Monday, June 15, 2009

The Increase and Sacrifice

The Gift
Chapter 2 The Bones of the Dead

The chapter title has held me for days...The Bones of the Dead.

In chapter 2, Hyde refers to the bones of a salmon being returned to the sea, after making full circle, in order to revive and return to human form so that next year, the salmon could repeat a gift giving process again. The American Indian tribes that live with this mythology call this a potlatch. (this is just the beginning of what we learn about potlatch!) The gift that the salmon's provide is the tribes primary substance - food for the winter.

The Bones of the Dead.
of course.
Potlatches and coppers are a main part of this chapter. Potlatches, the gift giving celebration, and copper; the item used in the gift exchange - the value, if you will. The copper is given, and a gift is returned, in the example, blankets. The recipient of the copper expresses his generosity by giving blankets. If the number of blankets increases, the value of the copper grows as well.
Sometimes, the copper would be broken, dismembered. If the copper was put back together, the copper's worth increased again.
The Bones of the Dead.
sort of.
The copper is a gift. Goodwill is involved. And emotion.
But the real gift...the true gift is the increase.
Every time the gift increases in value, it is given away, it is sacrificed by the giver and then by the recipient as he gives it away again. The increase continues because it is always in motion and the increase is not consumed.
The Bones of the Dead.
As I read this chapter, and as I ruminate over what I read, the lesson I receive is that one person's gift must not become another person's capital. (Laura, I am not thinking of your theft experience as a gift here.)
Hyde says, "The distinction lies in what we might call the vector of the increase: in gift exchange, it, the increase, stays in motion and follows the object, while in commodity exchange it stays behind as profit."
The increase stays in motion. I am wondering how I can accomplish this in my own life?
Stay tuned to more chapters in The Gift, book club hosted by HCB.


L.L. Barkat said...

And yet, oddly, the increase stays behind too... perhaps in the heart of the giver, who feels the reward of giving as an increase in spirit. So there's an exchange, material for spiritual/emotional. This is what enable us to sacrifice, I suppose. Because even in sacrifice we are experiencing some kind of pleasure, some kind of personal increase...

Just rambling. :)

Laura said...

I found it so hard to post on this much said! But you have captured perhaps my favorite parts.

And, yes! I did think of the coppers being broken apart and reassembled as I held those broken pieces of the sand dollars in my hands! Isn't that an interesting thing to ponder? That brokenness, once healed, makes a thing more valuable?

Hmm. Sounds like someone I know!