What We’re Reading: What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
Last week, I stumbled upon a Medium story that completely changed my perspective on something that (to be honest) I’ve never been very good at: gifting. The article is by Sílvia Bastos, a habit coach and (judging by this article) expert gift-giver. And sure, it was published on Medium a few years ago, but it’s just as relevant as ever — especially at this time of year.
The story begins with Bastos’s partner doing the unimaginable: giving her the gift of Inbox Zero. Yep, that’s right, he created all those annoying little folders in Gmail (I imagine) and configured all the automatic filters that route incoming marketing emails to wherever they’re supposed to go. The point here isn’t that you need to weed your loved ones’ inboxes, but rather that gifts go so much deeper than we usually assume. A gift, Bastos writes, is a symbol. It sends a message. It’s a crystallization of a moment, an emotion, or an intention. And the lessons Bastos shares — beginning with her retelling of the story behind the ancient Hanging Gardens of Babylon, which were themselves a gift! — apply to so many aspects of human society and relationships.
I’m sharing this story because it made me think more deeply about something I thought I understood, but actually sort of didn’t. It’s personal, but it’s also practical, useful, and timely. And after reading it, I’m curious: What’s the best gift you’ve ever received? What does it mean to you? If you’re inspired, share your story on Medium or let us know in the responses.
— Harris from Medium
P.S. ICYMI, Medium staff — from engineers to editors — selected their favorite stories of the year. You can read about them here.
What We’re Reading
Unlike buying something at a store, in which the exchange ends when money is traded for goods, giving gifts builds and sustains relationships. This relationship between the gift giver and receiver is bound up with morality. Gifting is an expression of fairness because each present is generally of equal or greater value than what was last given. And gifting is an expression of respect because it shows a willingness to honor the other person.
Curiosity and wonder are innate to all humans, and particularly prevalent in children, but over time, as questions turn to knowledge and we use judgment to navigate the world, we are in this mindset less. And similar to muscles that atrophy, our natural ability to feel inspired can be harder to tap into the less often we use it.
Published by Vicki Tan, Product Designer
A metaphysical design framework to help us design better possible past/present/futures that create the human experience we want, for all time.
- Data analyst and poet Micah Josiah meditates on a transformative moment at the barbershop. It was published in Scribe, a home for original poetry and fiction.
- Stanford University senior Jessica Zhu pens a moving short story about motherhood, family, and self-sacrifice. It was published in Arcturus, The Chicago Review of Books’ online literary magazine on Medium.
By architecture critics Mark Lamster, Alexandra Lange, Carolina A. Miranda
“The world is a beknighted garbage fire, war is spreading, authoritarianism is on the rise, the climate apocalypse is upon us, everybody hates everybody else, and male architects still can’t keep it in their pants. What are we to do? What we have done every year for the past fourteen consecutive years: pick out the best, worst, and most befuddling in the worlds of architecture and design and then give them fake awards.”
Today’s Final Word goes to Biz Stone, entrepreneur and Twitter co-founder, whose wisdom about embracing constraints applies to business and life:
“Most lives are filled with too much stuff. What do you really need to make a life? What can you live without? People often think of constraint as giving something up instead of gaining something. But if you give away your Xbox, you gain back all the hours it used to take from your lifetime.
Embrace your constraints, whether they are creative, physical, economic, or self-imposed. They are provocative. They are challenging. They wake you up. They make you more creative. They make you better. And, what you get in return is the art and craft of editing your own life, weeding out what is and isn’t necessary.”