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Generosity Gene?

tangerines's picture

We talked this week about the function of stories. I think that stories reveal us to ourselves. Powers' novel is simply transparent about the manner in which the story acts a mirror for the readers. I find it interesting that several people in our group (ewashburn, klitrell) called Thassa a “Mary Sue” (a term for a character with no flaws) – when I don't think that's necessarily true. I think her flaws are difficult for us to see because we look through Stone's eyes, and he views Thassa as a marvelous being. Perhaps most obviously, one of her flaws is her happiness, since it proves to be her (maybe?) downfall.

Towards the end of our discussion on Thursday, our group talked about the title of Generosity and why Powers had chosen the word “generosity” rather than “happiness”. My theory is that Thassa did not really have a happiness gene – I think she had a gene for generosity. Thassa's happiness springs from the fact that she finds joy in giving; she gives of herself. She gives others her smiles, her time, and her kindness. For example, Thassa befriends a security guard. Every day, other students rush through the building without sparing a second glance for the man, but Thassa asks his name, learns about his life, encourages him in his ambitions. I don't think her generosity springs from her happiness. I think her happiness springs from her generosity.


KT's picture

Generosity as Habit

I was struck (in a good way) by your view that generosity does not come from happiness, but rather happiness springs from generosity and I’d like to play with that. 

We are all interconnected, bound to each other by our common environment, humanity and interactions. Therefore, it follows that we should look to enrich others so that the wave can spread and benefit us both individually and as a community. After all, aren’t we more inspired around people who find joy in their lives? Despite this logic, for the most part, we are still in the habit of pursuing a more shallow and individualist perspective… not everyone takes time to befriend the security guard. It seems that we deny our interconnectedness by engaging with “only those we know” or “only those who seem to be similar to us” and I’m not sure why this is. What is to gain by being an island? Perhaps it is a defense mechanism and we feel compelled to “protect ourselves” by being cautious about with whom we involve ourselves, but I think it has the opposite effect and denies us the connection that is a huge part of the fabric of our well-being. I view generosity as an embrace of human nature as a whole (the commonality present in diversity). It’s the realization that although we may have different prefixes and suffixes, we all have a common “Latin root.” I think that when we explore those connections we are generous not only to others but ourselves as well. I just wish that it wouldn’t require plagues, earthquakes and hurricanes for us to change our habits.

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