Enough for the Day: give or receive?


Just before the Patra vessels were ready to launch on their passage in September I read a Wall Street Journal article headlined, “Hard-Wired for Giving”.  It begins:

“Are humans really so selfish?  Scientists are finding that the brain is built for generosity – and they’re identifying the precise circuits behind our urge to give.  Where once there was only speculation about the origins of the human desire to help others, a body of data is starting to fill the gap, revealing key workings of the biological hardware that makes altruism possible.”

Neuroscientist Dr. Jordan Grafman using a series of studies with MRI data found that brain scans reveal a reward response in the nucleus accumbens, an area of the brain that is pleasurably activated during giving. You can read the complete article and view a video interview with author Elizabeth Svoboda here

Recently Patra recipient C. R. Roberts, journalist for the Tacoma News Tribune, used Patra vessel #91 in an experiment where random people encountered an opportunity to give or to receive money. At a local carry-out restaurant, Infinite Soups, he positioned behind the Patra vessel a large, official-looking sign with simple block-letter words: “GIVE OR RECEIVE”. No question mark or exclamation point punctuated these words. Almost a command. You decide. The bowl was filled with twenty one-dollar bills. It sat as a quizzical, unexplained challenge on the checkout counter for one day.  Even the restaurant staff knew little about how to explain its being there though they had given permission to leave it. No purpose or destination for the money was given – just the sign stating give or receive.

What do we do when faced with these two possible actions?

I hope you’re intrigued enough about the final results of C. R.’s creative experiment to read his article posted here on the Patra 91 page 

Both of these articles track human nature. It’s no surprise that the nature of giving is a rich topic for writers, psychologists, and neurological scientists, but I admit finding some of the outcomes unexpected. I think you will too.

In the last four and half months unexpected things have been happening with the Patra Passage experiment too. Interactions and responses to the vessels from participants disclosed in posted comments, conversations, and personal emails reveal diverse and fairly unpredictable experiences. I remain curious, is one part of the Patra Passage experience more compelling, meaningful or challenging to you?  What does your reaction offer to you?

As the principle lab rat in this artistic labyrinth, my experience with this passage has been wide ranging and variable too, internally and externally. I continue to learn a great deal about perception, mine and others.

There is a deceptively complex choice confronting us within the simple unembellished words: GIVE OR RECEIVE.



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