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21 April 2003

Philanthropy is often thought of as something for the very rich.  And yet, the word itself derives from the Greek philos, “love”, and anthropos, “mankind”, and thus means “a love for mankind” -- just as philosophy is a love for wisdom.  The assumed connection between money and expressions of a love for mankind is more likely evidence of a slightly twisted evolution of the word and its usage, and the materialistic state in which we find ourselves.  

It’s noteworthy, for example, that someone who practices philanthropy is a philanthropist. Inexplicably, they are not referred to as a philander.  The latter, of course, is someone who shows their love for the opposite sex of mankind by sharing their (albeit temporary) attentions freely.  [Philander also refers to certain marsupial animals!]  Frankly, there is a nice commonality about the activities of both philanthropists and philanders.  It’s just that one uses money as the medium of exchange, and the other... well... you get the idea.  

[There is a similar confusion, by the way, between being a patron -- allegedly a good thing -- and being patronizing -- clearly not a good thing.]  

Philanthropy is primarily connected with the idea of giving and receiving having common characteristics or attitudes.  These attitudes are clearly linked, but lack direct Causality.  In other words, if one opens themselves up to the joy of giving, they invariably discover the joy of receiving.  Only in this case the recipient of their generosity has no direct or obvious link with the philanthropist’s benefactor.  Gifting is, in fact, a joyous condition, and attracts similar joy from everywhere else.  There is a Magic of Generosity.  Cause and effect still exists, apparently, but the two are universally linked -- typically in such mysterious and myriad manners as to defy logical analysis or demonstrable connection.  

If on the other hand there is a contrived linkage between the two acts (giving in order to receive), then such activities are not philanthropy, generosity, or love for anyone but the so-called donor.  Instead, the philanthropic act is nothing but calculated public relations.  The rule is that if you hear about someone’s generosity or philanthropic activities, then there is less and less likelihood that it is philanthropy, and more and more that is simple PR.  And if it’s not PR, why else would you have heard about it?  

True philanthropy is simply a love for mankind.  It doesn’t require acknowledgment; it doesn’t require press releases.  It doesn’t even require money.  (Thus the potential for the enthusiastic philander.)  It requires only a desire to manifest some joy in one’s own life.  

ialexandria Foundationh is a philanthropic organization, sharing precious little money but lots of information, humor, alleged wisdom, and an occasional diatribe -- the latter stemming from Kurt Vonnegut’s observation [1] that, “Artists are people who say, ‘I can’t fix my country or my state or my city, or even my marriage.  But by golly, I can make this square of canvas, or this eight-and-a-half-by-eleven piece of paper, or this lump of clay, or these twelve bars of music, [of this Inter Net] exactly what they ought to be.’”  

As for ialexandria Foundationh -- and/or its author, Dan Sewell Ward -- reaping the benefits of its philanthropy, the philander aspects has a certain amount of appeal.  [Feel free to send a recent 8x10 glossy head shot and resume!]  Barring that, kind words, nice thoughts, shared chuckles, and other encouragements are always appreciated.

 We can be reached by e-mail <dansward@frii.com>, snail mail <4520 Walden Court, Loveland, Colorado 80538 USA Earth>, or by whale mail <Whoooooooooop!>.


Synthesis         Communications, Education, Health



[1]  Kurt Vonnegut, TimeQuake, G. P. Putnam’s Son, New York, 1997, page 139.



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