Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Gift of the Gift

Andrea Hjelskov
I'm re-posting  something really nice that was written by a wonderful Danish writer and blogger Andrea Hjelskov. Her wonderful blog post came at a great time for me on so many levels. On a completely mundane level it came when I was having brain blockage from a really bad head cold. I can't think very well and I'm not going to make me. Think that is. One thing I've learned from escaping into this new life is that I must honor what my body tells me it needs. For years I ignored my body and told it to suck it up and then the mule came and kicked me. It said I've had enough. So let me tell you in no uncertain terms. I almost died. But I didn't. And I got the message.

I couldn't have said it better - what Andrea is saying here. This is the Season of Giving. In my bid to live life like it's a feast and not some crumbs off the table I like to think into each item that comes along and savor it and give it flavor. Sorry for the bad rhyme. I think you get what I'm getting at. So again, Andrea says it so well I thought why even try to? So I won't. She gave me permission to re-post it so here you are and I hope you feast on it! It's an interview with a woman named Marie Godwin. Andrea introduces her.

The Gift of the Gift by Andrea Hjelskov

Marie Goodwin is a woman working with gift economy. She is a writer and a personal assistant to Charles Eisenstein. I think they both do tremendously important work and I really appreciate how they try to articulate gift and sharing economy, the foundations, the challenges, the possibilities. You can read more about gift economy here and Marie wrote a really good introduction to the challenges of running a business in the gift economy. I recommend reading about this. This is something… happening.

Not long ago I asked Marie Goodwin some questions about “the gift of the gift” and these are her answers.

This is also a gift.

Just for you.

Marie gave me her thoughts and perspectives, she gave me a little bit of time and she invested in our relationship by doing this for me… so that I could write this blogpost… for you. I invest in you.

What is a gift, Marie? I sometimes think that we, in our culture, look to the gift as an OBJECT but it could be more than that, right? What do you think a gift is? How do you define it? How do you articulate it? What does it MEAN to give someone a gift?

​I think a gift has two components: 1)  the first is need. A gift must fill a need that exists in the receiver’s life, whether or not that need is known or unknown to the receiver. The giver, understanding the need, makes an attempt to fill it. ​2) The second is that a gift must create a bond between giver and receiver.
I think both of these things fly in the face of our weird, western attitudes about gift giving. We conflate charity with gift. Charity is giving without a bond and not really knowing anyone’s particular needs. We just give to give. That is an act of generosity, for sure. But it isn’t true gift giving. Living in the gift means being aware of opportunities to fill needs and to create emotional bonds (and receive emotional bonds) through the gift you give.

You have been working “in the gift” for a long time not at least in relation to your work with Charles Eisenstein.  I would like to hear about the challenges of this work? And has it changed you?

​The biggest challenge has been that almost no one knows what ​I’m talking about when I say, “I’m working in the gift…”. They think, “I’m donating my time for free…” (see note above about “charity”). There is a lot of judgement. When I say I have an almost full-time job, some people have pushed back and said, “Well, not really… you are doing your work for free, that’s not a job…” They don’t understand the gift economy and the relationship I have to Charles in the gift. I do other things through gifting too, like events as well as a side-business I’ve run. Each time, I have had to spend a LOT of time to get people to understand what the gift economy is and that gifting does not (NOT) equal free. 
I wouldn’t say that working in the gift has changed me. It has set me free and affirmed my deepest notions about work. It has made me feel more happy around work, in service to something bigger. There’s really no price for that. 
Now we´re entering the season of Christmas which is kind of like a season of gift. How do you perceive what is happening in our culture right now, this month?
​I see an incredible amount of consumerism and “gift giving” that is completely devoid from the actual needs present. It is giving out of obligation. Giving because spending money on someone is now seen as what is important, rather than filling actual needs. I do think there is an actual longing for connection, but because we are so disconnected from people in our lives (living remotely from extended family, children spending most of their waking moments away from home and away from adults, not having any community), we don’t actually know what people need. What might be a really appropriate gift… what might build a bond between giver and receiver. We want the bond, but don’t know how to get there. 
How do you celebrate Christmas? How do you give gifts? How do you raise your child to understand Christmas?
​We celebrate Christmas, kind of. We aren’t Christian, so it isn’t a holiday for religious reasons at all. More because our extended family (and culture!) expects us to be participants. Really, the main celebration in our house is our yearly participation in our local theater’s presentation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, a story about the gift of insight and deep change, the effects of true giving and relationship, the dire consequences for an individual who prioritizes money over everything else in life; and the presence of life-changing miracles. Learning and re-learning Dickens’ story is a gift unto itself every year. If you haven’t read it in the original, I highly recommend it.
We do give gifts to each other as a family and I try to be a mindful giver…but I have to admit … I really struggle with this one. I feel little joy (and a bunch of resentment) at the expectation of mindless giving. I don’t send out Christmas Cards, or drive myself to the brink of insanity to prepare trinkets for people. I’m not really handy or crafty, although I have been known to whip up a tincture or two for people to give them.
We try always to make Christmas earth-centered (solstice orientation) and each year our community has gatherings that celebrate the solstice, with drumming and fire. 
What is the gift of the gift? What will people gain from working with gift economy? What is the true nature of giving?
​I think the gift of the gift is learning to create and depend on community again. Trust is the main tenet of living in the gift. And it is really hard. But it is like a muscle that has not been used in awhile; with some use and time it grows strong. People really love receiving but they also love giving, and if you are seen as a giver in your community you will be taken care of when you have needs. Testing those waters and finding people around you is the best thing you receive from living in the gift. Knowing that you have a net underneath you is valuable beyond measure.
Here's a link to the original article

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