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Haughty and Generous

Idries Shah famously reintroduced the idea that traditionally it was often considered the ideal, or near ideal, character to be both haughty and generous. I was talking about this today with author and friend Jason Webster. I suggested that, like much of Idries Shah's apparently simple statements, it would reward further thinking. One could superficially understand being 'haughty and generous' to mean one should be snotty and snobbish yet also generous. But think back to those previous eras when the idea was first promulgated. Then there was a more rigid set of behaviours for each class. You didn’t really need to be snobbish- there was such an obvious difference between you and the next level. Snobbery only becomes necessary when you actual rub shoulders with the hoi poloi. In Egypt the upper classes can be snobbish, but I often found the real aristocrats weren’t- they were kind and considerate to all people they came into contact with because it was so obvious they were from another zone. And many were also generous.

Jason suggested being haughty in this context meant refusing to be flattered when people noticed your generosity; an antidote to ‘using up’ whatever accrues when one is generous. I think, though, that, in addition to this there is also the fact that a haughty person does not rely on others for sustenance, does not ‘consume’. He or she is a producer- and yet they pass on things of value to others- they are generous. They aren’t looking to take, they are looking to give. Being snotty has nothing to do with it- the real deal is about aiming to reach a place where you can help others without needing or seeking help yourself, which includes, of course, the ‘help’ of being praised.


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