Sunday, February 28, 2010

To the motion be true

Today is sort of my birthday. As usual I've been treated with a care and appreciation that I can't begin to deserve, and the gifts, in all their varying forms, have been abundant and surprisingly perfect, despite my own belief that I'm pretty hard to shop for. I have amazing friends and family, I know that. This year, before the birthday celebrations began, even before Olivia, my 4-year-old, started her anxious attempts to keep the secrets yet give appropriate clues (these started weeks ago), my mind was already mulling over this practice of gift-giving.

A few posts ago, I tried my hand at public wishing for a second time. Hardly a week later my wish was granted. Many thanks to my personal genie, Jenn who arranged for The Trumpet Child Songbook to be waiting for me on my front porch one Saturday afternoon. I'd already spent the first part of this particular Saturday involved in a significant fender bender (no one injured), and I was resolved to embrace defeat for the rest of the day. Then I spotted Jenn's package. Hers was the gift I needed to shake me back into grateful humility. I love you, Jenn.

Another gift I've more recently received, one that seems to reinforce the significance of the gift from Jenn, came from my husband. It's a book, appropriately entitled The Gift, by Lewis Hyde. No doubt I will share a number of quotes from this work here in the near future.

I've only just started it, but Hyde's exploration into the tradition of gift giving and the cultural value of creativity has already enriched my own understanding and practice. And his study of gift economies, their potential to strengthen our connections with one another, is vision casting to say the least. According to Hyde, the gift (tangible or intangible), in order to remain a gift, must always be moving, It's essence must remain in circulation. The flow can't stop.

He writes in his introduction,
"...a work of art is a gift, not a commodity. Or, to state the modern case with more precision, works of art exist simultaneously in two 'economies,' a market economy and a gift economy. Only one of these is essential, however: a work of art can survive without the market, but where there is no gift there is no art."

and then later,
"I have hoped to write an economy of the creative spirit: to speak of the inner gift that we accept as the object of our labor, and the outer gift that has become a vehicle of culture. I am not concerned with gifts given in spite or fear, nor those gifts we accept out of servility or obligation; my concern is the gift we long for, the gift that, when it comes, speaks commandingly to the soul and irresistibly moves us."

I find I've been on the receiving end of these types of gifts lately. And I want to continue to receive with faithfulness. So for now, and in the spirit of keeping these things flowing, I'll leave you with another gift: Bruce Cockburn's lyrics to his song entitled, that's right,
The Gift:

These shoes have walked some strange streets
Stranger still to come
Sometimes the prayers of strangers

Are all that keeps them from
Trying to stay static
Something even death can't do

Everything is motion

To the motion be true

In this cold commodity culture
Where you lay your money down

It's hard to even notice
That all this earth is hallowed ground
Harder still to feel it
Basic as a breath
Love is stronger than darkness

Love is stronger than death

The gift

Keeps moving

Never know

Where it's going to land

You must stand

Back and let it

Keep on changing hands

Hackles rise in anger

Heat waves rise in sex

The gift moves on regardless
Tying this world to the next

May you never tire of waiting

Never feel that life is cheap
May your life be filled with light

Except for when you're trying to sleep

The gift
Keeps moving

Never know

Where it's going to land
You must stand

Back and let it

Keep on changing hands

-Bruce Cockburn,
The Gift

Friday, February 26, 2010

Receive with me...

If only holiness were measured by the volume of our incessant chatter, we would be universally praised as the most holy nation on earth. But in our fretful, theatrical piety, we have come to mistake noisiness for holiness, and we have presumed to know, with a clarity and certitude that not even the angels dared claim, the divine will for the world. We have organized our needs with the confidence that God is on our side, now and always, whether we feed the poor or corral them into ghettos.

To a nation filled with intense religious fervor, the Hebrew prophet Amos said: You are not the holy people you imagine yourselves to be. Though the land is filled with festivals and assemblies, with songs and melodies, and with so much pious talk, these are not sounds and sights that are pleasing to the Lord. "Take away from me the noise of your congregations," Amos says, "you who have turned justice into poison."

-Charles Marsh

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Paying Attention

I took Mae, my 16-month-old, for a morning walk in the snow earlier today.
She lets me know its time for a stroll by putting a mitten on her foot or carrying a boot as she follows me around the house,
locking her gaze on me until I get a clue.
This morning she enjoyed determining our route.
She was delighted by the occasional bird sighting and would try to mimic the song.
I secretly hoped that a later walker might take some joy in the trail of tiny footprints she was leaving behind.
At one point she stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and started "woof woof"ing at a quiet house.
Not five seconds later the house started "woof woof"ing back at her.
She doesn't know the name of the street or the income bracket indicated by the structure,
but she knows the house where the dog lives.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Writing is Collaborative

A couple of weeks ago, I was doing some research online and found a quote that rang true. A voice in my head said, "Take note! Take note!" And I did, for about 3 minutes. Then I went back to my initial search and research. Today I wanted it back, but I couldn't remember where I'd found it. I looked in all my usual spots, clicked on links, clicked on boxes, to no avail. The I remembered some key words, "collective being" and "Goethe." Here it is, so next time I'll know where to find it:

"What am I then...? Everything that I have seen, heard, and observed I have collected and exploited. My works have been nourished by countless different individuals, by innocent and wise ones, people of intelligence and dunces. Childhood, maturity, and old age all have brought me their thoughts,... their perspectives on life. I have often reaped what others have sowed. My work is the work of a collective being that bears the name of Goethe."


Monday, February 8, 2010

When kids make things less scary

Many thanks to Cary for sharing this, which she found at The Daily Dish. I love everything about it.