When the world is a monster
Bad to swallow you whole
Kick the clay that holds the teeth in
Throw your trolls out the door
If you’re needing inspiration
Philomath is where I go by dawn
Lawyer Jeff he knows the lowdown
He’s mighty bad to visit home
I’ve been there I know the way
(Can’t get there from here)
R.E.M, Can’t Get There From Here
The Christmas Shopping Season began on Friday.
Isn’t that sort of a bizarre idea? A ‘Shopping Season’? When you really take it out and look at it, doesn’t it speak volumes of the shallow and superficial culture we live in? It does to me, anyway. But then a friend of min posted a link and a quote that really made me pull up short:
i learned about this idea of gifts that move when I read that in many tribal cultures, gifts are offered not with an expectation that there will be a return gift to the giver…but a gift offered to someone else altogether. There is an assumptive circle of giving in these cultures…a circle of giving that has no use for two-person gift exchanges, which are viewed as commerce and lead to the treatment of gifts as capital. For tribal people, gifts are not to be hoarded. They are to be consumed and passed on to others. Simply put, the gift must always move. Eventually, the gift, or at least the energy behind it, may find its way back to the original giver, but that is beside the point. In circular giving, a person gives blindly, and therefore receives with blind gratitude, too. In circular giving, then, gifts are acts of faith. We give to someone who we know will not give back to us, and yet we give knowing that eventually we may receive from someone else. It is as if our gift “goes around a corner before it comes back,”which teaches us to give and receive more freely. (link)
That expresses the feeling I have always had about Christmas. That we gift because we want to – because we found a gift that could be uniquely cherished – that the point is the expression of our feelings toward and understanding of the person we gift to.
But its not what is expected, is it? I have always hated that last week before Christmas. The week when I go out and buy something, anything for those people on my list for whom I have not yet found the perfect gift. You know what I am talking about. Dad-in-law gets another shirt. Niece gets a gift card, honey gets a new book or three. Sure its all appreciated – but it doesn’t mean anything.
And you know, while we are talking about this: how about re-gifting? We’ve all done it. And we have hoped and prayed that no one would figure it out. Because it is indefinably wrong. It implies that we received a gift that was not appreciated and that we care so little that we fail to buy something new this time around. Of course, since gifting is mandatory in many of our social circles, everyone knows that sometimes you just get something, anything so that you don’t appear for Christmas dinner empty handed. So its an open secret, isn’t it? Sometimes, the gift really is meaningless. But we must never admit it.
I’m not sure how to do it, but I would like to reclaim the gifting culture. Monetary value as indicator – right out the door. Re-gifting? Absolutely, if it is an opportunity to put the right gift into the right hands. Gifting because we want to not because we have to – and forget all about reciprocity. No ‘gift exchange’, no commercial transactions here. Just a gift that speaks to who each of us are, when it is appropriate and appreciated on its face.
There is so much more I could say about this – but I’m feeling rather superficial myself at the moment. I want to explore the full depth of the quote: Gifts must always move. But I am stuck in this conception of Christmas tradition and I can’t seem to get clear of it right now. Maybe I should have saved this post for another day – but then, this really is the time to shake it up, isn’t it? So maybe others will get from the Reverend Stringer that which I got but cannot seem to put into words.
(Originally Posted November 26, 2006)