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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Putting the Grrr... in Gratitude

shenandoah

As a kid I loved the movie Shenandoah, mostly for the theme song. I watched it again recently and was moved by the following prayer, offered by Jimmie Stewart's character, at a family dinner.
Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it, and harvested it. We cooked the harvest. It wouldn't be here and we wouldn't be eatin' it if we hadn't done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you Lord just the same for the food we're about to eat. Amen.
Christians and the therapeutic community are big on an "attitude of gratitude," but their gratitude often seems misplaced. It's important to understand reality, what you actually did for yourself.

I remember years ago, when I still went to church, driving a church member to her naturalization ceremony here in L.A. I drove to pick her up, ferried her downtown to the Staples Center, paid for parking, sat through the ceremony, and later drove her to a celebration. When we got there she couldn't stop thanking Jesus for making sure she had a ride to her swearing in. Excuse me? Jesus? I was the one that drove her ass all over town.

If there is a god and that god is epitomized in Truth, with a capital "T" as Christians claim their god is, then that god would appreciate Jimmie Stewart's prayer because it's true.

Gratitude, as a principle divorced from reality, seems to ignore the very people upon whom the grateful person's blessings, or privileges, are based - often women, the poor, and people of color, not to mention one's self.

We should be aware of the wonders of daily life, but gratitude is, more often than not, a way of distancing ourselves from our own and other's contributions for these things. That said, no one sums it up like Bart Simpson, saying grace at a Thanksgiving dinner,
We paid for this ourselves, so thanks for nothing.

- IMDB.com | Shenandoah

4 comments:

spajadigit said...

I was just thinking about this very thing, but in a slightly different context. My wife and I are pretty avid theater goers and before the show starts, I like to read over the cast bios to see if they've been in anything we've seen before.

Invariably, there will be at least one actor who wants to thank god for the opportunity to be in that nights show...

I went to an art college, and I've seen how hard these men and women work for their craft, I've seen how many of them work low paying or thankless jobs for years before their break comes along and I know how random chance often plays a huge role in that break.

So why do they thank god rather than acknowledge all of the effort and hard work they've done to reach the goal so many covet and so few attain?

It's truly something I will never be able to understand.

Miss Poppy Hussein Dixon said...

God must be an altar ego (pun intended).

With all our false piety the public would never accept someone who said, "I want to acknowledge all of the hard work that got me here."

spajadigit said...

You know, I think you're absolutely right.

Miss Poppy Hussein Dixon said...

I was thinking, too, that if you can't even acknowledge your own contributions to the events in your life then everything has a supernatural source. The earth and the life on it could not have formed naturally. And what is obvious to the ingrate - that women make babies - is heresy to the believer who knows that only gods create life.

Gratitude is the bedrock of all kinds of hocus pocus.

Check this out:
http://everything2.com/e2node/Hocus-pocus