Crafting Gentleness

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Giving and Receiving

Growing as a Catholic, the logic of giving and receiving was etched into my being as a demand on my moral directions.

It took me an awful long time to accept compliments graciously, longer to accept hugs enthusiastically, and even longer to allow for the vulnerability that comes with what I thought was receiving love.

What was it that led me to think that giving and receiving was what it was all about? How did I keep thinking that was what it was all about?

Likely my schooling experience was a large part of it. Likely all of those systems of punishment and reward in schooling, religion, and elsewhere.

These days I don't find the logic of exchange implied by all of those sits all that well with me. Too much about checks and balances, to and fro.

At its worst there's John Gray with his idea of 'love units' that we deposit in our significant others. That makes my skin crawl.

I think life at its most helpful works a lot more subtly than exchange.

In the most helpful hugs and relationships I now find that giving and receiving aren't an issue. Hugging and loving and relationship-ing is what it's about for me instead, if that makes any sense.

Not about what I get or give, but how I am, how I approach, how helpfully I presence myself.

The 'what' can change little while the 'how' changes a lot. The 'what' can change a lot while the 'how' changes little.

I find that exchange suggests to me a separation bridged by a transaction.

I no longer start from a supposition that there's any separation there at all.

Transactions require commodities to transact. I don't like thinking of loving, or being-with, or generosity, or attitudes of any sort as commodities.

I have long been concerned that when anthropologists understand generosity in terms of gift exchange I think they are way off base. I haven't found it to be really about the things when honest generosity is happening. I've found it to be more about a character of relationship, about an attitude, a colour, a tone.

Sometimes I think generosity can mean deliberately not giving something, but rather a 'receiving into', a welcoming, a respectful offering of space for emergence, rather than a giving or receiving of something.

I don't know.

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