This indebtedness thing is tricky, and I can see the negative valence it has. But as with Karen’s potlatch example and Mariangeles’ musing, I think there is a positive valence to play out too. I can speak for myself and say that when I have received a gift that is freely given with no strings attached, I do not feel indebted–I feel gratitude and the affirmative desire to reciprocate the generosity. And here’s some utopian thinking: when a gift is given freely without anticipating a return, that desire to reciprocate does not necessarily make a straight path right back to the giver, but can spread out in any direction; we’re talking a rhizome of random acts of kindness, and all that.

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One Response to Gratitude

  1. tmartin says:

    I couldn’t agree more that this is the ideal. I think we have all kinds of motives competing. If someone gives me something unexpected and great, there is a part of me has the more pure desire to reciprocate back. But I have to admit that there is also a prideful desire in me that wants to be as generous as the gifter. Or there is a part of me that is anticipating that reciprocation is expected and wants to be sure not to offend the gifter.

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