Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you

Today, I seemed to be continually stumbling on different materials that conveyed two separate, but interrelated themes: Firstly, that being thankful is very, very good and, secondly, that letting go is super dooper healthy. (This repetition was probably not entirely haphazard in the context of my last post, a kind of Brazilian footballer's dive after a light ankle tap.)

First, I clicked on The School of Life and found Alain de Botton's post on gratitude. Big Al, who loves a wistful line about a the shade of piece of fruit or the sad quality of the weather, here reflects on the meaning of the secular world tendency to not say thank you. He asks whether this is because saying thank you seems undignified and unambitious, an acknowledgment of our mortality; a recognition that what we are thankful for may not come again, that we are at the mercy of something beyond ourselves. He says:

To say thank you for a glass of wine or a piece of cheese is a kind of preparation for death, for the modesty that our dying days will demand. That's why, even in a secular life, we should make space for some thank yous to no one in particular. A person who remembers to be grateful is more aware of the role of gifts and luck – and so readier to meet with the tragedies that are awaiting us all down the road.
There is, in this way, something about letting go of your bigness in being grateful.

Then one of the academic articles I read before lunch (which was about mortality - not my area, but a nice touch so far as the coherence of this post goes) headed down a surprisingly didactic path, advising the reader that it is important to only use theories if they illuminate social reality, and that it is better to take into one's own work the flashes of insight that scholars have to offer, rather then get stuck serving some 'inflexible theoretical edifice.'

Then I spotted this poignant post from A Literal Girl on the miracles of being in a place without the weight (and comfort) of the having had a childhood there; how being without a past, while frightening and lonely at times, allows a certain light openness to the present, what I had only earlier this morning been thinking, as I reflected on an argument I had recently, was a kind of willingness to be a quiet nobody for a while, to sometimes just succumb to transition and linearity, rather than impress oneself onto others, or an illusion of oneself and others.

Then a new, lovely friend sent me a link to thx, thx, thx, a blog devoted to posting a thank you note a day. (Check it out and find her thank yous to the future, people who don't get it, and pianist. Gold.)

So, yeah, I guess, essentially, the hidden curricula of today's thesis writing, if I can pull it all together very quickly (I'm hungry!) was about: 1) not holding on to stale, fearful things, including the desire to be big and immortal; 2) being receptive to fresh experiences and intuitions; and 3) being grateful to no ones, as well as ones. So, as a sort of homework exercise, and do mind the tone-shift, I end this post with some thank you notes of my own:

Dear Friends (fleshy and online), Thank you for being such cards. You complete me.

Dear Toblerone Genius, Thank you for coming up with that triangle idea.

Dear College Room, Thank you for being so teeny that it does not take a long time to tidy you, and for being so patient with me.

Dear Most of the Old People at the Nursing Home I spoke to When I was 23, Thank you for nervously laughing or changing the subject and offering me tea and a dry biscuit when I asked you what the point of life was. It has saved me a lot of time and hassle.

Dear Lavender, Thank you for being able to be used in soap, bubble bath and misty spray.

Dear Wales, Thanks for having lots of castles, craggy cliffs, medieval-themed key rings, and towns that just sit there while flocks of black birds and muscly seagulls rule.

Any thank you notes of your own to share? I'd like to hear them!


Kate said...

How good is the THX site?

Mine is: Thank you to my candidature, which is so bad at the moment that it will make anything I do next look amazing.

The Steel Magnolia said...

Thank you to my students who, when we talked about graduation and leaving this special campus, were so moved that one of you had to leave the room. The work I do actually means something. (Today)

Ned said...

I am thankful for past loves. I didn't think it was ever possible to fall in love for me personally, yet it happened, and I'll be forever grateful for that experience and awakening.

LPC said...

Thank you for pointing me to thx. I don't think gratitude ever loses its power.

E. Sheppard said...

I loved this posting! It was original and made me think about being grateful and giving thanks (actually writing it out). I am thankful today for having choices in my life. So many people don't.

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Academic, Hopeful said...

Gah! Gratitude is a meme!