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Excerpts - Generosity Story from "the box"

He was a rich man. Some people had suggested his riches were acquired illicitly, some claimed through an inheritance. Then there were others who announced he had none at all, but lived as a hoax. Whatever the voices said, and there were a multitude of them each with its opinions -- none but the MAN himself really knows. Few take the time to ask the direct question of the MAN himself. The few who did ask always received the same reply -- WORK! 

 He was not frivolous with the riches he used nor was he self centered or prime to lavish great pleasures of luxuries upon himself. To the observer, this MAN always seemed to have enough of what was required. 

 It was overheard once in a discussion as to the man’s degree of generosity – “generous to a fault,” it was said. “Not hardly!” said another. “He’s the most selfish egotistic person I have ever been around.” “How odd,” said another, “he never struck me that way at all.” “Devoid of ego I would say.” “It all depends by what you mean by GENEROSITY,” said the quiet one listening all this time. 

 “What does that mean?” was the general response of all. 

 “I’ll tell you a little story to illustrate what I mean” the quiet one said shifting his position,in the chair. A few years ago I was invited along with six others to partake a cruise on the new small yacht -- a rather spoiled fun-seeking lot of know-it-all’s we were. The MAN was good natured enough and little there seemed irritable to him. If anything really did; he, at least, never did show it outwardly. The MAN seemed amused with our ways more than put out. 

 We set sail – a 30-day trip was planned. Every conceivable comfort and necessity was provided for us. We lived in elegant style those first few days. Though he was our host, we only saw him at dinner in the salon. His time was spent in his quarters and interesting they were. When he was not there, I learned later, he was at the wheel navigating the vessel. We were at liberty to do about anything we wanted aboard ship. 

 There was a rather particular library of books in the game room. I say particular in that I noticed they were all of a subject matter not usually found in the ordinary library – Persian, Sufi writing by saints, philosophies, psychologies, a collection of the Arabian Knights, Voltaire’s works, Alice in Wonderland and a wonderful set of standard Bibles. 

 The food was plentiful, lots read, luxury in every quarter. We played cards, drank, sunned on teakwood decks and generally idled away the days. That was the life. 

 Once on few occasions, we anchored in shallow water and took to diving, fishing and water fun. From a health point of view we had no complaints. We were all getting tanned and rather good at water activities. 

 Our dinner conversations with the MAN were stimulating and shattering emotionally to say the least. 

 There was a long silence while the small company of listeners awaited to hear what was shattering. The MAN shifted in his chair again, took a sip of brandy and went on in his dialog. 

 The MAN had the ability in conversation to draw out of, as it were, your very innermost thoughts. He would pass a casual remark to someone else, but that so-called casual remark was the very thought you were thinking. He could strip you of everything -- every thread of belief, opinions -- no matter what it was under his steady gaze – it was yanked from under you. You had the feeling he was putting you on the table in front of all, then pulling your pants down and making fun of your most treasured possessions -- humiliated before all to see; but worse than being seen naked by others was the sense of nakedness you yourself felt about yourself. 

 Was this generous. Yes it was. At first it was terrible. Oh he was generous “with the possessions”; but I thought is this being generous to take from you all you thought you valued as real, as meaningful. What sort of devil was the MAN. The speaker was silent for a bit. He was recalling a thought -- I had once thought to be generous was to be pleasing, to be doing right by another, to be offering of oneself counsel when another was suffering in self pity – to be solicitous to less fortunate -- to be humble, to be never think a thought of your own motives – that’s what I had thought. That all changed. 

The MAN took it all away. It was revealed, and it all changed. What I thought was generous was not at all. The real generosity was the ability or the gift. I think it really is, to have it all revealed -- all of one’s hidden self, the personality revealed and stripped bare to what it is -- that is generosity. I was poverty stricken – my soul was revealed, and I was scared – uncertain about anything anymore. 

 We were terrified of those dinners, yet at the same time excitedly eagerly waiting for the next. We were falling apart -- the whole ship. We had only left port 14 days before, and we were like a crew ready to mutine. To make matters worse the weather changed. The environment was getting rough. We were tossed to and fro all day, all night for days on end. The sea did not let up its swells. The sun was bright, but that wind was devastating. We were picking on each other, arguing, making false accusations to each other. We all knew each other’s weak points now, and we poked at them. The odd part of it all was the more we were stripped, the more our natures were revealed, the angrier the sea became. Then at dinnertime he would arise. Suddenly everything became calm – just like that. I think I and one other noticed it. The MAN would smile, pour the wine, chat about the climate, trivia and someone would open the topic about human life. 

 I began to notice a change in the man, the admirability, the inner gentleness was still there; but something else about him – something I could not put my thought on – it’s hard to describe – a sort of sternness and almost sinister look. I use the term sinister in that it seems so because he knew so much. He knew what a mortal could not know; yet there it was. He knew it. There was no subject , no topic of conversation he could not only add to, but improve on to the degree of genius. 

 This particular night I noticed the calmness for the first time when he came into the salon. I shall never forget. He was light headed. He passed over things in a flippant manor. He refused to talk of spiritual matter, of God of man’s soul, of any of the more weighty matters we were so eager to hear. Fifteen days we had been at sea – he made a point of the matter. 

