Backstory: While living in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1970s, Mr. Don used to drive regularly across the various bridges there. "As it was the Hippy era, we would perform actions that we perceived as counter-cultural. Like size up an 'appropriate'driver as we approached the bridge toll booth and get ahead of his or her car in the toll line; then we would 'gift' that car behind us by paying their toll as well as ours. This would startle said party into accelerating up next to our vehicle where I observed various emotional responses (surprise, annoyance, laughter, paranoia, attempts at recognition, etc.) emanating from said strangers. Of course, we would not respond in any way, as if nothing had transpired."

Of course, this gifting was inspired by Don's love of Robin Hood and his generous gifting of the less fortunate serfs.

Click image to see video

Even Sherlock Holmes got into the act, gifting some Victorian ladies on a train:


Philosophers have only interpreted the world,
in various ways; the point is to change it.

-- Karl Marx, Thesis on Feuerbach

In college, L. E. Don recalls, "I was moved by gifting scenes from two movies: 1) King Vidor's 1949 film version of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead (Gary Cooper playing Howard Roark)," and 2) the W. C. Fields vehicle If I Had a MIllion (1932):

Click image to see video

Click image to see video

More recently, Don recommends the gifting scene from Mamoru Oshii's Avalon (2001):

Click image to see video


We become free human beings not by each of us realizing ourselves
as indivduals, but rather in that we go out of ourselves, enter into
relation with others, and in a certain sense relinquish ourselves to them.

-- Theodor Adorno, "Scientific Experiences of a European Scholar in America"


"Law and Order" TV episode; click image to see video

In the Spring of 2006, L. E. Don watched in horror as a corporate type in a Brooks Brothers suit gave Monopoly money to a homeless woman on the street while thumbing his nose at her. There is a similar incident described by Charles Baudelaire in his short story "Counterfeit Money." A similar con is featured in David Mamet's film House of Games (1987):

$20 Con from House of Games; click image to see video


And Oprah Winfrey has initiated a similar project to L. E. Don's"

Oprah Winfrey's Gifting Project, click image to see video

"CSI Miami's" star David Caruso gifts "The Big One"
($100) to a sex-worker, click image to see video

"Toward the end, Yvonne [Le Corbusier's wife]
had developed the habit of giving cartons of Lucky
Strike cigarettes--the amount had expanded from
mere packages--even to strangers. It was an extra-
ordinary gesture, especailly for a frugal person."
--Le Corbusier: A Life, Nicholas Fox Weber

Thus began Mr. Don's efforts to create this charitable participatory phenomenological artwork. His first task was to design a logo for his Gratuitous Giving project: a cloverleaf of hearts with typography below recalling Hippy Era psychedelic fonts.

The logo (available on a T-shirt or a sew-on patch; given
free to those who gift and send us a photo of the gifted)


THE ANCIENTS TELL A STORY we need to know about philanthropy
and its impact on the rest of the world: One day, the story tells us,
Nasrudin, the saint, heard footsteps behind him. Realizing that he
was being stalked by a thief, he turned and said, “Dear sir, you
see this pure gold begging bowl. It was a gift to me from the
King. Take it now so you don’t disturb my sleep tonight.”

But the next morning, when Nasrudin woke up, there, standing over
him, was the same thief, waiting. “Friend,” the monk said, “Believe
me, I have nothing else to give you.” And the thief replied: “I have
not come back for things. What I want now is what you have inside
you that enabled you to give away the gold in the first place.”


L. E. Don framed by heart-shaped form inside a public sculpture
which gave Mr. Don the basic concept for the hearts on his logo.


Doing the Math

There have been times and places in which a person came into his or her social being
through the dispersal of gifts, the "big man" or "big woman" being that one through whom
the most gifts flowed. The mythology of a market society reverses the picture: getting rather
than giving is the mark of a substantial person, and the hero is "self-possessed," self-made."

-- Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property

Rrom Pay It Forward (2000); click image to see video


Mathematical Expression of the gifting function leads L. E. Don
to perform an action at Chicago's famed M.C.A. (see below).

L.E. Don tags a wall at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art