Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Exchange of Gifts

I'm just about finished with The Gift by Lewis Hyde. I have found the book's discussion of gifts, especially in relation to artistic gifts in all senses, to be illuminating and clarifying. However, I felt that the section on Ezra Pound was a bit of a stretch--whether of the argument or of my brain, I'm not sure. I love the following story about Pablo Neruda from the conclusion of the book:
Playing in the lot behind the house one day when he was still a little boy, Neruda discovered a hole in a fence board. "I looked out through the hole and saw a landscape like that behind our house, uncared for, and wild. I moved back a few steps, because I sensed vaguely that something was about to happen. All of a sudden a hand appeared--a tiny hand of a boy about my own age. By the time I came close again, the hand was gone, and in its place there was a marvelous white toy sheep. . .
. . . I looked back through the hole but the boy had disappeared. I went into the house and brought out a treasure of my own: a pine cone, opened, full of odor and resin, which I adored. . .
. . . I never saw either the hand or the boy again. . ."
. . ." This exchange of gifts--mysterious--settled deep inside me like a sedimentary deposit," he once remarked in an interview. And he associates the exchange with his poetry. "I have been a lucky man. To feel the intimacy of brothers is a marvelous thing in life. To feel the love of people whom we love is a fire that feeds our life. But to feel the affection that comes from those whom we do not know, from those unknown to us, who are watching over our sleep and solitude, over our dangers and our weaknesses--that is something still greater and more beautiful because it widens out the boundaries of our being, and unites all living things.
"That exchange brought home to me for the first time a precious idea: that all humanity is somehow together. . ."

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