Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Gift by Lewis Hyde

Anyone interested in the subject of hospitality should read The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property by Lewis Hyde for a few lessons:

1.  Give away the gifts you receive.  Hyde starts with anthropological cases of how a gift travels among some communities' members.  To keep a gift is to destroy its power and benefit.

2.  Know the difference between a gift and a commodity.  Don't confuse them.  There are assets and liabilities to both.  For example, a commodity holds less or no responsibilities.

3.  "The increase is the core of the gift, the kernel."

4.  Gifts are important to ease threshold crossings.  Commodities aren't.

5.  Labor is a gift.  Work is not.

6.  A gift makes a connection.  Example:  In a small French town's restaurants, patrons pour wine into each others' glasses, never their own, coming full-circle. "...society has appeared where there was none before."  56

7. It may be worthwhile to consider, like the ancient Greeks did, that things have a personality, a value, of their own.  In the modern world, we tend not to think that, says Hyde.  (But what about the personalizing of technology, like "Siri," who once scolded me not to be rude.)

8.  Contracts and debt diminish life in ways that gifts don't.

9. Marriage are more stable if established through elaborate gift exchanges but the partners' freedoms are more limited.

10. "The rationalization of the gift abandons the spirit of the gift."

Additionally, Hyde considers the complications of usury, adoption, and organ donation.

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"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well." - from A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf