Thursday, December 22, 2005


This morning on the radio I heard an interview with an advice columnist who suggested that the practice of "re-gifting" can never be eliminated, but there are rules of etiquette that should be followed. Chief among these: Never, ever re-give a gift to the original giver. That was probably a Seinfeld plot.

It occurs to me, however, that "re-gifting" is essential to human survival. I don't mean the world will end if you fail to pass along that 20-year old fruitcake to the next unsuspecting victim. (I don't think the world would end -- but don't take chances!)

But consider what "re-gifting" is. "Re-gifting" occurs when you taken something you've received from someone else and pass it along to someone new. This may be a questionable practice when done with a hideous sweater or with the aforementioned fruitcake -- but when it's done with information, isn't that what we call teaching?

It would be nice, perhaps, if children came into this world knowing what we know already, and building from there. Instead, most children seem destined to repeat all of their parents' mistakes -- and make new ones all their own besides. While all children are hardwired differently -- some seem to absorb information and others require constant drill and repitition to master each new skill -- all are like empty hard-drives. We have to install all the information, or almost all of it.

And all the manuals meant to help us in this task are totally inadequate. Trial and all too frequent error is the only way to do it. And it requires lots of "re-gifting."

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