Celebrating Ma’at: Generosity and the King of Pentacles

For the next 40 days, I will think about a value I have each day. I am also continuing the daily draw. I am also completing a short rite to Ma’at, and reading 10 pages a day of Dr. Karenga’s “Maat: The Moral Ideal”

Today, the value I pulled was generosity. The card I pulled was the King of Pentacles.

In the first chapter of Karenga, he explains how different texts (the pyramid texts, the wisdom texts, the coffin texts, declarations of virtues, and a few others) make a “basis” for what establishes the ideal of Ma’at. Particularly, I’ve been drawn to the theme of “service to others”. Karenga argues that this service started with the civil service in Egypt-those who worked for the Pharaoh were to usher Ma’at into the world. To serve the people was to serve the Pharaoh and do Ma’at. There are political advantages to this…if civil servants are perceived to be serving the people, they are more likely to be loyal to the Pharaoh and his emissaries.

However, there is also a evidence that Ma’at was also about service to one another on an individual level…feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, treating the marginalized in the community well, alleviating hardship.

As an occupant of a first world country, it can be easy to forget how much I have. My grandmother used to tell me to be glad I had parents that loved me and to be patient with their shortcomings, to be happy that I had all my fingers and toes, to be thankful that I wasn’t mistreated by my elders, that I had access to food and an A/C. I thought it rather patronizing at the age of 11. But now, I realize that these simple things that I feel all people should enjoy are not enjoyed by all people. In the darkest times of life, remembering the small things you take for granted can be a match stick on a dark night. While you need more than food and shelter and human decency to thrive, these building blocks must be there to survive.

And beyond these bare minimums, I try my best to remember not just that I have my health, but also love and access to information and other things that can allow me to thrive.

This is not to sing the praises of my privilege. I feel like in some ways, generosity begins with appreciation. Once we recognize what we have and appreciate it, we might, possibly, empathize with another person’s lack and find it in our hearts to share. Our joy might push us to share the wealth.

But generosity isn’t appreciation alone; our appreciation for each other must outweigh our appreciation for our things to a point where we value their well-being. For some this is not difficult. One can give freely when the supply is endless. But giving when we have little…that is truly a challenge.

I’m not saying giving yourself into poverty is Ma’at (though it can be noble, for sure), or give to those who will hurt you incessantly. I don’t think generosity that entails sacrifice its required to be a good person. It might be required, at least once in a lifetime, to be a great person.

This doesn’t have to mean you give away your possessions like Buddha to travel and teach. It can be as simple as putting aside a gnawing fear or a growing sadness to provide comfort and genuine listening to someone else who is also suffering. It can be sharing half of your sandwich which you are starving with a coworker who forgot their lunch.

But the truth is that generosity is encompasses both situations…it is giving when we have more than we know what to do with and giving when its all we have. So whether I’ll never miss it, or whether its my last 5 minutes, today I’ll try to embody some of that King of Pentacles.

He’s a generous soul; he finds pleasure in the material, but he also finds joy in providing for others.

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