“Whatever we possess becomes of double value when we have the opportunity of sharing it with others." - Jean-Nicolas Bouilly
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge fan of the "Lord Of The Rings" films. I watch the Extended Edition trilogy every year on my birthday, and often Middle Earth is my "happy place" if I'm having a rough day and I'll just throw one of the films on for a while. Those films hold a special place in my life, as they do for many people all over the globe.
Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan played Pippin and Merry (respectively), and while they are funny people individually, they manifest a singular kind of hilarity when they're together. On that level alone, the video of the above interview is worth a watch.
Billy also says some great things about what is truly needed in life is love, food and compassion, and later tells everyone watching to make someone - anyone - a sandwich and share it with them. There's lots of laughter and compassion in this interview...
I was laughing my way through it when Dominic said something that got me thinking:
Firstly, let me say that Dominic can do no wrong in my book, and I know he didn't say what I'm about to reflect on in the way I'm going to approach it so this is in no way a slam on Dom - and I'm glad he did because it got my brain going.
Billy has a beautiful singing voice (you need to check out his band Beecake), and the live chat feed was full of people asking Billy to sing a piece he sang in "Return Of The King" called "The Edge Of Night." The host told Billy not to sing it (which caught my attention), and then at 47:20 in the interview Dom said the following:
"If you can do something well that you get paid for, don't do it for free....If you're a carpenter and you make a fantastic dovetail joint, don't cheapen yourself by just making dovetail joints for everybody."
For whatever reason, that really struck me. Is Dom right in what he says?
On the one hand, I completely understood what he meant. If you are blessed enough to possess a gift that you can be compensated for, why on earth wouldn't you? Most of us dream of such a scenario in life. If then you also start doing it for free, for whatever reason, you've opened the inevitable door of "Well, you did it free for this-or-that, so why not for x, y or z?" And then you're stuck. Better to just keep it on the business level - I'll do it if I'm paid, otherwise its not happening. Period.
I completely get that. I also completely get that when you're talking about someone at the level of celebrity and public demand as Billy or Dom. People's time and talents are worth something, and often we express that in material compensation.
At the same time, while I know Dom didn't say this in a callous or malicious way, something about that sentiment bugged me. I talk a lot in my work about how each of us is endowed with very unique, very personal gifts that make us who we are. In religious speak, it's like Paul when he talks about spiritual gifts and how each of us has them (that's in I Corinthians, by the way). And not only do each of us have them, but that we only make the world "whole" if we use them and use them together.
Billy clearly has a magnificent gift in his singing voice - should he only share it if he can be compensated for it? To use Dom's words, do we "cheapen" ourselves by freely sharing our gifts without concern for compensation?
That's a really, really good question.
Of all the people watching this interview, how many might have been having a really crappy day that would have been made brighter by simply hearing Billy sing for 30 seconds?
"Happiness is not so much in having as sharing. We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." - Norman MacEwan
From a pastoral perspective, Jesus shared a few thoughts on this that appear in different places in the gospels, but my favorite is in Matthew during his "Sermon On The Hill", "Sermon On The Mount", "The Beatitudes"....whatever you like to call it. His audience were primarily poor, illiterate, oppressed people that were simply looking for a little hope. Jesus tells them that they are "the salt of the earth" and "the light of the world". Yet he also says if the salt looses its taste, it isn't good for anything anymore and needs to be thrown out. Likewise if the light is kept under a bushel basket and not on the lamp stand where everyone can enjoy and benefit from the light, it goes out and doesn't benefit anyone...so let your light shine!
Or as Buddha so wisely said:
"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."
In a perfect world, we're given the chance to share our gifts as we freely chose and we are compensated in ways that benefit us spiritually and help us pay the bills. Yet the vast majority of us live in a world where sharing our gifts - knowledge, talents, compassion - isn't compensated for, or benefit one another in ways that cannot be measured by mere compensation, and often are beyond the scope of compensation.
How do you measure the joy of hearing someone sing? If you're Justin Timberlake, you get $700,000 for an hour's worth of singing at a private Super Bowl Party. But what about the rest of us? How do you compensate someone for their compassion, their empathy, their ability to forgive, to be a good spouse, sibling or parent, or even for their ability to make a fantastic dovetail joint?
And is that the litmus test for whether or not we opt to share our gifts with one another? Should it be?
I easily see the validity of both sides of this question, and I have to thank Dom for saying what he did because it really got me thinking about it. For me personally, at the end of the day, I tend to fall on the side of Rabbi Stephen Wise when he says:
"An unshared life is not living. He who shares does not lessen, but greatens, his life"
And for what it's worth, I have more than a hunch that Billy and Dominic would agree :-)
Check out Billy's band, Beecake
Check out Dom's show on BBC America, "Dom's Wild Things"
Rev. Shawn Garvey was born in Concord, NH and has lived in various parts of the Northeast US, now located in New Jersey and is serving as Senior Minister of Stanley Congregational Church, United Church of Christ in Chatham, NJ.
You can find more of his posts at his website: Reflections of The Rev