A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Saturday, 3 March 2012

The Abundance Of The Gift In Motion

The artist appeals to that part of our being ... which is a gift and not an acquisition — and, therefore, more permanently enduring. JOSEPH CONRAD

A sculptural gift from Mexico to Ireland in 2002

Having accepted what has been given to him — either in the sense of inspiration or in the sense of talent — the artist often feels compelled, feels the desire, to make the work and offer it to an audience. The gift must stay in motion. 'Publish or perish' is an internal demand of the creative spirit, one that we learn from the gift itself, not from any school or church. In her Journal of a Solitude the poet and novelist Mary Sarton writes: 'There is only one real deprivation, I decided this morning, and that is not to be able to give one's gift to those one loves most ... The gift turned inward, unable to be given, becomes a heavy burden, even sometimes a kind of poison. It is as though the flow of life were backed up.'

So long as the gift is not withheld, the creative spirit will remain a stranger to the economics of scarcity. Salmon, forest birds, poetry, symphonies, or Kula shells, the gift is not used up in use. To have painted a painting does not empty the vessel out of which the paintings come. On the contrary, it is the talent which is not in use that is lost or atrophies, and to bestow one of our creations is the surest way to invoke the next. There is an instructive series of gifts in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes. Hermes invents the first musical instrument, the lyre, and gives it to his brother, Apollo, whereupon he is immediately inspired to invent a second musical instrument, the pipes. The implication is that giving the first creation away makes the second one possible. Bestowal creates that empty space into which new energy may flow. The alternative is petrification, writer's block, 'the flow of life backed up'. LEWIS HYDE The Gift: How The Creative Spirit Transforms The World

This is interesting, is it not? Hyde is talking about how the artist receives his/her talent or creative inspiration as a 'gift' (DH Lawrence's 'the wind that blows through me'), and then feels compelled to pass on the 'gift' of the finished work to the world. In this way the gift increases in value and abundance, and serves to stimulate creative energy and fecundity all round. In the act of giving away, much more may be given back or produced in return. This reminds me of the line from Hebrews in the King James Bible: Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. We do not give in expectation of any reward; far from it, it should be the exact opposite — without any such expectation. Yet often the angels bless us, and the gift is returned — manifold, resplendent. This gift, released into the world, goes on to procreate and multiply. The thing is: to keep on giving. The process is a continual process, and never static. I see it as almost alchemical.

I wonder if we consider our blog posts as 'gifts'?

(Image from Wikimedia Commons)

16 comments:

Danish dog said...

Oh, yes! Bloggers are artists giving gifts. No doubt in my mind. I'd ask everyone to please sign this petition so we may continue to give our gifts without breaking the law: http://www.change.org/petitions/scottish-councils-scrap-public-entertainment-licence-fees?utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=share_with_facebook_friends

Heidrun Khokhar said...

Worded in a way that shows that bloggers have so much to offer each other. And the quotes add to make this post a gem. Thank you.
I do not understand Danish dog's comment.

Danish dog said...

@Heidrun

If you copy and paste this link: http://www.change.org/petitions/scottish-councils-scrap-public-entertainment-licence-fees
you'll find a petition for artists to be able to perform without a license in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Susan Scheid said...

Hyde's insights are so interesting. I love these ideas, particularly: "The gift must stay in motion," and "the gift is not used up in use." I certainly do feel, when in the presence of engaging art, music, poetry, literature, that I am the lucky recipient of artistic gifts. I hadn't thought of blog posts precisely as gifts, though certainly a form of sharing, communicating, and at its best when there is reciprocal enjoyment. Thought-provoking post (and that is certainly a gift, so thank you for giving it).

ds said...

Thank you for this. There is much to ponder here. And yes, I do regard my blogfriends as gifts. They are extraordinary, and even better, unique.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks Danish, Heidrun, Susan and ds for your comments.

I believe we are giving and receiving gifts in blogging, and what we give and receive multiplies and enriches.

Yes, ds, certainly, it's the blog writers themselves, not only their posts, which are gifts. I've certainly been gifted with some extraordinary, human and humane, creatively endowed people during this whole, bloody marvellous adventure.

Herringbone said...

I think of Georgia. Wronged by Steiglitz. She ran to New Mexico.She shamelessly put herself out there. Reciprocation is the key. Not the behind the scenes judging and innuendo As far as I can see, art lives everywhere and is not dictated by anyone.

am said...

Oh yes! Many times over!

Thank you for this post with its lovely photo of a gift from Mexico to Ireland.

Dominic Rivron said...

And it's not just the inspiration but the thing itself. Michaelangelo talked of liberating statues from stone and composers going back centuries have talked about how they felt they were not "making up" music, but merely acting as a "radio" through which music flows from somewhere else into this world.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Two interesting points here Robert.
I do know artists who cannot bear to give (or sell) their work - they say their work is their children and they need to keep them close.

As for blogging - I suppose the question one must ask oneself is whether one would blog if one had absolutely no followers. In my case the answer would be definitely 'no'. I need the feedback and the sense of communicating and surely that is in the end what art is about.

Goat said...

I don't suppose it's any coincidence that so many commenters on blogs or social networks or photo sharing sites etc say "Thanks for sharing" as though they've really been given something.

Ruth said...

The moment I began reading Conrad, then Hyde's quote, a choir began singing in me. Maybe this is in part because I had just been listening to "Una Furtiva Lagrima" while doing Pilates, and everything began singing then. This music, this art, this writing, every soul expression .... yes, all gifts. One gift must be received, then space can be opened for the next to be expressed. What a miracle! That these jars of oil are everlasting.

George said...

I read this post yesterday morning, Robert, but didn't have a chance to respond because I was off to the airport for a flight to California, where I am now. In any event, this was a very insightful post. Yes, I think that these blogs and all creative activity are gifts in in the larger sense of the word. May Sarton is right on point. The the gift comes to us and must be released to others, lest the entire life process be thwarted. We are vessels into which much is poured, and out of which everything must be poured. The gift must always stay in motion.

The Solitary Walker said...

Thank you Herringbone, am, Dominic, Weaver, Goat, Ruth and George for your comment 'gifts'!

Goat said...

And finally (?)...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmADAA97RTI&feature=related

The Solitary Walker said...

I could listen to Neil Young all day. Talking or singing. Dylan too for that matter. Thanks for this link!