Archive for July 2008

Gift Ideas

July 11, 2008

I have never viewed the purpose of a gift to be the gift itself as a tactile object. Instead I find myself thinking of a gift as an arbitrary catalyst for the underlying tenor that the gift is intended to usher forth (read: it’s the thought that counts). I therefore take a great deal of pride in coming up with gift ideas. First, I prefer to make my gifts rather than purchase them. In order for a gift to meaningfully be given it must be understood in its entirety. The degree in which the gift is understood is the degree of meaning that it is capable of occasioning. A oversimplified example would be giving a bottle of wine to a recovering alcoholic for his or her birthday (or whatever). Obviously the gift has no positive meaning because it demonstrates little understanding of the history of the recovering alcoholic (assuming that the gift was not intended to be an insult or a practical joke). 

By creating a gift you open new avenues for cramming as much meaning into your gift as possible. When you simply buy a gift, all that you have to work with is the history of the individual (i.e. reviving a special moment or recalling an expressed interest). However, when you make a gift you become part of that gift. Recall Aristotle’s four caused: material, formal, efficient, and final. These four aspects are what make up the essence of the object. So, when you create the gift, it is your Idea that is being created (formal cause) and you are the one who is constructing the gift (efficient cause). These aspects of you are inextricably bound to the gift that is created – they ARE the gift. When you give a gift that you have created, you are literally giving a piece of yourself. 

Now, to make the connection with history and meaning, you have “makers knowledge” of the gift. No one else can ever have that kind of understanding of the object – no one will ever know the history of the draft process that went through your head as you came up with the perfect gift idea before bringing the idea into materiality…

So here is my gift Idea:

Both you and the person you intend to give the gift to will come together and create a board game about the first time the two of you met.

It’s perfect! The gift inevitably has meaning because it recalls a familiar and valuable situation that only the two of you share. It creates a memory since it is an ACTIVITY that bonds the individuals by wrapping them up together in one common life experience, and can be re-lived by playing YOUR game together. But most importantly, together the two of you have makers knowledge of the gift. No one will ever be able to understand the true significance of this gift. The gift becomes a symbol of what can never be occasioned in reality – a perfect union between two individuals (cf. the speech of Aristophanes in Plato’s Phaedrus). Since the gift itself is the product of all four causes, and the formal and efficient cause are shared between the two participants, it follows that the gift is the ultimate expression of the connection between the two individuals, which IS the underlying tenor that every gift is intended to usher forth.

Dress to Impress?

July 9, 2008

For the majority of my life (save for a few “special” occasions) I have paid little or no attention to my external appearance (i.e. taking the time to dress myself in cloths that compliment my features, etc). I found myself viewing this sort of self-maintenance as superficial, or as a way of directing ones attention to ostensive glitter instead of the depth of character (Think: Socrates lying down with Alcibiades, and mocking his beauty because he is only concerned with goodness). In short, I viewed it as a cheap way to capture the interest of another.

This issue came up in a discussion with a friend the other night, and she suggested that there was a different dynamic at play that I was simply unaware of (huh, no kidding!). To her, there is an element of respect involved in making the extra social effort beyond the common courtesy of hygiene. When you enter a situation poorly dressed it indicates that you have little respect for the opinion of others; whereas when it is evident that you have made an extra effort to jazz yourself up, it indicates that you value the opinion that they are forming of you, and that they are important enough for you to go out of your way to please them, which, I think, translates into respect.

Or, if that doesn’t seem to translate into respect, at the very least it seems safe to say that dressing up produces a welcoming or inviting vibe, whereas not doing so produces (at first glance, that is) a vibe that says something like, “I don’t care about you or what you think of me,” which is not very sociable. (if we can agree that man is a social animal, then i guess it could be argued that this goes against human nature too!).