12.14.12 | Transblog
I have six nieces and nephews. Yes, I said six. The oldest is five and the youngest is just four months. Around Christmas time I start to panic. I struggle with what gifts to buy them. I become anxious about giving the right gift and buy nothing until, well this year like last year, it’s already the 14th of December, and I still haven’t purchased one present or even thought about what to buy them. It’s hard to find a gift that will make me look cool, not bankrupt me, and not be the same gift as anyone else gives them. Heaven help me it is so boring they toss it aside immediately making it a complete waste of time and money spent.
“Even private giving of presents has degenerated to a social function exercised with rational bad grace, careful adherence to the prescribed budget, skeptical appraisal of the other and the least possible effort.” – Theodor Adorno
Ok, I get it. This Adorno passage is speaking to me; the gift-giver with a “prescribed budget” who wants to expend the “least possible effort” and still be cool auntie Siri. I’m not sure it’s possible. The four month old will probably get nothing. Don’t judge me. Do you remember gifts you got when you were four months old? He’s cool he won’t care. The two 2 year olds are on the cusp of really loving a gift, so it’s gotten a little tricky. In the end, I will probably buy them gifts that are more for their parents. I’m thinking bubble bath.
Then there are the five, four, and three year olds. Last year I bought them clothes. Very considered clothes from the Union Square Christmas Market made by a local artisan. After purchasing all these super cute t-shirts, I showed them to a friend, proud of what I had accomplished who in response added, “that is so lame, you’re going to be that aunt.” And he was right. My sister-in-law sent me a picture on Christmas Day of my niece in her t-shirt with this look on her face, unimpressed to say the least.
Adorno goes on to say, “Real giving had its joy in imagining the joy of the receiver. It means choosing, expending time, going out of one’s way, thinking of the other as a subject: the opposite of distraction.”
So, I’ve been thinking of a way to apply what I’ve learned on the Transdiciplinary Design course in the past few months to my anxious gift giving process. What if my three eldest nieces and nephews, the ones I need to buy real gifts for, became part of the process of their own gifts? I wouldn’t just give them a gift we could create something together. I thought about giving them a challenge, writing them a fictitious letter saying all the artwork in the Modern Museum of Manhattan had been stolen and we were desperate for new art work. If they could send their best artwork as soon as possible we would be so grateful and send with the letter a toolkit of art supplies and self-address stamped envelopes. I also thought about how this would continue throughout the year; slightly scaling to bigger projects that would have incentives. I could send them other challenges or games, sending them back and forth though the post. We could co-design a story together, they could pick the parameters, a person, place and thing, send it to me and I would design a story that they could than illustrate send it back to me and I could get it published.
Gift giving in more of a Transdiciplinary way brings me richer ideas. The gift receiver and I will become part of the gift together throughout the year. And our co-designed Christmas gift for me as well.