Where we left off…
“Zarathustra answered: “I love mankind.””
“Why,” said the saint, “did I go into the forest and the desert? Was it not because I loved men far too well? Now I love God: men, I do not love. Man is a thing too imperfect for me. Love to man would be fatal to me.”
In Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov he wrote:
The saint is talking about sensitivity, not love, he is confusing himself. His obsession with the perfection of God is likely a response to the self-consciousness he feels in not being perfect himself.
To turn away from mankind for their imperfections is to turn away from ourselves for the same reason. We are reflections, mirror images, of our attitude toward others.
Zarathustra answered: “What spake I of love! I am bringing gifts unto men.”
“Give them nothing,” said the saint. “Take rather part of their load, and carry it along with them–that will be most agreeable unto them: if only it be agreeable unto thee!
If, however, thou wilt give unto them, give them no more than an alms, and let them also beg for it!”
Cause and Effect; Love and Gifts
This is a difficult passage because the saint’s meaning is clear, that you either give people your support by carrying the load but only do so when it suits you to help them.
Selfish giving, or being charitable for the benefit of oneself is not, in this case, an act of gift giving. But does that make it love? He has negated the saint’s talk of love, yet he does not call upon the opposite of love or even address it.
Zarathustra differentiates love from gifts and sharing but what is the difference?
A gift is generally a mechanism of cause and effect. We give to solicit a response or in response to someone or something. The gifting he is referring to here is something different, it is a gift without cause and without expectation of effect.
Georges Bataille describes this perfectly by using the sun’s example. The sun gives without return, it is a source of energy that gives because it must and for no other reason. In that way the sun is satisfying itself and needs nothing more, meanwhile, everything under the sun draws from and grows from this energy.
“No,” replied Zarathustra, “I give no alms. I am not poor enough for that.”
Alms are a kind of giving, the kind of giving that the priest was referring to.
Alms in its simplest definition is giving to the poor. In yoga, this might be an act of Karma Yoga. Alms is a sign of devotion to the religious ideals of charity and pity.
Zarathustra does not see this as love because it participates in cause and effect and is not altruistic because the transparency of motivation is absent from the act. Meaning the priest does the charity because of his devotion to his own religion, to be a good religious person, to restore a balance in himself. He does not recognize, however, that he is doing it for himself and sees it as something he does for others.
The lesson is to recognize how we relate to others and what motivates the way we relate and reciprocate.
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