Photo by Kate Hliznitsova on Unsplash

Life Runs On A Gift Economy

…because everything in life is a gift.

4 min readDec 8, 2021


I’ve had this phrase in my head for a long time now. Every now and again, I’d flash on it. “Life is a gift economy”, or something like that. And then I start running through all the gifts in my life. Even if I have paid for them, I still consider these things to be a gift in my life. Every possession I have is a gift to me. I’ve tried looking at it in other ways, but I keep running to the same conclusion. Everything that I touch was made by someone or something else.

Someone else built my home. Someone else built the chair upon which I sit now. Someone else made my clothes. Someone else made this computer. Someone else made these glasses I wear to see the screen on the computer. Someone else produced the energy to run the lights, the TV, the amp, and the speakers that present music to me with song ID. Something else made the air I breathe.

Really, I can’t think of a single thing in my life that is not a gift. Oh, I do think of the fact that I paid for these things. I worked, I earned money, I used that money to buy the things that I wanted. My wife buys food, clothing, and other things we need. But after I paid for those things, and they came into my home, I still marvel at the time and effort required to produce those things. I can’t make them myself. I’m still thinking about the gift of the air we breathe.

A few years ago, I found this article, “The Amazon Is Not The Earth’s Lungs”. I was just wondering where the oxygen in the air came from, and that article came up. According to Peter Brannen, the oxygen in the air came from everything that has ever lived and died on the planet. He says that “Humans could burn every living thing on the planet and still not dent its oxygen supply.“ Now that sounds like the air we breathe is a gift.

Then I think about the atoms that make up reality. That came from dead stars. All of it. Most of it is from the ordinary fusion of atoms, and the really heavy stuff is from supernovas. I recall that in the television series, “Cosmos”, Carl Sagan was fond of saying that “we are made of star-stuff”. Yeah. That’s all a gift.

Every interaction that I have with others is a gift. I didn’t make them. I didn’t earn them. Other people are just there. I have figured…