The benefits and limits of today’s gratitude movement
is that its leading voices purposefully and somewhat cheaply recoil from the ethical and intellectual heavy lifting of addressing the lives of people in deep or implacable distress. An authentic philosophical principle must be universal in its application and reach.
Hence, the gratitude movement must acknowledge that there’s no way to spin profound personal loss. Life may never be whole again.
However, when consuming half a loaf of bread, so to speak, it is immensely more fulfilling to do so standing fully erect internally, and cultivating greater awareness of - and gratefulness for - the sacrifices made by others.
I believe that the closest thing that we are granted to an elixir after experiencing grief, or while facing profound challenge, is not only the cultivation of a grittier form of gratitude, but also fighting the very ills - large and small - that contributed to the suffering or structural frictions that you and others must experience. This might include a private decision to sever social or familial ties with people who have made us suffer, or a public-facing resolve to combat domestic abuse and the uptick in suicides that have marred our culture.
And for those of us to whom life does not present staggering burdens: Shame on us if we fail to express gratitude. To consider societies that are riven by civil war, brutal despotism and environmental disasters (and don’t count your blessings too quickly on that score), and to not express gratitude is to enter a narcissistic bubble of self-concern and petty complaint.
So, yes, two cheers for gratitude. But we need a movement today that recognises the true possibilities - and the limits - of gratefulness for all people. – Washington Post/Horowitz is lecturer-in-residence at the University of Philosophical Research in Los Angeles