Goods vs. Gifts

Tonight I'm having a bit of a crisis of confidence. I don't think this is an uncommon thing. I don't think it's an uncommon thing in humanity in general. I know it's not an uncommon thing in the life of a creative person. And it is certainly not a new thing for me, personally.

Let me lay it out.

A couple nights from now I have the opportunity to sit in a room of friends (and some would-be friends) and share a bit of what I do and a bit about what I do. It's an opportunity to tell stories and to hear some stories too. The thing is, there will be some in attendance who have heard my stories before. Maybe even a couple times before.

And so the crisis of confidence comes down to the question: Do these people really want to hear my stories again?

I'm sitting here wondering if I should write some new material. (Full disclosure: I'm sitting here trying to write some new material.) But new will not necessarily mean good. In fact, based on what I've been working on for the last couple hours it will be far from good. Instead it will be rushed, haphazard and meandering. It will be first drafts, and first drafts are rubbish. First drafts are simply foundations for beautiful structures. And no one ever digs holes to stare at the foundations of beautiful structures.

Ultimately, the question comes down to the criteria I use to evaluate my work. Do I want my work to amuse or do I want it to revive? Should it surprise or should it provoke? Is it a good or is it a gift? You see, goods have a shelf-life, and their obsolescence is a foregone conclusion. Goods are meant to be consumed, whereas gifts are meant to be treasured. Gifts grow more precious with familiarity and time.

I think art should be a gift, a gift of beauty because rather than a good that should be discarded after it has been consumed or deemed irrelevant, beauty grows in richness and complexity with each encounter, revealing new truth as we engage it anew with the ideas, questions and experiences we gain along the journey.

Beauty stands in stark contrast to the planned obsolescence of the marketplace, aspiring instead toward that which is true, and lasting and transcendent.