It is not the office of a man to receive gifts
For many the pastoral voice of Ralph Waldo Emerson speaks to a self that stands for a kind of freedom that lights a fire in their heart. It screams of self esteem in the face of a demanding horde that would control and break into smaller pieces the self that they would degrade through dependence. Emerson, in an essay titled “Gifts” puts the connection of self esteem and gift receipt as follows”
The law of benefits is a difficult channel, which requires careful sailing, or rude boats. It is not the office of a man to receive gifts. How dare you give them? We wish to be self-sustained. We do not quite forgive a giver. The hand that feeds us is in some danger of being bitten. We can receive anything from love, for that is a way of receiving it from ourselves; but not from anyone who assumes to bestow. We sometime hate the degrading dependence in living by it…
In my last post I concluded by claiming that within my postmodern gaze normative standards that take as their guide “givens” fail in comparison to my own sense of ethical ultra-relativism. Where power is exercised generally through a “net-like organization” and that individuals “circulate between its threads.” Within these threads of power is exerted based on some mostly barely conscious scale – ever changing – ever powerful, based on paradoxical grounds not easy shared or seen. If the question is asked – given this view – do I lie: Yes, but the larger question would be to whom would I be lying. An even larger than the guilt of this lie is the question – which fragment of me takes the blame for the transgression.
Beyond the self assured self Emerson would have us be – mine is chaotic and surrounded by mystery – I trudge forward – still seeking. Lonely and uncertain that any of the words, concepts or entrapments makes it easier or more difficult to find that person I seek – I stick my hand out for a “gift”.
Why not? Somewhere along my path the notion that what I require will simply show up has taken root: a gift. This defines an underlying belief I have – the universe will provide. Thinking of gifts I have to put away the commercial notions of holidays, birthdays and such. Even the various trinkets I’ve given or received over the years need to be forgotten. The gift I’m placing a demand on the universe to provide is more related to Grace: undeserved.
Despite my friend’s prescription, that a gift should convey that which properly belonged to one’s character, and was easily associated with a thought or stand – fades. This tactic would best be said – gift is a portion of thyself. Your blood is the only answer.
Therefore the poet brings his poem; the shepherd, his lamb; the farmer, corn; the miner, a gem; the sailor, coral and shells; the painter, his picture; the girl, a handkerchief of her own sewing. Ordinarily this is right and pleasing, for it restores society in so far to its primary basis, when a man’s biography is conveyed in his gift, and every man’s wealth is an index of his merit. Even this link to me fails – I’ve used up those offerings in my past – I am flawed, yet I want even more than my merit could offer!