Return of Gift
(…the persistence of gift).
(Foundational: of our networks of exchange; web of connections; intricate social weave and woof; social, psychological, intra-personal; multiple in kind. Fabric of society and sense of community. Giving definition to the above…).
(Identity exchange: what is gained, what is given; recognition; recognition of connection… sign of ability to give, to give value to, to value…).
(Recognition of connection as recognition of debt/guilt; family, friends, peers, community, religion, language and ethnic grouping; membership of the human species and assertion of the new internationalism…).
(Recognition of connection as recognition of the existence of others. Or of the right to recognition of others (not the same thing)? Or only for significant others…? And so to the possibility of sacrifice of the other. The ‘othering’ of ‘All’ (that is not ‘our’ family, community, those ‘we’ define by their proximity, their self-sacrifice). Or only of ‘Some’ others; the scapegoating, abjection of minorities (Jews, Gypsies and more…) sacrificial others… those ‘available’ for sacrificial abjection?).
(Forgetting presents; forgetting to return gift; forgetting presence, the presence of others… The denial of existence… the existence of others).
Process potentially infinite, exponential… If recognized: if not; finite, terminal, terminated… (opening… or closed; creative… or destructive…). Enabling. Or foreclosing.
Lack of return, no sign of… the refusal to value, to show value… signals, of no value.
(…no sign of… the refusal of value, to show value…)
Plenitude or poverty; a choice permanently alive in the present, whilst we are present, here perpetually posed in the eternal present… our here and now, the Eternal Present. Present we may pass on; gift ours to give…
(…the persistence of gift).
A gift that will not be given away.
Try as we might…
Gift that cannot be given away. Neither by religion (appropriation and handing over of the gift to somewhere, or someone, else, real or mythic, or someone real standing in for something mythic) nor science nor logic nor reason (denial and so misrecognition of this gift when it appears in our midst, in medias res, as the retrospective foundation of reason… of ‘universals’, so requiring a ‘place’ for the ‘universal’ to be so… – for example ‘civilisation’ as a performative, the gift we give ourselves, exchange between ourselves, collectively). All the stuff we like to think of as ‘outside’ is inside… sublime (beauty, indicating), the heavens, gods, immortals (entities), value/s, universals (eternals) etc… (All gifts of our imaginations, our cultures… humanity’s ‘spiritual culture’, our ‘humanity’). And if we are aware of this, this insistence of gift in the self, its foundationality with respect to so many cultural institutions and assumptions (so no longer simply -unconsciously- prone to ‘belief’…).
Beyond belief. (Belief unnecessary? Unnecessary to the functioning of these institutions and assumptions…?)
Then the question: what do we do with this knowledge? With this discovery, welcome or unwelcome, that the origin of much we ‘put down’ to belief, we have now again ‘picked up’ our responsibility, picked up on our responsibility. Again picked up the challenge of responsibility. May no longer put it aside, ‘put it down’. Once aware no longer able to forget (even no longer prone to ‘active forgetting’…?). A power we used to, were used to, pass on, or pass over, ‘over there’, ‘elsewhere’. Now here. Present. Ready to be given… So what to do with this…? What to do with this plethora of (imaginary) entities and places, labels and functions – many of which we could not live without? What does this acceptance of gift entail? What is it to accept this gift…? This gift that demands that we return it, that we too give.
Pass it on… but not as a passing away, as a ‘passing away’ – a gift that does not die with the giving.
The well that does not empty with the taking of water. The cup that does not run dry…
The gift that cannot be denied…
‘It doesn’t belong to me…’
To disclaim the right is to claim the right to disclaim the right. Either way you claim a power and right of use (even if in the negative). Denial of the gifts of others, or of ones gift to give (gift of the Other, the Other that runs through the self) it’s all the same;
‘I have no right…’
Denial (self-denial). Personification, and deferral to the Other as prior, exterior and superior (god making). The Other as superstition and not existential, experiential category (we sense that much of what makes up ourselves, comes from elsewhere…). The Other as projection outwards of what is our own (the Sublime, the Sacred, value–bestowing, gift giving). Deferral to an exterior entity, the wrong entity; superstition. The ‘right’ exterior entity? Our environment and habitat, our social, intra-linguistic, cradle and cocoon – the air we breathe, the sea in which we swim - from the cradle to the grave…
‘I have the right /I have no right…’
Yes! You have because you gave it (the right) to yourself… Even if you claim, as others have always claimed, some universal or external place as its origin or foundation… Conversely, there is no right (there are no ‘rights’) unless given, by you, by me, and by others, by culture, by society… So in the claim to universality, it is the claiming that is important, the ‘universality’ is a fiction, as is the absoluteness, the otherworldly origin, or root, or foundation or guarantee…). The process of giving and with-holding has already begun… We are (always) in medias res… Once we become conscious of such issues, we have already been practicing them for some time… our habit, or habitat, our culture… (You cannot ‘give it away’… who gave you the right…?)
Refusal of gift.
Return of gift. (Unopened).
