He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven



William Butler Yeats by George Charles Beresford
William Butler Yeats


“He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” 

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

–William Butler Yeats  

Do you consider yourself a giving person? Do you go out of your way to help strangers? Do you put the needs of those around you before your own? Altruism, the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others, is a quality of character worthy of consideration.  

Altruism is the grease that makes the wheels of any body of people turn. Some might argue that self-interest is the basis for human progress, but I think anyone who has been blessed by a genuine, “no strings attached” offering from another would agree that altruism, generosity and kindness is a valuable form of enlightened self-interest.  

If you give freely of yourself, investing with practical wisdom and sensibility, you will find that there are three types of people: those who will receive graciously, those who receive reluctantly and those who refuse to receive. All three types of people are valuable. The first, because they are most likely to turn around and extend the blessing beyond themselves. The second because they might learn through your generosity to receive more graciously and in turn give more freely. The third because they test your resolve to continue to give freely, without concern for reciprocity.  

Life can be about so much more than the perpetuation of the species. The influence of theory of evolution established by Charles Darwin has been far-reaching, forming the framework through which many people view the world, but theories are theories. There is no doubt that natural selection is a powerful force, that those traits most favorable to the given conditions in any era tend to be carried into the next generation by those who possess them. Altruism has been a persistent theme through the ages, perhaps it is one of those traits?  

Life is enhanced when you care about others. There are limits to your giving, and as I mentioned you must invest wisely lest you risk burnout. As we considered in a previous post, appearances can be deceiving, so those who invest wisely don’t judge by appearances. Some investments take years to pay off. Others offer a more immediate return.  

The ability to invest wisely is developed as you care for those around you. As they say, you win some and you lose some. You learn not to pour “good money after bad.” You learn to extend trust beyond where others would when you sense a good bet. You learn to cut your losses when appropriate.  

Some people are only looking for a free lunch. Unfortunately, there is typically little you can do for them. Most people, however, are looking for ways to improve, if not for themselves, then for future generations. They’re not out for a free lunch, in fact, they long for meaning, for purpose and to carry their own weight.  

Enjoy the process. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing those around you grow as a result of the influence of your dreams.  


6 thoughts on “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven « Gregg Hake's Blog -- Topsy.com

  2. Colin

    You typically notice two types of people when you hear about altruism: the people that “throw good money after bad” and feel it’s their responsibility to give to something that will obviously never work out – just to be giving to something, and the people that are selfish and do not give at all. I think, however, there is a silent majority that thinks as you do on this topic. Thanks for giving us some specific things to think about in our efforts to be effectively altruistic.


  3. Reina

    It is so true that we can learn from all types of people when we learn to give freely, “no strings attached”. When we have a passion for something, it is so very easy to want to share this. Altruism is what connects us to other human beings and I have had to learn the hard way about “wise investment” and in fact, I am still learning today. It is important that we check ourselves, invest wisely, be patient and appreciate. It will pay off, maybe not how or when we decide but in it’s own due time. Thank you for the beautiful poem!


  4. Julie Owen-Borden

    Your knack for appreciation of most any situation or person really shines through. It is true that appreciation often facilitates an intuitive clarity, so there isn’t any risk to letting it flow. It actually gives one the opportunity to build character and emotional maturity instead of reinforcing limited, negative responses to situations and people, or resorting to rationalization or repression. Let it flow and a workable solution comes quickly!


  5. Brad

    love this poem!….and the reminder of the value of the “3 types of people”, especially the 3rd! – this is where the rubber meets the road relative to our own personal character.


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