This is the time… to be generous.
Kathy Engel, from her poem Inaugural
Kathy Engel speaks beautifully about generosity. She is a poet and has written a poem for our time called Inaugural; its opening line is quoted above. Engel is the co-founder of numerous organizations, including MADRE and Riptide Communications. She is the author of Banish The Tentative and Ruth’s Skirts, and teaches at New York University. She was interviewed by Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF) which a web project “seeking to make the United States a more responsible global partner.” In the interview, Engel echoes many of the themes of this blog: the connections between personal generosity, our larger culture, and the environment. She also speaks of the opportunities that our current economic crisis provides. I encourage you to read the whole interview.
Here is Engel speaking about generosity and social justice in the current economic and environmental crises:
Generosity means letting go: risk, community, wholeness. Consumerism, greed, narcissism, and narrow-mindedness have exploded in our faces in the form of “economic crisis.” It’s a kind of economic autism. We know that most of the world, and so many in this country, have been living in economic crisis all along, while at the same time many in this country have blindly acquired and borrowed, acquired and borrowed, without a sense of connection to community or earth… We live in abundance and act out of a sense of scarcity. Even in this crisis we are surrounded by abundance, just not shared abundance.
Engels also connects generosity to environmentalism (for more on this see Environmentalism and Love):
Generosity is a necessity for a new way of living together, in families, in the workplace, in communities, across borders, on this planet. It also means thinking about what you need and about what other humans and animals need, what the earth and air needs. Living connected… We need to redefine ownership, the economics and possible largeness of mutual ownership versus the limitations of individual possession, in light of the stress of resources we have, as a species, created on the earth.
She even understands poetry as growing out of generosity:
Poetry is rooted in generosity. It is the window letting air in and the air itself, and everything complicated that one sees and experiences in the air when looking clearly.
Her poem Inaugural is an example of that window, beautiful as well as inspiring. It is well worth reading.