A Discordant Note of Gratefulness

Sometimes I wonder about those strange times I am living. The feeling to be onboard a slowly sinking ship, not caring so much about the destination, but very much doubting we’ll all ever get there. The sour feeling you have when you leaf through history books and wonder how people back then could go on with their lives blissfully unaware or believing that they personally would come out unscathed. All the signs were there, stupid, how could you not see them? This is not history books anymore, this is in the daily newspaper. It’s so much easier to close our eyes.

The economy, Europe, the System with a large S for lack of a better definition, the way the world turns in crazy and cruel ways. Companies go belly up or cut their limbs off to survive. People lose their livelihoods and homes. The social net has so many holes that it’s dangerously easy to fall through. The bitter feeling that there isn’t enough space for all of us to be living in this world, and that no one among the powerful ones really care. I’m trying to infuse myself with the wisdom that everything is transient, but sometimes I can’t swallow. I stare at the facts and forbid myself to blink for fear that everything will be gone in an instant like in a tsunami.

I wonder whether all these chirpy tunes to be grateful are a soothing way to look elsewhere, to content ourselves with less and less, to prevent us from being angry, from taking action. Some days it looks like a cheap trick to blind us. Of course I’m grateful to be among the lucky ones, so far, to afford the guilty pleasures of thanksgiving. I have a lot to be thankful for, and I count my blessings every day but there’s an itch: for how much longer? Like when you hang on with your fingernails but you know that some day you will fall too.

Sometimes giving thanks looks dangerously self-absorbed. Being lucky rhymes with relief to have been spared a common misfortune. If you concentrate on the present instant, how can you form the long-term projects which will enable you to keep your footing when the ship will dip quicker? Isn’t it time to learn to swim or to build a raft? Isn’t it time to radically think differently? If you’re nonetheless trying to be grateful and enjoy the ride, aren’t you condemned to be taken advantage of, to be the fool or the last one on board?

I struggle to embrace these contradictions, but the struggle is a chance too. To make use of this urge to fight instead of being paralyzed by bitterness and fear or of making myself blind and deaf. Finding conscious joy amid the disasters takes more courage and strength because it’s not comfortable, passive or contemplative. Being grateful should also be about redefining what counts and what you are willing to fight for because nothing is to be taken for granted.

I wish a courageous Thanksgiving to all our American friends, and all the others as well.

8 thoughts on “A Discordant Note of Gratefulness

  1. You have expressed very well things I have been thinking. It is Thanksgiving here in Connecticut and we are grateful for good health, a good life and each other. But what about everyone else! In recent years we seem to be in a culture of selfishness, where what happens to others does not matter so long as I get mine. No society can long survive like that.

  2. Thank you for this. I’ve been thinking much the same thing. Sometimes it feels like we’re on the Titanic and the band just keeps playing as though the ship weren’t sinking. It is courageous to be aware of what is going on and not living in denial. But I also believe I can be thankful for my family and friends, for the roof over my head and the meal on my table. The fact that I have such blessings means that I also have more responsibility to share and to help others. Where there is life there is hope as the saying goes. Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. You’ve written this so well. I have similar feelings – especially since becoming a Mom. I wonder a lot of the time what kind of a world my daughter will live in when she’s an adult. It’s scary. And I loved your question about whether it’s finally time to start thinking radically different. I think the answer is yes – the world needs a new paradigm, desperately, but it takes a lot, a lot, a lot of courage to make this happen and when will enough people get brave enough?

    I think Thanksgiving is the perfect time to express these feelings – bon courage!

    • Dear Michelle, yes, I think my awareness is heightened as a parent, but so is the temptation to turn toward my own family as a protective reflex. I know a lot of individuals who have taken courageous steps, but we need a lot more to make enough of an impact.

  4. What a great post. I think we can be thankful for things in the present moment, but that any gratitude we feel should be a reason and a motivation to give back. The things happening in the world are dreadful and there’s a lot to be alarmed about. But all we can honestly do is make sure our own lives are balanced, that we look out for those we care about and that we do what we can for suffering strangers and our poor beleaguered planet. If we all do a little bit, that adds up to quite a lot. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.

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