Monday, October 11

"The root of our English word 'mystery' is a Greek verb,
muein, which means to close the mouth. Dictionaries tend
to explain the connection by pointing out that the initiates
to ancient mysteries were sworn to silence, but the root may
also indicate, it seems to me, that what the initiate learns at
a mystery cannot be talked about. It can be shown, it can
be witnessed or revealed, it cannot be explained.

"When I set out to write this book I was drawn to speak of
gifts by way of anecdotes and fairy tales because, I think
a gift--and particularly an inner gift, a talent--is a mystery.
We know what giftedness is for having been gifted, or for
having known a gifted man or woman. We know that art is
a gift for having had the experience of art. We cannot know
these things by way of economic, psychological, or
aesthetic theories. Where an inner gift comes from, what
obligations of reciprocity it brings with it, how and toward
whom our gratitude should be discharged, to what degree
we must leave a gift alone and to what degree we must
discipline it, how we are to feed its spirit and preserve its
vitality--these and all the other questions raised by a gift can
only be answered by telling Just So stories. As Whitman
says, 'the talkers talking their talk' cannot explain these
things; we learn by 'faint clues and indirections.'"

--Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic
Life of Property
[New York: Vintage Books, 1983]

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