All artists work to acquire and perfect the tools of their craft, and all art involves evaluation, clarification, and revision. But these are secondary tasks. They cannot begin (sometimes they must not begin) until the materia, the body of the work, is on the page.
To explain why the bricklayer doesn’t own a house, Social Creditors distinguished between “real credit” and “financial credit.” Real credit is the purchasing power of a group over time — all that comes of labour, technology, and the gifts of nature. Financial credit is the same thing expressed with money. Social Creditors did not oppose the monetary expression of credit — large industries and nations cannot operate without that abstraction — but, they said, financial credit should equal real credit.
What happens instead is that self-interested bureaucrats take over the management of financial credit and it begins to become detached from the real. If money managers with houses begin to appear alongside bricklayers who can’t get a mortgage, then something is the matter with credit.
Money “created out of nothing” cannot have real value or real increase, but the “hell banks,” through abstraction and mystification, make it appear to have both. Once such false money is at large, it secretly gnaws away at the true value that rests on the growing grass and the living sheep.
> There is only one real deprivation, I decided this morning, and that is not to be able to give one's gift to those one loves most… the gift turned inward, unable to be given becomes a heavy burden, even sometimes a kind of poison. It is as though the flow of life were backed up.
— May Sarton, Journal of a Solitude (quoted from Lewis Hyde's The Gift)
To put clothes on a thing is a kind of acknowledgement, like giving it a name. By this act we begin to differentiate what was undifferentiated. Sometimes we are unable to escape from a bad mood, for example, until we have correctly articulated the feeling. Articulation allows a slight gap to open between the feeling and the self, and that gap permits the freedom of both.
Commodity exchange will either be missing or frowned upon to the degree that a group thinks of itself as one body, as "of a piece." Tribal groups or close-knit families would be examples. There is a famous law in the Old Testament … a double law which prohibits the charging of interest on loans to members of the tribe while allowing that it may be charged to strangers. In other terms, such a law asks that gift exchange predominate within the group, while allowing that strangers may deal in commodities.
It is characteristic of market exchange that commodities move between two independent spheres. We might best picture the difference between gifts and commodities … by imagining two territories separated by a boundary. A gift, when it moves across the boundary, either stops being a gift or else abolishes the boundary. A commodity can cross the line without any change in its nature; moreover, its exchange will often establish a boundary where none previously existed (as, for example, in the sale of a necessity to a friend). Logos — trade draws the boundary, eros — trade erases it.
Paul Goodman wrote in a journal once, "I have recently written a few good poems. But I have no feeling that I wrote them." That is the declaration of a labourer. Like the shoemaker, we wake up to discover the fruits of labor. And labor, because it sets its own pace, is usually accompanied by idleness, leisure, and even sleep. In ancient days a seventh part of a person's time (both Sunday and the sabbatical, the seventh year) were set aside for nonwork. Nowadays when a worker or teacher gets a sabbatical, he or she may try to finish six years of unfinished chores. But first, he should put his feet up and see what happens.
In numerology the "7" is the number for ripening; "8" is the number for perfection, but during the seventh period what has been accomplished by the will is left alone. It either ripens or it doesn't.
A transformative gift cannot be fully received when it is first offered because the person does not yet have the power either to accept the gift or to pass it along. But I should qualify this. Some part of the self is able to apprehend the gift. We can feel the proffered future.
I am reminded of the odd phenomenon of the "instant cure" in psychotherapy: sometimes in a very early session a patient will experience a total lifting of his or her neurosis. For a brief period, say a week, he will experience a longed-for freedom. Then normalcy will descend, and then the years of labour to acquire that freedom as a true possession. The gift is not ours yet, but the fullness of the gift is felt, and we respond with gratitude and with desire.
Capital earns profit and the sale of a commodity turns a profit, but gifts that remain gifts do not earn profit, they give increase. The distinction lies in what we might call the vector of the increase: in gift exchange it, the increase, stays in motion and follows the object, while in commodity exchange it stays behind as profit. (These two alternatives are also known as positive and negative reciprocity.)