{{post I was replying to}}


this is me thinking out loud some more, not exactly replying, but.

“kindness costs nothing” is a popular saying for why you should be nice. but if you give what costs you nothing, what merit is there in that? if you give only kindness and empathy without material, measurable help, are you giving anything at all?

it comes back to christianity, again. it always does for me. talk about brainwashing.

specifically: the widow’s mite. (a coin, like a farthing or a centime, not a bug.) the story goes – jesus was chilling near the donations box at the temple, and these rich holier-than-thou people came and put big bags of money into the box and made a big deal about how much they donated. and then this poor widow woman came and put in two halfpennies, or mites as some version of the Bible translated it.

and jesus said “see you should be like her. those other people all gave money they didn’t need, and they made a big deal about it so people would think they were holy. she gave god all the money she had, and she didn’t make any fuss about it, because she loves and trusts god That Much. y’all do that too k?”

so, yanno, i mean, brainstuff. giving more than you can afford is How To Be Good. give money, time, gifts, food, but always give what you need for yourself, not just the stuff you could spare or didn’t want anyway; that stuff is no good cos you’re not giving it From The Heart. this is the mindset.

“faith without works is dead.” i think that’s from the book of st james. it’s a Really Big Thing in the catholics vs protestants headbutting match, bc if you boil them both down to a reductio ad absurdam in the bottom of the stockpot (i might be getting sleepy and overextending my metaphors), protestants say “if you have faith you are saved! doesn’t matter what you do!” and catholics say “if you do good things you are saved! doesn’t matter what you believe! although you should still be catholic cos of reasons.” ^_^ so – like brin said, we have no concept of supererogation (i.e. where is the mark that when you go above and beyond that you are going Above and Beyond), you have to do all the good things. and if you catholic this thing in your brain, you cannot be a good unless you are always doing the good things. (idk how that psychological part works if you are protestant. i never really talked religion with any observant mainstream protestants.)

so but like. there’s a line from hamilton the musical, i see it on gifsets. “(death) takes and it takes and it takes”. and i feel like… you give and you give and you give, and there’s a void out there of infinite… it’s like an infinite sponge. it can soak up everything you give it, your whole existence, and you won’t have even made a tiny little difference to the infinity of need. you give and you give and you give, and when you’ve given everything you are, it’s just like you never existed at all.

i know it’s late and i’m getting morose. i had thoughts about dying for a cause too but i’m not sure what they were yet. and what stuntmuppet said about revolutionary selfishness, ethan would like to expand on that at GREAT LENGTH. not tonight tho.

i will mention though cos i think it fits here. i keep feeling like a good way to do assisted suicide, like officially incorporated into society and everything, would be to drain out the person’s blood, put it all in those donation bags like the red cross uses, and then you could give the blood to other people who actually wanted to stay alive. it would be nice. if that was available i would probably do it. and i suspect part of why it seems so appealing is that you can literally give your life helping others live. (also it wouldn’t hurt much and you could just quietly slip off and stop caring.)

The thing is, food still has nutrition regardless of whether you gave it From The Heart. A dollar buys a dollar’s worth of stuff, no matter how small a percentage it is of the donator’s net worth*. And someone who gives a smaller, sustainable portion of their wealth can end up donating more over the long run than someone who goes out in a blaze of glory.

Blood donation is actually a very good example of that. An adult human body contains somewhere around 10 pints of blood, depending on the individual. The regulation quantity and frequency of blood donation is 1 pint every 8 weeks. Someone who donates every 2 months for 2 years has donated more blood than someone who gave every drop in their body, and can still donate again in another 2 months. (And, you know, they’re alive, for whatever that’s worth.) (Some people take longer to recover and can’t sustainably/safely donate every 2 months, but even if you can only do every 4 months, or every 6, all you have to do is live 6 years to outproduce a one-time 10-pint donation.)

I’ve never met a cause worth dying for, but some causes are better served by living, anyway.

(This argument does assume a basically consequentialist mindset, that the amount of help you provide is more important than how you felt while you were doing it. As you described above, there are moral systems that don’t accept this assumption. That’s something fundamental enough that I don’t think I could really talk you in or out of it: if you think “things would go better if you became a consequentialist” is a good reason to become a consequentialist, you already are one.)

I swear I have seen writings from charity nerds about how (and why) to avoid burning yourself out, but I’m having some trouble finding them. Perhaps the charity nerds among my followers know of some?

*Although sometimes a dollar can buy more than a dollar’s worth of stuff if you have enough of them, because of bulk discounts. This is why–though food donations are certainly better than nothing–food banks generally prefer monetary donations: they get excellent discounts and can stretch your dollar farther than you can.


#in which Brin attempts to use her cultural osmosis from hanging out with philosophy nerds #(charity nerds are often also philosophy nerds) #death tw #suicide tw #scrupulosity tw #reply via reblog #this feels a little rambly and not-entirely-coherent and feeling-things-out #but so is the OP so I guess it fits

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