This week, generosity.
A new week, reader, and a new season. Hello again.
Uncertainty plagues all meaningful pursuits; if we are to do our best work in the face of uncertainty, perhaps we must first hone perspectives that allow us to stay the creative path. So in these notes I reflect on various themes. This week, generosity.
This image by a researcher named Jan Chipchase, a cultural anthropologist who studies behavior in technology-mediated environments. It was taken approximately 397865345 twitteryears ago, so it depicts a scene so commonplace now that his field note seems almost unremarkable: "TV stand that includes two additional power sockets in its base – makes it easier for passengers to rapidly identify where to find power in an airport and then plug in." But he titled his short post "Considerate Consumption," a notion that has stuck with me ever since, influencing a lot of personal etiquette surrounding my own interpersonal interactions.
The well-travelled reader might be familiar with the Italian notion of ordering caffè sospeso—an item 'suspended,' left for the next visitor. Perhaps others will be more familiar with Jonathan's Card, a simple hack that allowed developer Jonathan Stark to create a shared Starbucks card that anyone could use—and refill for the next person. The card was eventually suspended by Starbucks because of technical limitations that allowed for misuse, but Jonathan left us with the following poetic lines: "We believe this is the start to a bigger more glowing picture. In the last 5 days or so, we've received hundreds of stories of people doing small things to brighten a stranger's day...So, tonight we lose our barcode. But of course, we never needed it in the first place."
A couple years ago the Scandinavian chocolatier Anthon Berg opened a one-day pop-up shop called the Generosity Store. Items were priced not in monetary currency but in good deeds like ‘Serve breakfast in bed to your loved one’ and ‘Help clean your friend’s house"; customers paid by logging in to Facebook and making their commitment public.
On one hand it's simply an entirely bloggable stunt concept and indeed it was picked up by a lot of buzz-tracking publications at the time. Though the notable part is the social commitment device—some consider such a thing detracting, removing the purity of intrinsic motivation. But perhaps it's naive to think external influences cannot play an important role—the right social environment, the validation from coffee shops that make ordering sospeso explicit, that seemingly innocuous barcode. Indeed, these are environments we can create ourselves, a notion I find entirely empowering.
As part of my own practice in surrounding myself with the kinds of thinking I want to imitate, each Composure scarf is made and worn to reflect on the stories of people in my life with virtues worth emulating. Consider being yourself an inspiringly imitable source of creativity for others, in passing on these notes with a quick share (THX!) or by way of the subscribe page here. And as always, scarves and stories at alwayscomposure.com.
Anticipating acts of generosity this holiday week,