homeaboutarchivenewslettermembership!
aboutarchivemembership!
aboutarchivemembers!

kottke.org posts about Consolations

Giving Is a Form of Attention

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 08, 2022

I’ve been reading David Whyte’s Consolations over the past couple of weeks, skipping around, seeking illumination, counsel, and understanding for some of life’s present challenges. The chapter on giving was particularly resonant; here’s an excerpt:

Giving means paying attention and creating imaginative contact with the one to whom we are giving; it is a form of attention itself, a way of acknowledging and giving thanks for lives other than our own.

The first step in giving may be to create a budget, to make a list or to browse a shopfront or the web, but the essential deed is done through the door of contemplation: of the person, the charity, the cause, finding the essence of the need, the person or the relationship. Out of this image comes the surprise of understanding and the ability again to surprise the recipient by showing that someone else understands them and, through a display of virtuosity, can even identify needs they cannot admit themselves. The full genius of gift-giving is found when we give what a person does not fully feel they deserve, but that does not overstretch the point; it is the appropriate but surprising next step in their lives. It disarms and moves and empowers all at once, while gratifying the one who gives beyond most everyday satisfactions.

To give is to make an imaginative journey and put oneself in the body, the mind and the anticipation of another. To give is to make our own identities more real in the world by committing to something specific in the other person and something tangible that could represent that quality. To give is also to carry out the difficult task of putting something of our own essence in what we have given. The perfect gift may be tiny and inexpensive, but accompanied by a note that moves the recipient; the perfect gift may be enormous, extravagant, expensive and jaw-dropping as a courageous act of flamboyance and devil-may-care love, but to give appropriately always involves a tiny act of courage, a step of coming to meet, of saying I see you, and appreciate you and am also making an implicit promise for the future.

See also Friendship, an essay of Whyte’s I revisit every few months.

Friendship

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 01, 2021

From poet David Whyte’s book Consolations (ebook), a short essay on friendship.

Friendship is a mirror to presence and a testament to forgiveness. Friendship not only helps us see ourselves through another’s eyes, but can be sustained over the years only with someone who has repeatedly forgiven us for our trespasses as we must find it in ourselves to forgive them in turn. A friend knows our difficulties and shadows and remains in sight, a companion to our vulnerabilities more than our triumphs, when we are under the strange illusion we do not need them. An undercurrent of real friendship is a blessing exactly because its elemental form is rediscovered again and again through understanding and mercy. All friendships of any length are based on a continued, mutual forgiveness. Without tolerance and mercy all friendships die.

I heard Whyte read this essay on the Making Sense podcast a few weeks ago and I’ve been thinking about it ever since — it’s a wonderful read but it’s even better to hear a practiced poet recite it aloud. If you’re interested in hearing more, Consolations, which is composed of similarly short essays on topics like anger, beauty, shyness, and gratitude, is available as an audiobook read by Whyte. (thx, megan)