A few months ago we received an unexpected knock at the door just as we were finishing dinner. It was our next door neighbors, Saul and Pat with a hot dish of apple crisp, made from scratch with the apple’s harvested from their front-yard trees, and just in time for dessert.
Busy lives took over and the empty dish sat on our shelf. A few days ago, Liz thought, “I’m going to return this today, but not empty.” Saint Flancis went to work. Liz’s flan earned her that moniker when one New Year’s eve, her flan set one guest into a paroxysm of love and desire. He professed the need to marry his girlfriend that very night… and did. The Right Reverend Robby was there with the proper credentials and a hasty but memorable ceremony was concluded( 8 years later the happy couple is doing just fine!)
So the dish finally made it back across the street, and I thought of a phrase that has been rippling in my mind since I first heard it. The Gift Must Alway Move. It’s a phrase that comes from Lewis Hyde’s book, The Gift- The Erotic Life of Property. In it, he suggests that when accumulation becomes more important or honored than giving, that the life of a gift is extinguished. It becomes property and that kind of property is in essence , dead.
This is, I think, the way it is with stories. The Gift Must Always Move. Stories are gifts we give each other and pass on. Yes, there are situations where stories can be seen as proprietary… more so when they ‘belong’ to a culture rather than an individual, and yes,certainly copyright has it’s place, but fundamentally, storytelling is a folk art and has survived because people have kept the gift moving. Stories must not become ‘commidified’ or they will lose their essence and power.
One last thought for this post. I’ve had the privilege of attending and hosting a Johnny Moses, Red Cedar Circle. Much like at Quaker meeting, people speak when they are moved to. Johnny reminds participants that if a story rises in you and you wonder if you should tell it and begin to shrink back- remember, there might be someone in the circle who would really benefit from the story at the moment. Don’t hold back. It might even create some healing that you will never even know about.
Check out the Endangered Stories Act for more encouragement to keep the gift moving.
(But I’m not sure that Saint Flancis will give up the secret of her flan!)