Some people believe that the best form of gift-giving is to give and expect nothing in return.
This does sound noble.
The philosopher Jacques Derrida argued that in order for a gift to truly be a gift, there can be no benefit to the giver.
There can be zero benefit to the giver.
None at all.
The receiver can’t say thank you or even acknowledge that a gift has been given. The giver can’t feel a warm feeling inside, let alone consciously give a gift
So if I buy a Rolex, leave it on a park bench and think that it’ll make someone’s day to have it, that’s not a gift. But if I walk down the street in my gym clothes and someone sees me and thinks ‘Wow, I feel inspired me to go to the gym’ That's a gift.
If I say to myself ‘I must remember that Bond Street tube station is closed’ and someone randomly overhears me and thinks ‘Thank goodness I know that golden nugget of information – I can find an alternative route’ then that's a gift.
There are obvious wins with Derrida’s theory and I will name three.
If you don’t know when you’re giving a gift, you could, theoretically, be giving gifts all the time without knowing it which is a lovely thought. Maybe the universe will reward you for this.
It’s a very cost-effective theory. You can’t buy anything intended it to be a gift.
It encourages the giver to not be materialistic or conceited.
There are also some very obvious problems:
If you want to give a gift to a specific person, you can’t.
You might give undeserving people gifts.
You can't enjoy the feeling of giving.
You’d be a pariah at birthday and Christmas parties.
Your dad: What are you giving mum for her birthday?
You: I am consciously giving her nothing. I might be giving her something unconsciously. I’ll never know.
Gift giving ideas inspired by Derrida:
- Be kind
- Make good choices
But don’t think about it.