The ben­e­fits and lim­its of to­day’s grat­i­tude move­ment

The Borneo Post - Good English - - Short Story Section -

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

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