Published 9 July 2009
Tags: Ahmedabad, Anarben, CharityFocus, collectivism, communitarianism, compassion, cooperativism, dictionary, dictionary of ethical politics, donation, economics, ethics, free, free-play, generosity, gift, gift economy, gift transaction, interconnection, interdependence, Jayeshbhai, John Silliphant, Karma Kitchen, market economy, Nipun Mehta, openDemocracy, Patel, pay-it-forward, politics, potlatch, potluck, Potter Stewart, price, Resurgence, Service, Seva Cafe, Small Steps, Tiffany's, Tiffany's box, tsunami, Tsunamika, Uma Prajapati, Upasana, value, wiki, Works & Conversations, writing
I received an interesting assignment a couple weeks ago: write an explanation of the gift economy. Since the request came from my dear friend Nipun Mehta, to whom I can refuse nothing, I agreed; but I knew from the outset how challenging this seemingly straightforward task would be. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously observed about pornography, some things are easy to recognize and yet quite difficult to define.
The essay, now completed, is included in a new online reference, The Dictionary of Ethical Politics, a joint project of Resurgence and openDemocracy.
Continue reading ‘Understanding the Gift Economy’
Published 24 January 2009
Tags: CF, CharityFocus, compassion, journal, Kosmos, magazine, Nipun, Nipun Mehta, selflessness, Service, writing
I may have been writing squat on my blog recently, but at least others have been publishing my wheezes. My short (damn 450 word limt!) profile of CharityFocus appears in the Fall/Winter edition of Kosmos, a journal of waviness, crunchiness, and all things in between.
Here’s a PDF of the piece, for those of you who don’t already know the wonders of CF.
Continue reading ‘All’s Well in the Kosmos’
The passing of Edmond Hillary makes us pause to consider what it means to live a great and worthy life.
The deed for which he became famous is the apotheosis of personal achievement. The first ascent of the world’s highest peak – with his partner Tenzing Norgay, for whom my nephew is named – demonstrated courage, intelligence, technical skill, physical endurance, mental discipline, boldness, creativity, teamwork, and the joy of adventure. If Everest is a universal metaphor, so too was its conquest.
And yet, the magic of Edmund Hillary was not his great ascent; it was that he understood that his climb to the summit of Everest was an event, but that his life was an enduring process. It was a life given to the service of others. It was a life of simplicity and modesty almost inconceivable in an age where men and women climb mountains, real and metaphorical, to wrap themselves in glory society so eagerly accords.
I loved Edmund Hillary as much as a person could possibly love someone they’d never met. I am sad that we have lost such a fine teacher.
Published 1 October 2007
Blogs & Blogging , Friends , Service
Tags: Ahmedabad, Anar Patel, Anar-ben, Anarben, Global Oneness Project, India, Jayesh Patel, Jayesh-bhai, Jayeshbhai, Manav Sadhna, Service, video, volunteerism
In October of 2005, I wrote a short profile of my friends Jayesh and Anar Patel, husband-and-wife and two-thirds of the founding triumvirate of the extraordinary Ahmedabad-based NGO, Manav Sadhna. Two years later, that small essay has received nearly 400 viewings and still averages nearly three hits per week.
Small wonder. Jayesh-bhai and Anar-ben are perhaps the loveliest, most optimistic, and broadly inspiring people I know. This is no small distinction, given that I am in the habit of collecting friends who answer to the general description “lovely, optimistic, and inspiring.”
Now, a group of filmmakers calling themselves the “Global Oneness Project” have created a beautiful portrait of Jayesh-bhai and his philosophy in a new video called “Living Service.”
Continue reading ‘Jayesh Patel, Superstar!’
Published 10 January 2007
Food , India , Service
Tags: , Ahmedabad, Ahmedabad's National Institute of Design, Anjali Desai, Arti Shah, Auroville, Be the Cause, Bhavana Singh, gift economy, India, Manav Sadhna, Namrata Siviya, Service, Seva Cafe, Shagun Rastogi
It is a restaurant like no other, a shimmering oasis of the gift-economy in the heartless desert of the market economy. Diners pay what they want, from the heart, so that someone else may in the future enjoy the experience they are having; their food has already been paid for in advance, and they will recieve no tally at the meal’s end. It is a place where the volunteers who run the place, and patrons who dine there, share in contemplation — and the direct cultivation — of service, compassion, and giving. It is Ahmedabad’s Seva Cafe.
Continue reading ‘Seva Cafe on YouTube’
It has been more than four years since I was last in Kolkata, a city I recall with extreme fondness from my first visit. There are, indeed, many good reason to love Kolkata. The name of one of them is Rosalie Giffoniello, and in 2002 we had come to Kolkata specifically to meet her.
Rosalie runs an NGO called Empower the Children, which addresses developmental, educational, nutritional, and shelter needs for some of Kolkata’s most vulnerable children – the physically and mentally disabled and the economically disadvantaged. For two weeks in the fall of 2002, we worked with her in orphanages and non-formal schools during the days, and helped her with capacity-building late into the nights. For five blessed days, the West Indies came to Kolkata’s fabled Eden Gardens Cricket Grounds for a test against India, and each of those afternoons, our butts were in the stands for the two afternoon sessions – a brief respite from our work, which also taught us a fair amount about Indian popular culture.
So for the past four years I have been telling people, “Kolkata has a reputation as a shit-hole, but really, it is a wonderful city.”
How disappointing, then, to turn up here and discover that, indeed, Kolkata is a shit-hole after all.
Continue reading ‘Kolkata’