In anlaysing data from an experiment with Swiss students playing a “public goods game”, James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis
found that the volunteers’ later moves were influenced by the behaviour of their fellow players. Each act of generosity by an individual influenced the other three players to also give more money themselves, and each of them influenced the people they played with later. One act became three, which became nine. Likewise, players who experienced stingy strategies were more likely to be stingy themselves.
It is encouraging to know that generosity is paid forward. The article brings up some arguments about how this would function in different cultures, warranting further research, but I also wonder if that isn’t a reflection of how some societies (Russia is mentioned) already have this principle operating as corruption and the long history of secret police have led to hoarding, stinginess and suspicion as a way of life.
It’s a lesson in the necessity for generosity especially now when people are feeling the pinch and shock of recession, all the more necessary among readers and writers when the publishing industry is retreating and the impact of e-books is as yet unknown.
This is much on my mind as I’ve just finished Draft 9. It’s off at the agent’s. The sky is celebrating with sunshine and warm temperatures (though the rest of the week is due to be rainy, cloudy and flurry). It is a time of pause–not much anxiety yet because I need a rest and my kids will be off for March break next week.
But after that, I wonder if I can hold onto the spirit of generosity and faith in love and light amid the pressures of profit and expediency. I know that both exist for all the people involved. But if we can be generous with each other, then the light will win out, don’t you think?