Monday, June 8, 2009

Give, Take, or Keep?

On Mondays, over at High Callings Blog, there is a book study going on. The selected reading is The Gift by Lewis Hyde.
"...The Gift is a brilliant defense of the value of creativity and its importance in a culture increasingly governed by money and overrun with commodities..." (back cover)
Reading that, I was captured into curiosity that could only be satisfied by reading the book. I do not consider myself an artist, but one who believes strongly that we all have something to contribute and if we can do it with artful creativity, well...what a gift!

I did read the introduction, and like Sam, made a few notes as tried to absorb all that was said. My first note, "I think I am in over my head!" However, I pursued as the words drew me in and I began to look at gift exchanges with new eyes, although blurry. Art as a gift? Hmmm, yes, I can wrestle with that thought and it make some sense. But how about the authors thought, "a gift that cannot be given away ceases to be a gift."? This thought created even more questions.
Eager to read on for possible answers and insight!

Part 1: A Theory of Gifts
Chapter 1: Some Food We Could Not Eat

The beginning of chapter 1 spoke on something I quickly identified with; An Indian Gift. Who has not heard of an Indian giver? In my reading, I discovered it is not really about taking the gift back, like I believed in my childhood, but about understanding the key attribute of the gift: "whatever we have been given is supposed to be given away again, not kept."

Hyde illustrates this by describing the Kula exchange, a ceremonial gift exchange that takes place within a tribal people in New Guinea. Amazing how armshells and necklaces are passed from household to household until finally the gifts make full circle. What is interesting to me is that the armshells and necklaces are kept in motion, they never stop. The word that brought me to And yet another question surfaces as I contemplate gift giving in a circular motion, not just back and forth, as I have commonly experienced. But of course, Hyde addresses this as I continue reading, defining reciprocal giving, a simple circular movement, only between two people. And if a gift is held on to does it become a commodity? My mind is opening up to the idea of art as a gift, not a commodity. A commodity can be used up, depleted. A gift? It doesn't run out if it remains in motion. Like art.

Having thought of art as mostly self expression, but a beautiful picture of selflessness has tied in to my thoughts on writing, painting, playing, or whatever on might consider to be "art". I see God being glorified in even more than before I read even the first chapter of this book. Examples from my own life are coming to mind, and it makes sense. I have a poem that my mother wrote for me several years ago. It was given to me as a gift and I cherish that poem a lot. It was an expression of my mother's thoughts and feelings, but it was also a selfless gift, one that I have a renewed desire to pass along, in some way so that art does not become a commodity. Now, I will keep that actual poem (smile), but allowing any creativity that stirs within me to be passed along as a selfless gift to bless someone else, certainly not to flatter myself.

my hands are open
i have received
don't close the fingers
let it rest

the time will come soon
to pass along
artful gift is set
send it out

Looking forward to next week!


Letters From Midlife said...

This sounds like a book I would enjoy and maybe need to read. You are a poet. I've enjoyed the ones you've shared at your blog. Thanks for blessing my day with this post!

Laura said...


Such good observations!

I, too, felt I was in over my head when I settled in to this one. But isn't it wonderful to be stretched? And this first chapter has opened my mind and started me thinking about gifts in new and different ways.

Let's pray for each other through this! I have always felt a little intimidated by the intellectual set, and at the same time infatuated?

I love to learn, but have never felt I was good enough, smart enough, enough enough!

God thinks I am.

Love you!


Anonymous said...

wonderful post.

Mary Ann Duncan said...

I'm reading it too.

L.L. Barkat said...

I had to laugh about "being in over my head" (oh and I see Laura is with me on that one :)

With this kind of book, I try not to try too hard. I just let it keep washing over me. I figure something's going to get in at some point. Maybe that's how a gift works too... as it keeps coming 'round, we experience it more deeply when it passes by again.