In light of all the Thanksgiving blogging and tweeting, I am reposting this piece, originally posted earlier this year on the eve of Rosh Hashana. It is not being the first time I’ve raised the same point on Thanksgiving. Both days are fundamentally about thankfulness — and the introspection that it demands — so I’m bumping it up here today, with minor tweaks:
It has been an extraordinarily eventful year for me on many, many planes, overwhelmingly in ways for which I am very grateful to God. Gratitude is the alpha of service of God, and of self-fulfillment, too — two endeavors that, to the thoughtless, appear to be opposite, but which are in fact one. From my point of view, neither is achieved fully without the other.
I say “from my point of view” even though my cousin Debbie, the writer, taught me many years ago that when you write something you need not say such a thing, because of course it is your point of view. You wrote it. But I say it so as not to offend my many friends who read here and who disagree and are, by habit, less offended if a proposition is put forth in a manner that sounds less absolute. It is a form of apology, and of course we know just how apologetic your blogger is at any time!
More of my point of view is my reiteration that when speaking of “gratitude,” God is the Whom to which gratitude must be directed, which is not to say that gratitude toward other individuals for their specific kindnesses is not also appropriate. But “I’m grateful” without an object — this makes no sense. I have never understood people expressing free-floating generic “gratitude” directed at … nothing. I do not consider it to be any more logical to say, “It is directed at the Universe,” which is essentially the same exact thing. I believe that people who express “gratitude” without acknowledging the source of the benefit to which they claim to be grateful, are saying words, but not, really, expressing gratitude. Gratitude must have an object because it is an acknowledgment of need, or lack, fulfilled by the other. Failing to recognize the other nullifies gratitude, and makes it merely a statement of fact, not an expression of thanks, that the empty stomach is now full; the infirm is now cured; the benighted, enlightened.
But I am not here to fight, not today. Forgive the digression — there, apologies again! Well, regret may be part of the introspection borne of gratitude, too.
Round and round
And I for one am grateful, grateful to God, for a year that has been very good to me, and to many of the people I care about the most. Much progress, some of it incremental, but progress all the same.
I am grateful to have reached a point where I can perceive and appreciate incremental progress, too.
I am grateful to be able to interact with so many fine, deep, multifaceted people whose intentions are good.
I am grateful for middle age. I was born to be middle aged and now I am home. I hope I get to stay here for a long time!
I am grateful for life, for perspective, for wisdom, judgment, the ability to give, the powers that I have, for the judges who are starting to listen and the clients who do their best to pay.
I am grateful for the things that ought not be written, but should be said.
Grateful… step one. It is the first step, and while we must go beyond it, gratitude is the step that is never completed.