Gift Giving and Receiving

Christmas can be the best of times or the worst of times. I see lots of patients very happy at christmas time others sad and stressed out. Christmas could be a great time to renew connections , strengthen bonds with friends and the loved ones. It can be a very joyous and spiritual experience. When I was growing in England even though I didn’t understand the significance of christmas, it is was a time which left profound memories from my childhood. Very body seemed happy and helpful; the houses decorated , special food in the shops, snow on the ground , snow ball fights with children and adults, festive music every where; but most of all – my family and friends would get together ,cook, joke, laugh, eat, tell stories, drink chai and watch festive or inspiring movies. It was for me the best of times.

Things have changed since my childhood, people now feel the Xmas holidays have become more materialistic and there is less meaningful connection with others all around. The patients who are stressed and sad usually have no close friends or family , or if they do they can’t afford the gifts people expect at Xmas, resulting in financial hardship. Giving gifts is old and ancient tradition in most cultures. It has been subject of interest to psychologist , anthropologists, economists, marketers  and some philosophers.

A great twentieth century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in his book , Thus Spoke Zarathustra,  ” a gift giving virtue is the highest virtue”. There are various interpretations of this statement but I like the one which takes gift as meaning –  ideas, experiences, riches of the soul and all the other sorts of giving; including material things, a smile, act of kindness, love etc….anything of value  that is bestowed upon the world , thus making it a better place.However, before we can give we have to accumulate these riches over time  and then…..” they (riches) flow out of your well as the gift of your love”. So if one can’t afford material things then give love , a story, a smile, act of kindness, a loving touch which will enrich someones life and maybe even inspire  them spiritually; spiritual gift would last them a lifetime or even longer when all the material things are long broken, disintegrated and gone. It is these kinds of gifts I received in my childhood that left me with fond memories, I have no recollection of the toys I was given.

Receiving a gift is an art too. We need to acknowledge the act of gift giving. The point of gift giving only comes about after the gift giver has acquired and perfected the gift over time and is ready to be given freely without any expectation or reciprocity . The gift is ready to be bestowed on someone and through them the gift will help the world to be a better place. We need to show the gift giver that we value and honour him/her for making the gift possible and bestowing it on us by accepting it whole heartedly and joyfully; by showing gratitude; by regarding the gift value as priceless, no matter what the gift maybe.

May our minds broaden over the holidays so be may have the best of times.

Quotes without comment:-

” It was by Your gift that I desired what You give

and no more, by Your gift that those who suckled

me willed to give me what You had given them:

for it was by the love implanted in them by You

that they give so willingly that milk which by

Your gift flowed in the breasts. It was a good for

them that I received good from them, though  I

received it not from them but only through them:

since all good things are from You, O God.”

Augustine, Confessions, 1, 6

“The greatest gift God of his largeness made at the

creation, and the most conformed to his own

excellence, and which he most prizeth,

was the will’s liberty, wherewith creatures intelligent,

both all and alone, were and are endowed.”

Dante, Paradiso,V 19


Nietzsche and the origin of virtue

By Lester H. Hunt

Great Treasury of Western Thought

Edited by  Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren.

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