12/24/07 - giving and receiving

In today's encore excerpt - John Steinbeck eulogizes his recently deceased friend Ed Ricketts, who was the real-life model for the character Doc in Steinbeck's novel Cannery Row:

"I have tried to isolate and inspect the great talent that was in Ed Ricketts, that made him so loved and needed and makes him so missed now that he is dead. Certainly he was an interesting and charming man, but there was some other quality that far exceeded these. I have thought that it might be his ability to receive, to receive anything from anyone, to receive gracefully and thankfully and to make the gift seem very fine. Because of this, everyone felt good in giving to Ed—a present, a thought, anything.

"Perhaps the most overrated virtue in our list of shoddy virtues is that of giving. Giving builds up the ego of the giver, makes him superior and higher and larger than the receiver. ... It is so easy to give, so exquisitely rewarding. Receiving, on the other hand, if it is well-done, requires a fine balance of self-knowledge and kindness. It requires humility and tact and great understanding of relationships. In receiving, you cannot appear, even to yourself, better or stronger or wiser than the giver, although you must be wiser to do it well.

"It requires self-esteem to receive—not self-love but just a pleasant acquaintance and liking for oneself."


John Steinbeck


The Log from the Sea of Cortez, Appendix 'About Ed Ricketts'


Penguin Books


Copyright John Steinbeck, 1951


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