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Incommensurable Gifts

April 4, 2014

You arrive at a big celebration for a person you care dearly about. You’re carrying a gift. You knock at the door, it opens. You hand over a gift, a…


We would hang our heads in shame at the perpetual guest who always takes but never gives anything to others – a thoughtless ‘friend’ . But we should not fall over ourselves to praise ourselves for merely giving a gift. You bought something you say? I say to you – what thought did you put behind it? Is it merely a gift card, a wine bottle, some other thing? Something that could well be the same for next person in line.

Or, was it a gift that you knew they desired? Had you listened to them? Had you really thought about what you were getting them?

Probably not. We are accustomed to thinking of the value of the gifts in monetary terms, yet we forget the externalities of gifts – values outside their mere price. We very often forget the value of thought behind gifts. And this is an insidious thing, because…

How can we have meaningful bonds, if we are thoughtless? Does not meaning derive from thought itself?

There is a dichotomy between thoughtful gift and thoughtless, run of the mill gifts. They are incommensurable gifts. We cannot truly compare them. They are in utterly different leagues.

We would say ‘how can you put a price on a person’s friendship?’ Can you price their loyalty? Probably not. You don’t say “The camaraderie we share is $102.87”. What an affront. It is an offense to denigrate one as so worthless, especially so presumptuously.

So why do we declare that our loyalty and friendship is annually worth what we give on a birthday? Why?

If it were my birthday, I would not ask for you to spend anything, though I would not begrudge you if you did so. No, I would ask for far more, for a much greater prize. That your thought be with me, and your camaraderie permanent. That in friendship we would be constant companions that tolerate each other and make the day brighter for us both.

Or… perhaps the gift would be nothing to do with me. Can a person, as their gift, put aside their grievances set against a 3rd party? I wonder. I wonder… certainly, it is a gift that cannot be valued against triflings.

Or perhaps I’d ask that we make the day an occasion. Words and speeches as a testimony to the other. The revival of ritual in celebrating a day. Some distinction that raises the gift you give above what is given at other times. Some distinction that makes your gift meaningful. If one can buy their trinkets, then get them something else. Or, perhaps you could make the trinket. For instance, why buy a birthday card when you can create one, and embed it with the thought you wish to impart to your friend?

There’s nothing wrong with a material gift, but there is something wrong with a thoughtless disregard for your friends. A run of the mill, passé meaningless gift. Do something with thought behind it instead.

Compare the gifts. You shall find that they are incommensurable.


From → Foundations

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