 We drank more wine that dinner than usual. He told us he had a special gift that night for us – a sort of celebration. “Our maiden voyage,” he said, “you virgins of life” he called us. “You want to know about life, yet you don’t even know how to live it”, he said. “Now you shall live!” He roared with laughter. “Come in life!”, he yelled. There was a sound out on the side deck – a boat had tied up beside us. We ran port side. The gangway was lowered to the smaller boat, and laughing ladies started up. 

 What a sight this was -- right out of some French whore house -- rolled stockings, heavy lip rouge, black mascara and brassiereless -- you know the image. They were on us in no time at all. I tell you this openly, I was scared to death. I had been with women, but I had terrible sexual misconceptions. I just could not bring myself to do it. There was something else I wanted -- or at least I thought I did. This rather plump robust-type thrust her bosoms in my face. 

 She was all hands all over me. I was repulsed, disgusted, I wanted to vomit. The man stood in the shadows laughing at me. The more I shook, the harder he laughed. Then he voiced my very thought in a yell to me; and all the others heard. “Poor little sissy can’t get it going !” “You think you’re better than her -- than anyone!” “Who are you to turn your back on Life in any form?” he yelled. He slammed the door to the companion way. I fell to the deck and sobbed. The others had taken the whores to their quarters. I was wrenched in pain, embarrassment. 

 A madness came over me. I had to get off that damn ship. I had to run somewhere – anything to go free from that despicable man. I pulled myself up and leaned over the rail to be sick. I couldn’t even do that. I just cried quietly. Another whore came up to me. I vaguely remember she was lovely -- frail looking, sad eyes. Her face was white, so white. The next thing I remember, she had undressed me; and I stood naked in the cabin. I was cold, lost, so alone. She said something to me which cut into me deeper than anything the MAN had ever said. “You can’t grow up until you learn to completely give of yourself without like or dislike in it.” 

 I went to her, we embraced. There was a comfort in her arms -- something came from her presence. “Give to me yourself,” she said. I did, I fell into a deep dream. When I awoke, she was gone. It was late, very late, three, maybe four o’clock in the morning. The stillness was overpowering. I felt marvelous. I hadn’t felt so exhilarated before. I could not possibly sleep. I showered dressed and walked the blackened deck to the game room. There was the MAN. He thrust a life jacket in my hands, ordered me into it immediately. “Quickly -- abandon ship,” he ordered. The bells rang, horns blew – it all happened too fast. My head was spinning, the deck was alive with us. 

 The next thing I knew we were sinking. The life boat was crowded. There we sat. God knows where in a dense fog – the yacht sunk. The seven of us and the MAN – everything was gone – nothing left! We only wore the clothes on our back; and the rations were sparse to say the least. I was never so frightened in all my life. We all were. You could feel it. Not the MAN -- he appeared as though he was amused by the incident. Yes, he had lost his ship -- everything he treasured; and he smiled. He honestly didn’t give a damn. 

 We sat there for a long while just drifting. We dozed a little. It was cold, damp and damned uncomfortable. Dawn came and with it the beginning of an experience I shall never forget as long as I live. The man was at the rudder. He was changed. He seemed bigger, stronger, more solidly built. His hair had been turning white – the streaks in his head were prominent. His face was set stern. There was a look about him very like the film image of the old prophets. God I thought, if ever there was one, there he was at the helm. “Wake up!” he commanded, he slammed an oar against the side. We jumped -- all eyes were on him. The sky was overcast, the water was rough again. We were rolling heavily. 

 “Now you work”, he said. “You have lived like fattened calf on the fat of the land.” “You have had everything.” “Now you work for your life, you do not work for yourself – you will die!” “I will not, you will.” The heavens must have been conspiring with him. His last words were hardly out then the thunder rolled and lightning flashed. The wind came – it came so fast we were thrown to the floor. He ordered us to take oars and row. 

 Hours we rowed. One chap, whose name I’ll leave out for his protection, refused to do any of the work. Oh, he griped, he complained. He argued and argued. I watched the face of the MAN. His eyes were fierce, overpowering. Our hands were bleeding. 

 The wind let up somewhat but not enough for us to let up our guard one minute least we be overturned. Food was rationed, water rationed. 

 We rested in shifts -- short shifts too it was. Two hour shifts to sleep, four hours to work – five days this kept us up. The one who refused to row complained about everything. We were ready to kill him. We were carrying him. There is something about carrying another one along on your shoulder when he’s able to help himself that gets to your gut. The complaints you get used to; but both the complaints and refusal to pull one’s own load gets to you. 

 That fifth day the ‘that one’ as we called our freeloader complained he was not well. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to do his bit he said. It was just that he had always been weak and he was just not well enough. He was not strong enough he kept saying. He was strong enough to eat his share at meal time. He was strong enough to remind the men it was ration time. 

 One of the other passengers began to take up with ‘that one’. He began to sympathize with him, make excuses for him, defend him, stick up for him. All sorts of reasonable excuses came out. He was a human being too. 

