A “Gift Map” featuring assorted images, from a humpback whale to a set of salt and pepper shakers, greets you when you open this book.
What does this have to do with wisdom?
It’s a funny little teaser (gorgeously illustrated Syed Muhammed Waqas) that draws you in and makes you want to begin reading, and it perfectly encapsulates the beauty and whimsy of “The Seven Gifts” (HenschelHAUS Publishing, Inc) by the introspective author David B. Whitacre.
Everyone falls under the category of a Gift, an emotional and spiritual motivation that guides your subsequent behavior. Discerning yours will improve your quality of life in a myriad of ways while making you a more deeply understanding, and understood, individual.
The book is divided into “Volume One: Diaries” and “Volume Two: The Seven Gifts.” In the first, the narrator sets the tone by setting the scene with his backstory and some musings. But when it comes down to it, while he does digress into the personal and the philosophical, he’s here to discuss a particular subject.
“I think a reasonable person would observe that people are complex creatures, each like a Rubik’s cube, a seemingly impossible and complicated puzzle. People are intricate and mysterious, more than we can possibly know. Yet it is also true that there are some people who have figured out how to solve a Rubik’s cube in just a few moves.”
In short, he’s an expert on the puzzle of personhood. Apparently, once you start the journey, there’s no going back.
DECODING YOUR GIFT
Whitacre’s parents were artists, and though he grew up without much money, he did have an overflow of color in his world thanks to their creativity. He began to understand at a young age that financial value does not equal intrinsic value. Our author details many touching and trenchant lessons learned and observations tucked away from his youth.
He went from one extreme to the other over the course of his life: “I have painted Missouri barns high up on three-story wooden ladders in strong winds, dined at the Vice President’s dinner table, bartered yard work for food with my second family of Antiguan immigrants so I could survive at college, and attended John Kennedy, Jr.’s private twenty-first birthday party at Jackie Onassis’s Manhattan penthouse.”
He shares these anecdotes and vignettes to reassure the reader he has a broadminded perspective and that the Gifts are not a ruse or ploy to pigeonhole people. They lead to freedom, not limitation.
“Volume Two” closely analyzes the seven Gifts themselves, the subject of the book. Whitacre sets the disclaimer that there is no SparkNotes version of the subject at hand; if you’re intrigued at all by this review and the concept of the Gifts, you’re going to want to get the whole story. Meanwhile, the seven Gifts are Mercy, Server, Exhorter, Organizer, Prophet, Teacher, and Giver, with each receiving thoroughly in-depth treatment by the author. Discerning your personal Gift takes some effort that will eventually pay off with a wealth of self-awareness.
Whitacre learned from studying a variety of sources, from Carl Jung to Charles Darwin, to eventually disclose what he confidently claims is the single best system to get to the heart of humanity. It all starts with core motivation: What leads someone to their actions is far more enlightening than the action itself. Each gift does have both a light and a dark side, a refreshing realism that grounds the mystic air surrounding the Gifts. Knowing your Gift is knowing yourself.
Ultimately, the takeaway is clear: “The Gifts animate the tapestry of our race and the elegant pattern of our respective specialties and purposes and functions, allowing us to see how truly wonderfully made we are.”