the pros and cons of sharing
or Essence of Beach
I don’t like sharing things that are mine.
If I have worked hard to earn a thing, or lucked into it, I don’t like to diminish that good fortune or good work ethic by thinning it out among others who have worked less hard or gotten less lucky. I feel that spreading things among people who haven’t worked or lucked for them diminishes the value of the things.
If I find a beautiful shell on the beach, to me it’s not only a beautiful shell. It comes with the whole experience of the sand giving way beneath my weight, of the flock of pelicans eyeing me warily just out of my reach, and of the force of the waves crashing inches away from my face, strong enough to tackle a football player off his feet. Bottled up in that shell is a little slice of time, a little gust of wind, a sunbeam, the taste of salt, and the frothy slap of whitewater. That’s what that shell is to me.
If your grandma gives you a shell that she found on the beach, all it is to you is a musty old relic that reminds you of death and old age.
The act of giving causes that shell to lose all its Essence of Beach. Its wind sputters out, its salt goes stale, and the shell becomes just a mound of calcified bone matter. The shell becomes just a shell.
The thing that you give away becomes just a thing. It loses the work you did for it, the joy of lucking into it, or the battle you fought for it.
I don’t mind sharing inspiration.
I don’t believe inspiration is mine. Inspiration is some kind of cosmic muse force that is always there to be pulled from when you put your straw up to the universe and suck hard. (I believe this firmly, and I’m not a superstitious man. Perhaps it’s something to do with the boundless human imagination or the endless combinations of matter. There’s always more inspiration.)
The metaphors and the melodies that occur to me in all their amazing alliterative anarchic energy… don’t belong to me. For badder or worse, they belong to us. They lose none of their Essence when they are shared, and I don’t mind sharing them.
I don’t mind sharing people.
People aren’t mine.
Anyone with the silly notion of Intelligent Belonging – that any personal pronoun can be used with any Proper Noun – might as well duct tape a ticking clock of looming disappointment to her or his forehead.
If I like you, I want you to be happy, and to that end I don’t mind sharing you. If I don’t like you, I want to distribute the burden of your misery evenly across humanity, and I don’t mind sharing you.
I am grateful to every moment of your sovereign existence, your Essence of Beach, that you share with me, and I lay claim to none of it. It is a gift. No amount of work I could ever invest or luck I could ever roll would approach anywhere near the value of a moment spent with you, a drop of your beach.
That work you did yourself. When you give it to me, that devalues it a little. But it is a devaluing that you are willing to suffer, to exchange for the jewel of a human connection. I understand that, and I appreciate that, and I don’t take it lightly or ever think that it’s something that is owed to me.
It’s not so much me sharing you as you sharing you.
So it’s not so much that I don’t mind sharing people as that people can’t share people.
People can only share themselves.