Friday, September 11, 2009

The Gift

I'm reading an absolutely fabulous books at the moment, Lewis Hyde's The Gift which is not some sort of cheesy sixth-sense schlock about people with two sights and three eyes, (the sub-title is "Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property" which does about as little as it possibly could to clear up any confusions that might be arise about the content, and the picture of golden apples on the cover also doesn't reveal any secrets until you come to understand that it's an anonymous Shaker painting which illustrates some of the points that you will only get to in later chapters.) Okay, so the title and cover design are not necessarily grabbers, but as they say "You can't judge a book, ladeedadeeda, etc. etc." What the book is about is the idea of gift exchange, gift economies, the nature of gifts and the sorts of social structures that they create and imply, the relationship between gifts and commodities/gift economies and market economies, and how all of these things relate to the realm of art and the imagination: the idea of artistic talent as a "gift" and of an inspiration as something given to an artist, and of the work of art given as a gift to the public.
The relationship of such ideas to the idea of the "gift of self," the human person, and especially the body, as gift in the Theology of the Body is obvious. Hyde has the advantage over JPII of writing prose that is much more easily penetrated (JPII has the advantage of being the Pope, with all of the attendant theological acumen and authority, but for those who have tried to slog through TOB and have ended up scratching their heads in frank confusion, this book is not nearly so dense, nor so repetitive.) What I find especially interesting is that both works have had a similar effect on me, in terms of the subjective experience of reading -- the super-textual communication that is effected by any truly beautiful of human genius. There is a particular kind of awe, an enlivening of the intellect, a host of connections and insights that are not explicitly laid out in the text, but which a really living work sparks in the mind, so that, in a sense, the work could be said to be different for every reader, without losing its ability to communicate really profound meanings. I suppose one might say that it is the increase in worth that comes when the gift of the book is communicated between the author and the reader...
Anyway, highly recommended reading.
I should also put in a plug for Fr. John Waiss' "Born to Love II," which is a series of dialogues about homosexuality. I don't recall the name of the publisher, and my computer is being particularly obtuse at the moment (it doesn't want to open multiple windows, or really do anything. I'm seriously taxing it's resources by making it accept this blog entry. I think it has become prematurely old and cantankerous. Fortunately, it is going to soon be replaced by a shiny new computer. But then, perhaps it realizes that it is about to be put out to pasture and that is why it is being so curmudgeonly. One never knows.) The point is, I'll try to give the publisher, etc. the next time I blog.