 You can’t for another do what they can’t do. A little understanding goes a long way. Leave him alone, he’ll come around. He has to want to. 

 On the seventh day the MAN took matters into his hands. I had been dozing, the sea had calmed down enough for us all to rest. The swells were large but not of the nature to capsize us. We had been rolling for hours, the wind was hardly noticeable. We were exhausted from days of constant vigil and effort. I woke up. The MAN was standing up towering over ‘that one’. He took the chap in both hands, grabbing him by the head and the crotch. He lifted him up and hurled him into the ocean. The screams awoke us all instantly. 

 ‘That one’ was thrashing wildly in the water. We leaned to the side to reach out for him. “Get back!” the man shouted. With that a shot was fired. The MAN pointed a revolver at us. I will blow off the head of the one who does anything to help him. We were panic stricken and scattered to our places. ‘That one’ kept screaming. He swam to the side of the boat with his hands grasping the side to pull himself up. The Man looked over and took an oar and whacked his knuckles hard. 

 The chap who had befriended ‘that one’ was outraged. The MAN pointed the revolver at him. I’ll pull the trigger now, and you are no more a threat to the life of this boat. ‘That one’ might be saved. You are far more dangerous. 

 ‘That one’ treaded water yelling its head off. He pleaded, begged, beseeched forgiveness. He made promises to pull his share. The whole incident was heart rending. 

 One of the other people yelled out when ‘that one’ was going under the water in gasps, “For God’s sake, save him!” The MAN sat mute deaf to all the supplications. ‘That one’ was losing fast. Again he sank, growing weaker, hardly able to plead from choking on water. As if anticipating the next move from the sympathetic one, the MAN held the revolver more steady at him. What I felt at that moment I am sure the other passengers in that death boat felt the same. The horror, the utter heartlessness of the MAN we had all thought was the most GENEROUS in the world. 

 ‘That one’ fumbling in the water only gulped then went down for the last time. He just slipped under the water. It was as if a blanket was pulled over him. It was silent. The MAN put down the revolver casually as you like and said to us, “Go get him”. 

 We dragged ‘that one’s’ limp body over the side and like a side of beef, it thumped on the seat. From all appearances he looked dead. The MAN came over and applied respiration. He placed his mouth on ‘THAT ONE’ and breathed LIFE into him. That one came around. He sputtered, coughed, groaned. “This, my son, was dead –- now he as come to life,” softly spoke the MAN. 

 ‘That one’ sat up weakly, the MAN lovingly placed his arm over the wet shoulder of ‘that one’. “Welcome my son,” he said. That one turned and buried his face against the chest of the MAN and softly cried. With hand on his head the MAN tenderly soothed with strength and love ‘that one’ as if a frightened child had been awakened from a nightmare to run to his father’s arms. We were stunned beyond all belief. 

 It’s past now the MAN said, the dream is over. It was only a bad dream. You’re fine. They separated and the MAN took the helm. As calmly as you like and as peaceable as you please, ‘THAT ONE’ took the oar and began to pull the boat. It must have been over a minute before the rest of us realized ‘that one’ was single handedly pulling the entire boat. 

 Either from embarrassment or shock or fear we immediately took up our place and set to the oars. The silence continued for hours. The racing inner thoughts each must have been wrestling with what you could feel. The days passed under great difficulty. The rest of which far too involved to go into here. There was a pause in the narrative while the quiet one lit up a cigarette. He continued. 

 At the end of the 30 days, we were once again back on land. We had stranded the boat and with the sure guidance of the MAN and God or fate if you like arrived in civilization. Not all of us did arrive back – only four of us survived the journey. The MAN, ‘that one’ and I, myself and one other. The others all lost swept into the sea for one reason or another. In each case carelessness heedlessness foolishness utter lack of attention. Not one lost could be saved in the situation under which each became involved in was of a nature which each one of them alone had to deal with and they could not. You were speaking earlier of generosity. Be careful as to what you do mean. Was it generous to allow that one to almost drown in his self denial? Was it generous to see after that a man came forth who was never there before? Was it generous of the man to thrust me into a situation of sexual surrender by humiliation? Was it generous of the man to deliberately sink his own ship so that each of us were faced with the necessity to live or die, to pay attention or use our familiar attitude to get along in life? Was it generous in the final analysis to create situations under which four others were lost? I ask you gentlemen, was it generous to the rest of the world in that those lost ones are no more able to contribute to life on old valueless purpose of survival? I ask you, was the removing of conditions as embodied in those five a gain or a loss to life? 

The great one arose to leave. One of the listeners broke the shocking silence. “I am left without an opinion on the matter,” he said. “Where are you off to now,” he asked. 

 I have been wanting to take a cruise on my new ship. What are you all doing that you can’t all do another time. 

 They exchanged looks. “Nothing that really matters I suppose”, said one. “What I am doing is a waste”, said another. “I’d love to get away from what it is I am doing”, said another. The quiet one replied. Well I’d love to have you join me for a short cruise if you’re so inclined -- the invitation is open. I leave in three days. You’re welcome to join me. He left the club and disappeared into the night fog. 

 The yacht, ALBION, departed three days later with the listener of the story as a guest for a pleasant holiday cruise.