Gifts-giving, Papuan pigs and a Blog Award

Well, a little storm in a teacup has erupted over at the blog of lovely Jess at All Along the Watchtower about blog awards.

Yes, blog awards. Love em or hate em, if you stick with this blogging thing for long enough, you’re bound to get a few.

Should we give them? Are they worthwhile? Are the valuable and heartfelt recognitions for our fellow bloggers, or are they in fact dastardly attempts at self-promotion leading only to self-absorption and self-congratulation?

Caravaggio, Narcissus, 1598-99 (Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica, Rome)

Caravaggio, Narcissus, 1598-99 (Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome)

Maybe a little of both?

There seems to me to be a few too many blog awards flying around, and that can be a little frustrating as well as devaluing the awards themselves. And they can  turn us inward and the same awards can go round in circles until you’re trying to remember if it this one you needed to list your seven favourite things, or was it your eleven favourite blogs, or your thirteen favourite ice-cream flavours? I have a few I’ve been avoiding just because they’re so long and complicated!

But at the same time, I know whenever I give an award, I truly mean it. I am constantly delighted by the talent and sincere faith of so many of the bloggers around here, and I want to honour them and their work. I want to say “yeah, awesome work!” or “ohmygoodnessIlovethissomuch!!!”.

It’s such a pleasant and blessed relief to find people we can actually see eye-to-eye with, particularly for us converts who are wrenched from our comfortable worlds into a Brave New One where we actually know nothing and no one.

For me, with my agnostic family, my Protestant friends and my liberal parish, being a Catholic who actually believes what the Church teaches is no easy thing. But in blogging, I have found friends and compatriots, people who don’t just think I’m not crazy but encourage me and support me, whether I rhapsodising over the Blessed Sacrament or questioning the sacrament of the priesthood.

That is a precious gift.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” – C. S. Lewis

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Psyche Showing Her Sisters Her Gifts from Cupid, 1753-54 (National Gallery, London)

Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Psyche Showing Her Sisters Her Gifts from Cupid, 1753-54 (National Gallery, London)

Besides which, on the Internet, people are often horrible and live only to tear each other down. It’s a symptom of a larger cultural problem. In many ways, we are a culture that praises badly. We often praise bad things, and even when we manage to praise good things, we often do it badly, haming it up and cloaking it in cynicism and self-referential irony. (I’m soooo guilty of that. See? I just did it! And again… Aaaaand again.)

Isn’t it nice to genuinely praise each other, even if we are in danger of getting carried away a little?

My take is that blog awards are like Christmas presents. They’re great and everyone loves them but each Christmas that comes around, we also wonder if it’s the best use of money and time – spending copious amounts of money on gifts no one particularly wants. That’s a good question, and there probably are better ways but like democracy, we haven’t quite figured out what they are yet.

But gift-giving is more than just getting the person want they want, gift-giving is a social contract. Guess what? So are blog awards. And like gifts and like all social contracts, blog awards build networks, channel competitiveness into something positive and stabilise relationships.

My favourite example of this universal anthropological truth is two neighbouring tribes from the jungles of Papua New Guinea. While most other tribes are fighting and stealing each others pigs, they have a giant party and feast on pigs. (I know, how great is that!) Each year, one tribe hosts and then the next, the other tribe does.

But each year, the host has to provide more pigs than the past year. This keeps the other tribe in their debt and until that debt is paid off, it would violate the sacred codes of hospitality to attack. And the other tribe knows that they’re going to eat plenty of those pigs anyway, so why bother stealing them?

And so the cycle goes on. And on. And on.

But hey, at the end of the day (or year), everyone gets a party! There’s peace and a lot – and I mean a lot – of yummy pig to be had.

strathern-2-LARGE

Like Christmas presents, blog awards can be excessive, and they can be dangerous to our pride and self-conceit, but hey, isn’t it better that we are trying to “outdo one another in showing honour” (Rom 12:10) than tearing each other to pieces?

And on that note, I’m delighted to accept the ‘Blog of the Year Award’ from Jess. She is truly wonderful and one of the kindest, sanest voices around. I love her blog and the community she has gathered around her.

Blog of the Year Award 1 star jpeg

But just to be a little difficult, I’d like to give my award to a blog that doesn’t exist yet. To my friend Monica (remember her?) who I hope will start her own blog soon. She is passionate, articulate, prone to converting unsuspecting Protestants and above all, loves Jesus Christ and His Church.

Doesn’t that sound like someone we need?

Plus, she’s a lovely friend and we all need more of those.

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Pr 17:17)

So Monica, I look forward to properly awarding you the Blog of the Year in 2013!

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7 responses to “Gifts-giving, Papuan pigs and a Blog Award

  1. Very well said my fellow recipient. The way I look at awards is who is giving it to me, basically is it someone that I respect (most of mine have come from either Jess or Rebecca Hamilton of Public Catholic when she was on WordPress) and because of that I have been highly honored.

    And now I as well am looking forward to Monica’s blog, make sure we know about it, please.

  2. HI Laura. I also think awards are a mixed blessing. I appreciate your position as I’ll be writing a post for tomorrow that happens to be about a specific award. Even though we’ve just met I’d like to nominate you for this award. I’m really interested in what you may have to say once you see the post! The way I also see it is, if you choose not to participate, no worries! Just know that I’ve appreciated what you’ve had to say. More on this tomorrow after I upload the post. Thanks!

  3. Pingback: Carpe Veritatem! | CATHOLIC CRAVINGS·

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