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)