The Gifted Self

“Natural objects — living things in particular — are like a language we can only faintly remember. It is as if creation had been dismembered sometime in the past and all things are limbs we have lost that will make us whole if we can only recall them…. the reception of objects reveals that the gifted self is a thing that breathes. Their entrance is itself the lesson. We are not sealed in clacium like the clam. Identity is neither “yours” nor “mine”, but comes of a communion with the world. “Ever atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.”… Identity is specific, sexed, time-bound, mortal. It is drawn together and then dispersed. The self is more enduring… the self takes on identity through its reception of objects — be they perceived lilac leaves or the atoms of the physical body — and the self gives up identity as it abandons these objects. It is the process (the breathing) or the container (the lung) in which the process occurs. ”

“… there is a middle phase in the process of the gifted self: between sympathy and pride, between the reception and the bestowal, lies a moment in which new identity comes to life as old identity perishes…. Old identity breaks to receive the new. The new may simply replace the old or.. old identity may fuse with the outer object, a marriage, a new flesh…”

“The self that identifies with a cycle of gifts takes its own activity as its identity — not the reception of objects, not the bestowal of particular contents, but the entire process, the respiration, the give-and-take of sympathy and pride…”

“The self becomes gifted when it identifies with a commerce of gifts and the gifted self is prolific. In nature the Osiris-force is the resurrection of the wheat; in a commerce of gifts it is the increase; in the gifted self it is creativity, and for a poet, in particular, it is original speech.”

– Lewis Hyde, The Gift