The Insatiable Beggar
There are people who, afflicted by a particularly tempestuous emotionality, believe that every problem they come up against is of the upmost importance, and should be treated as such by all of their relations. They develop a habit of crisis. Every encounter with them includes the telling of a tale of woe, wherein they are helpless and without solution, except by someone else’s intervention.
The same emotionality, which justifies the never-ending begging, does indeed lead one to ruin, repeatedly and unavoidably, so the predicaments they find themselves in are truly difficult to overcome. Every story has its veracity. Yet, what good is it to pull someone from a maelstrom when they, bound by some indestructible cord, are forever being pulled back into that watery chaos? Any money or aid given to them might’ve just as well have been given to that churning abyss, for it will have as little lasting effect on the one as on the other.
Attendant on all qualities rightly considered shameful, there is a rare goodness that is unachievable for the best among us. In this case, it is a reckless munificence. In the same way that these individuals ask of others without consideration, they are also generous without limit, as if they were instinctually communistic, believing that the resources of any, time and effort included, should belong to all. By no means do they shirk their own commitment to that ideal, yet they’re rarely in a position to supply anything for another. In the words of Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote:
…I hope, by the valour of this my arm, provided heaven shall favour, and fortune cease to oppose me, in a few days, to see myself sovereign of some kingdom, when I shall be enabled to demonstrate the gratitude and generosity which reside within my breast: for, truly, señor, a poor man is incapable of exerting the virtue of generosity, let him possess it in never so eminent a degree; and that gratitude which is restrained to good-will alone, is like faith without works; no more than the ghost of virtue.
So, too, do they live with the real hope of generosity, though rarely with any acts to match it. Is there anything commendable in intention without means? It is easy to make a promise one will never have to act on. It is much easier to part with imagined wealth than the real thing.
One of the sad ironies of society is that those who value wealth enough to attain it are for the same reason reticent to part with it for another’s benefit; whereas those who don’t feel the value of money enough to hoard it, are forever ready to aid another but end up without the means to do so. In the words of Tolstoy, “A rich man cannot be merciful. If he becomes really merciful, he will quickly lose his riches.”
This idiosyncrasy that we are all familiar with, that of the insatiable beggar, is prodigality at bottom. It is by not internalizing the value of such things that they part with them so readily and ask for them so shamelessly. It is this same prodigality that ensures they never have for long what they will so soon desperately need again.
Martin Vidal is the author of The Ambition Handbook: A Guide for Ambitious Persons