Intangible Gift Giving 101

Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la laaaa la la la lah! 

dsc_0009So many feelings about the holiday season and, yes, commercialization can definitely run amuck, but oh, the gifts!

The journey to discovering that little something gift that says, “I see you.”  Or maybe just that something that says, “I remembered you.”  Gifts don’t have to be expensive.  The cost can come from the heart as well as the pocketbook.

Gifts, tangible and intangible.

A few weeks ago I was dreaming (literally dreaming) about Melissa’s Mexican wedding cookies.  In my dream I was devising ways to trick my dear friend into making me these particularly magical cookies.

I woke up quite ashamed and disappointed in myself.  Partly because I had been so devious in my dream and partly because I failed to come up with a plan to get me some cookies!

This time there was a happy ending.  Jubilee stayed the night at Melissa’s house enjoying her good buddy, Rivers, and when she came home she had a container filled with Mexican Wedding Cookies!

Melissa’s gift made my dream come true!

There is joy in receiving (and don’t anyone let you tell you otherwise.)  But- oh! – the joy of giving warms the cockles of the coldest heart.

(Wait! that did not come out quite right.  Melissa baked cookies out of the goodness of her heart.  It was my cold cockled heart devising fiendish plans to gain cookies.)

Giving acknowledges our shared humanity and allows us to take pleasure in the blessing of others.  Giving is transcendental.

Some gifts are difficult to wrap.

Intangibles are hard to wrap and often they are even hard to identify.  They just do not fit inside the box covered in shiny paper.  (Boxes are over rated.)  Intangibles reach beyond the physical and touch our hearts.   Some gifts carry more intangibles than others.  Sometimes the intangible is the gift.

Art carries with it a myriad of intangibles.  dsc_0010

Consider why a diamond in a ring is more valuable than a beautifully colored citrine of the same cut?  Yes, a diamond is harder and makes for a powerfully sharp cutting surface, but that is not why we pay more for the diamond.  In a setting of silver or gold the diamond leaves the world of utilitarian value and dances into the world of intangibles.

What is a painting worth?  What is a story worth?  The cost of the canvas, pigment and brushes?  The cost of the ink and paper?   Of course not.  A novel reaches beyond the physical and takes the reader into another realm, and all from the comfort of her sofa.  A painting surpasses the aesthetics of matching the sofa upon which the novel reader is sitting.

It is the intangibles that pluck our heart strings that give creative endeavors value. 

2010, in preparation for an International Arts Movement (IAM) gathering, I read Lewis Hyde’s book, The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World.

It was not an easy read for me and, truth be told, I left the portion on poetry unread.  The 4/5 of the book I did read was worth contemplating.  I gave it to my hair stylist who provides tangible and innumerable intangibles services.  She has a gift.  She IS a gift.
Basically, Hyde contends that art operates outside of our commodity/market driven economy.  This presents a dilemma for the artist attempting to earn a living selling intangibles.  What she is really selling is not a 3×4 foot space holder but her gift.  While I (mostly) understand what Hyde was saying, and relate to the dilemma, I did not find it particularly helpful beyond the intangible of being understood.

A more contemporary take of The Gift of art can be found in Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. (Excerpt of Gilbert speaking about her book on release day: I have not yet read Big Magic but I have read a lot about the book. 

I ordered the Big Magic audio book this summer for a road trip.  It arrived in GERMAN!  The devil is in the fine print and I missed that my unabridged CD was not English!  (Great price, though.)   I set it aside and forgot about it until this week when a friend recommended and blogged about it.  (I ordered it in paperback and downloaded it in Audible today.)

Like Hyde, Gilbert reminds us that art moves beyond commodity.  Art is a capital G Gift.  Gilbert is easier to read than Hyde and she, like Hyde, asserts that art is not–GASP!!!!- utilitarian. dsc_0012

We do not need art.  (Some of us do, but we could actually survive without art.) 

Gilbert asks society to be brave enough to embrace non-utilitarian gifts.  She challenges artists to be brave enough to understand, and to own the nature of The Gift of art.

Here she speaks of the meaning of art.

“It means I am not exclusively chained to the grind of mere survival.
It means we still have enough space left in our civilization
for the luxuries of imagination
and beauty
and emotion
– and even total frivolousness.
Pure creativity is something better than a necessity;
it’s a gift.”

The holiday season is upon us.  Surely most of us will give and receive frivolous gifts.  As you choose and as you receive, seek out the intangibles behind and within the gift.

Is the gift perfect?  Wonderful.  What intangible does it express?dsc_0011

Is the gift just not right?  Does it disappoint?  Look harder and deeper.  Maybe the act of remembering or being remembered is an intangible worth cherishing.

Is the gift cruel?  I have seen cruel gifts.  Sometimes the intangible has to come from within yourself.  A cruel gift is about the giver not the receiver, it is about the giver’s deficit. Pity?  Forgiveness?

This holiday season I endeavor to share more of my gift, my art, and with it a plethora of beautiful intangibles.

May you celebrate the spying of a brilliantly colored leaf.
May you wonder at the delicate geometry of a spider web.  (Not the horror of walking into a web and getting it caught in your hair!
May you look up and see just the right color of blue in the sky.
May your path crisscross with unexpected beauty!
And may you be present in the moment to pause and receive the gift.

I am exploring ways to share more of my art, my gift of creativity, more freely.  My photography team (Thank you Alexis and Peter) is helping me get cleaner, crisper images and details!  One hundred paintings photographed last week.  Now to get the images to the website.  (Technical skills minimal.  Encouragement welcome!)

More ideas bubbling on the stove.  As my family will attest, things often boil over when I am cooking.

Here is to the intangibles!

Every time I hear, type or see the word intangibles an image pops into my head of a family very much like The Incredibles. The Intangibles race forward making the world a more beautiful place.   A super hero family living inside of my head!




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