the average of humanity, I deem myself a pretty good person. Judged by the ideal of what a person could be, I’m deficient. Maybe horrible. I could be more courageous. I could work harder at what I care about. I could have more self-discipline. I could waste less time. If someone recorded every thought that went through my mind in a day, edited them down to the worst couple of minutes and posted them publicly you’d see: pride, envy, egotism, contempt, greed, pornography, irritation, flashes of anger, shame. They pop into my mind from time to time unbidden. They make me deficient.
I forgive myself.
Once upon a time, my mother did something that so offended me that I stopped talking to her. It went on for years. I was seething with justified anger. I cultivated the resentment that I had built growing up. I nurtured it. I could have done something about it, but I refused to. I hurt myself, my father, denied my kids the experience of their grandparents, trying to hurt my mother. I was taking poison and hoping she would die.
Finally, I came to my senses. I apologized. I did not ask for forgiveness. I just took responsibility for what I had done. Maybe she forgave me. Perhaps for her, there was nothing for her to forgive. But that wasn’t important. What was important was that I had faced a terrible version of myself, I had accepted responsibility, I had apologized, and I had forgiven myself. I decided this: If I can forgive myself for this, I can forgive anyone for anything. That was probably too grand. I am sure that there are people and acts that I would still find unforgivable. If someone did something horrible, I still might want to punish them or see them punished. But without resentment. There nothing that has happened that needs forgiveness and remains unforgiven. My aspiration remains: hold no resentment. Forgive what you can.
Gratitude and forgiveness: better to give than to receive.
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