The Gift

These are my highlights from The Gift by Lewis Hyde, (this is in progress as I’m still reading it).

Even if a work of art contains the spirit of the artist’s gift, it does not follow that the work itself is a gift. It is what we make of it. (p.xvii)

The “social code … lays down that to possess is to be great, and that wealth is the indispensable appanage of social rank and attribute of personal virtue. But the important point is that with them to posses is to give—and here the natives differ from us notably. A man who owns a thing is natrually expected to share it, to distrubute it, to be its trustee and dispenser.” (p.18)

If, when we work, we can look once a day upon the face of mystery, then our labor satisfies. We are lightened when our fights rise from pools we cannot fathom. Then we know they are not a solitary eogtism and they are inexhaustible. Anything contained within a boundary must contain as well its own exhaustion. (p. 25)

[W]here true, organic increase is at issue, gift exchange preserves that increase; the gift grows because living things grow. (p.35)

The mere passage of the gift, the act of donation, contains the feeling, and therefore the passage alone is the investment. In folk tales the gift is often something seemingly worthless … but when the puzzled recipient carries it to his doorstep, he finds it has turned to gold. Such tales declare that the motion of the gift from the world of the donor to the doorsill of the recipient is sufficient to transmute it from dross to gold. (p.43-44)

[T]he increase comes to a gift as it moves from second to third party, not in the simpler passage from first to second. This increase begins when the gift has passed through someone, when the circle appears. (p.47)

…[I]n a group that derives its cohesion from a circulation of gifts the conversion of gifts to commodities will have the effect of fragmenting the group, or even destroying it. (p.97)