Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

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Spirit Of Generosity

Roskilde Universitet, Roskilde, Denmark

February 18, 2014



This essay, Spirit Of Generosity, is the third in a group of three written in Denmark / Sweden, February 2014:
  1. Air You Can Trust
  2. In Churches, Museums, And Castles
  3. Spirit Of Generosity
in that order.

It was written at the same time as Listening: You Never Have And You Never Will.

The group of three written in Denmark / Sweden, February 2014 is the prequel to Listening: You Never Have And You Never Will.

I am indebted to Gordon Starr who inspired this conversation.




The train hardly makes a sound. As the scenery flies by, I notice something's missing. At first I can't figure out what it is. Then I get it: it's the clickety-clack clickety-clack  which is missing. That's what I'm subconsciously expecting ... but it doesn't come. This train and others we've traveled on since we got here, has got to be one of the quietest trains in the world. It's also either brand new or it's maintained and cleaned so immaculately it looks  brand new. Then there's free Wifi on board. A sign says "Fri WiFi". It's not a typo. "Fri" is the Danish word for "free" (Danish and English aren't so far apart, having originated from the same Germanic language roots). Pretty civilized for a commuter train, I muse.

It's all this plus the fact that Denmark and the countries of Scandinavia and northern Europe are regarded as the happiest countries in the world, which makes this experience seductive: if it's possible here, then why not everywhere? If it's possible here, then  ... it's  ... possible. Period. So why not  everywhere?

What makes for what I distinguish as this all pervasive spirit of generosity?  What makes for a country being one of the happiest countries in the world? What does a country have to be and / or to do and / or to have and / or and / or to produce and / or to accomplish to qualify for this moniker? To tell you the truth, since this is probably determined culturally and / or politically, I don't know. I'm merely a delighted visitor here, reveling in the condition which shows on peoples' faces. It shows in their conversation. It shows in their hospitality. It shows in the welcoming way they are, especially with foreigners (of this I have a personal experience, being one).

Photography by Laurence Platt - 12:45:11pm Tuesday February 18, 2014
Alexandra at Roskilde Universitet, Roskilde, Denmark
And then I remember something else which is so obvious at first that it stretches my imagination to contemplate they actually do it here, knowing how not  like this it is elsewhere. It's something I have an acute interest in, given Alexandra and I are here to put the finishing touches to her second Masters degree with her deans at Roskilde universitet, whom this clickety-clack-less train has brought us to see. It's this:

College students don't pay for college here. It's more than that actually. It's they're effectively paid to go to college  which covers their living expenses, not weighing them down paying back hefty student loans after they graduate (which is the way the system works back in the United States).

But it's more than this also. It's the European Union  is so generous in this regard that students like Alexandra from other countries can apply for full ride  scholarships which cover 100% of all tuition and transport and living expenses, with no contractual obligation to pay them back.

It's this spirit of generosity and sharing, all for the good of the possibility of education and cultural exchange  which is so completely incredible that it takes a long, long time to fathom. Clearly it's possible. They're doing it here. They've been doing it here for many, many years. I'm just not used to it - that's all.

And so I find myself questioning: if they can do it here, then why can't we do it everywhere? And especially: if they can do it here in tiny Denmark, then why can't we do it back in the mighty United States of America?

Here are two different scenarios for one particular foundation of happiness, the financial  foundation of happiness: you graduate college with a staggering quarter of a million US dollars in student loans' debt which you owe and are contractually obligated to pay back ... or  ... you graduate college owing nothing, and have even accumulated a modest nest egg with which to start your post‑graduate financial future. Choose.

This is what's possible when both culture and politics come from the spirit of generosity. Now is it any wonder which countries are regarded as the happiest countries in the world?



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