Guilt. As the perception of, but not always acknowledgement of, debt. As the perception of the necessity of the return of gift… the recognition of guilt, of owing (of implication, of one’s own, not of another’s ; which is usually just a way to avoiding one’s own guilt in what one wants to do to Them, to the other, to somebody, or, minimally, to justify a sense of moral superiority…). An admission, then, of one’s own past or actions or inactions and omissions (or the past actions or inactions and omissions of one’s culture, of one’s species) as ‘part of ‘the problem’… as part of the process of sacrificing the other (different) and not the self…(same)… community…(however defined). It is a question of the acceptance of historical responsibility (the acceptance of debt, the recognition of value denied, and the gift of restitution). Of responsibility for the memory of the victims of the past (and not just the strategically convenient victims of immediate utility, but all of them - not some, but all (this is the test of value in history, its historical trial…)). For we are, afresh, every generation, care-takers of the past… care-givers as regards the memory of the past…
Gift of value as the gift of care (the gift of care giving).
Refusal of gift or debt or guilt, as the refusal of the other, of the relation to the other(s), or other… of connection, of interconnectivity, of our co-implication in life and society, of our reliance on others and on society. On ‘community’ as inclusion. Otherwise partaking in other-exclusion… denial of commonality, of community or responsibility… an aspect of anomic individualism, which sees only use in human and other relations (as in the attitude to others, to life, the environment, to cities, to architecture – the negative results of which we see everywhere). All of which should look and feel better, and would if they were valued… or subject to the valuation that reflected popular feeling. For common feelings and values are enough to guarantee this; this ‘revaluation of values’ (and not constructed according to a restricted notion of price… often with a closed monopoly of people set to benefit…). So a restricted economic sense and a restricted set of decision-makers and economic beneficiaries are allowed to destroy the look and feel of our dwelling places, of the places we call ‘home’.
Or there is the selfish recognition that believes it must deny recognition to others, because of a paranoia, or reactivity, which believes that to give in this way - is to lose… (Is to give in… to give up… something…). Thus focusing steadily of personal aggrandizement, on all fronts, not least that of the self, of personal self-image… of self as defined against all, above all (yet ironically part of ‘another’ community… elsewhere…). Denial of all claims on the self as the assertion of (a certain kind of) self. Including even, extending even to the claims of science… what august personal sovereignty, how god-like in omniscient aspect, to be above even the claims of science…
So also ‘beyond belief’ beyond any and belief that might entail an action, a debt, some loss, some gift…
Politics. The attitudinality and defensive viciousness, the denial of connection and accompanying sense of entitlement, that accompanies such refusals of gift, of responsibility, of connection – all fodder for the politics of lost, reactive causes, of strategic bigotry, of the creation of a political underclass (not necessarily coeval with an economic underclass, but often with an educational underclass) which can to be relied upon to be deaf to all reason, blind to facts, and eager to disavow the rights of others… deny the obvious (in the name of the hidden conspiracy).
Utility. Bulwark against the connectivity that requires compromise. Bulwark against the giving away of value beyond the narrow confines of the self – political function: to provide a ready constituency for society’s most privileged when under threat (nothing dramatic, just the usual suspects: of being made to pay their taxes… or have their profits limited by public health and safety…). The political utility of the refusal of gift (extending even to refusal of personal health-cover or care, let alone education…).
‘Call it a gift’.
Education. Gift to the self. Enabling the recipient to give all the more to others. Education: multiplying the ability to give over time. Gift un-depleted by giving… Self-replenishing. The definition of ‘active’…
The awareness of the sacred in Nature and in Others; but not yet the awareness of our ability to give (usually understood as to find… ). To locate what is hidden; and not to bestow as a gift; as a blessing… So long has elapsed since the ‘death of God’ (in reality the meanest blink of an eye, yet a blink in which we have missed something – that it was we who gave ‘Him’ birth) so we have not yet taken responsibility for our filling of the vacant position… custodians of the performative. The true custodians of performative gift of value… Deciding, in the withdrawal of the imaginary entities which we used to hide behind, on what is sacred… or to ask: ‘is nothing sacred’?
(‘Is nothing of value?)
For ‘the sacred’ is only another way of talking about values. Our values. Valuing, finding or, more cogently, ‘making sacred’, something not found in things, in nature (so not a paganism, nor a pantheism, not a projection, nor disavowal of our responsibility…). But something in us and of us, a human gift to our self, (our)selves and to the world… The gift of value.
Our sensitivity, or better, propensity to the set of feelings we call the ‘Sublime’ (which began with an intimidating quantity and a shaking of the self, and turned to our ‘Outside’ inside, the sense of the Beyond, Absolute Otherness, or Eternity -gods, heavens, univerals- which we use to ‘ground’ beliefs) turned around and given right back… In reality a gift we already gave once, unwittingly. With us as we have evolved and finally learnt from; now waiting to declare the spaces of the world, sacred places; the universe a place of shining colours… ours to re-enchant. Replete with entities of unique value, each with its unique glow. A value which we will have given.
So settling our debt to the world which nurtured us… return of gift to the world… to repay and renew (‘re-value’). To be repaid by valuing… by giving value…
Recognition: the gift of which a gift as a gift of value; the value of the others; the valuing of others. Connection as entering gift exchange relations. Acknowledgement of connections as recognition of return of gift, as recognition of debt. On a wider canvass, recognition of history; our past, our ancestors. Their valuing as we value the contents of our museums, our debt to the past…. as recognition of guilt, our debt to the past as its ‘proper’ use, of which first memory is required…
And memorials. Our debt to the past – the last, and most valuable, trace of ‘ancestor worship’.
And our debt to the future. As we value our foresight, our hope for future generations and their conditions of life, which we now herewith bequeath them… gift in our power, our gift to the future… our debt to the future…
Leaving us now with our… guilt for the future.
Copyright Peter Nesteruk, 2015