I have been watching my 18 month old grand daughter play. She does some jigsaw puzzles with two or three large pieces. She takes the pieces out, then tries to fit them back in. Isn’t the puzzle a gift-abstraction? It has parts that stick out and have to be fitted into the appropriate places that curve in. She has to figure out which ones go where so that the picture is complete. She does it again and again. Isn’t this practice in abstract gift giving, helping her fill the lack, fit the gift to the need? But what about children who don’t have puzzles? Well there are always sticks and holes, and isn’t one of cognitive linguistics’ basic image schemas ‘into and out of containers’? Pouring water out of a cup is practicing giving and into a cup is practicing receiving in a dimension that is not directly interpersonal as it is when her mother is giving her food that she receives. But so many things in adult culture are like that, for example our houses that we go into and out of, playing the part of gifts in a different dimension ourselves. I am looking out my window now at a typical little house made with two windows with a door in the middle like two eyes and a mouth that we go in and out of like food, like words.
We should be reading all of ‘material culture’ this way in order to understand how much gifting influences us. We have clouded the picture with the sexual metaphor but we could reframe that in terms of gifting as well.
- Genevieve Vaughan