In her essay on the social and emotional significance of the gift, Lee Anne Fennell suggests that gifts are set apart from ordinary commodities because they are specifically chosen for someone else as part of a process of sustaining and deepening personal relationships. In terms similar to those I discussed in Chapter 4, she uses the phrase 'empathetic dialogue' to describe the most positive aspect of gift-giving in which both donor and recipient gain emotional pleasure. A successful gift, she argues, involves the donor putting herself in the recipient's place and imagining not only what they would like, but also what they would like to receive from this particular person. In turn, the recipient imagines the donor's 'empathetic efforts' to find the right gift, and it acquires sentimental value that has little to do with its market value. Fennell suggests that this form of empathetic dialogue is based on desire:

The desire to identify with another; the desire to have one's true preferences divined by another (even when those preferences may not even be clear to oneself); the desire to surprise and to be surprised.

Giving gifts, she concludes, is part of a 'specialized communication' through which donors are able to express feelings that may not be easily put into words.

from 'Applied Drama: The Gift of Theatre', by Helen Nicholson, p. 164

'It's not solitude I want but to be calm.'

My friend Margareth (about age 70) on wanting to spend christmas alone. I spent the first day of December hiking and visiting her. She find that it is better for her inner self to be alone at christmas, but have trouble making up her mind.

She had spent the day making a bonfire in the garden, getting rid of dry leaves and branches. Then she did laundry. When I got there (around 3pm) she had already cooked dinner.

She offeres coffee and great advice.

'Surely you want sugar?'
'When you are as old as I am, and let's hope you are not left on your own like me, always cook yourself a meal. It makes you feel better.'

At the end of an incredibly straight road leading up from the coastal path of Wales lies her 300 year old cottage. The house has a big garden in which she found a tiny ceramic vase. Both the vase and the road are remainders from the Roman invasion of Britain, 43 - 410 AD. Like all houses in Wales her house has a name: Tŷ-mawr-y-Llan (The Big House by the Church). She is considering moving somewhere else because there is a lot to take care of in the house. However, she is in doubt, having lived there for 17 years and

'I am not as nimble as I was but I'm not sure I will find something quite so quaint as this.'

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

J.R.R Tolkien, The Hobbit

“It is, of course, impossible to question or refashion all the hinges on which our thinking and judgment depend. And the most entrenched dispositions do feel like deep truths.” 

Identity, Difference, William Connolly, p. xvi


( . . . )

Anthony Vidler, The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely (1994, pp. 4 and 11)

Each day is every day that is to say any day is that day • in each day being a day and in everyday being a day anyone being one going on being living in each day being a day • anyone being one is being one doing that thing being one having been one going on being living • anyone coming to be one continuing being living is one having been one being living having been one going on being living •

 Gertrude Stein

When we were sitting at Lloyd Goodrich's 1964 exhibition he'd come and look at people ("why do they come here, I wonder? What passes through their minds?") and I'd try to get him to tlk about the pictures. He finally offered one statement about his intentions: "Each picture is an instant in tme, arrested, and acutely realized with the utmost intensity." That first was time he'd mentioned the dimention of time. It also summed up the projection of the image outward in that dream of conceptual ease to which his method aspired.

He would have looked at all of us there, I imagine, with curiousty and in silence. He would have been somewhere up there in the center of a row, trying to be, in what I think was one of his dearest wishes, invisible.

Brian O'Doherty on Edward Hopper, in the article Six who knew Hopper