Dear followers and readers, family and friends,
I posted a while back on humility. One of my silly ones. For my 100th post, something more serious and sincere on gratitude. Here’s what I want to say to you. I’ll keep it short, but understand that it’s heartfelt.
There’s a trend. You may have noticed it. It’s an atomistic trend. Call it fragmentation, an exponentially increasing isolation of you from me. In two millennia, we have traveled from Aristotle’s “man is by nature a political animal” (where “political” means “of the city-state,” i.e., the polis, or think “social”) to Robert D. Putnam’s Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.
Notwithstanding, that is, the amazing way in which technology appears to be connecting us. As Bill Deresiewicz has pointed out, however, the nature and quality of the “friendships” and “connections” that we make via Facebook, Twitter, etc. are suspect at best, and he is right to observe that retweeting Kanye West’s latest observation is no substitute for even one substantial, intimate friendship (of the face-to-face, voice-to-voice kind), supplemented by some time alone to think.
So every day it seems that we are more alone than ever. (Okay, sure, that could just be a 53 year-old speaking. My sons would probably disagree.) That’s where you come in.
The word “gratitude” is from Latin gratia. Was Roman gratia a feeling of gratitude? No, not really. Not a mere feeling. It was above all the expression or mark of “favor” that a Roman offered another person and was, in turn, himself offered by that or another person. Gratia, to put it simply, was something the Romans did. And as a consequence of those good and helpful deeds, he could expect to enjoy great favor or gratia in his community. He could expect requital. (You Godfather fans know all this. Brando says to the undertaker, “Someday, and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service for me.”)
We’ve gotten away from that, and it’s hurting us. Even well-meaning people appear to believe that it’s enough to feel thankful (or humble, concerned, open-minded, compassionate, and so forth). Not you, though. When you commenters and “likers” and complimenters let me know, as you have so often, that you’re interested, that you’ve found something provocative or helpful here, that you value my effort, you are being good Romans.
And to show you that I am grateful, in that old-fashioned sense, here’s my return gift. If you can listen to this song and not smile, not feel a little joy creep into your heart, then contact me individually. More drastic measures may be required, but I doubt that’s going to happen.