Thursday, November 24, 2022

'Give Thanks for Gradual Ceaseless Rot'

Gratitude need not be mawkish. We all recognize phony, obsequious, histrionic expressions of thanks, usually delivered when an audience is present. Rather, make it self-deferential, even amusing. When someone gushingly flatters me, I’m suspicious. It reminds me of a dog who reflexively rolls on his back. Gratitude is most convincing when expressed implicitly, with a gesture or a nod of the head. Actions trump words. George Herbert writes in “Gratefulness”: 

“Thou that hast given so much to me,     

Give one thing more,—a grateful heart.”


I’m no different from millions of other Americans. Thanksgiving Day means time off from work, a paid holiday, a long weekend. Turkey and stuffing I can take or leave. I have no interest in sports so football is no big attraction. Only one of our three sons is here for the holiday, so we’ll talk to the others by telephone. Everything I have is more and better than I deserve. I like expressions of gratitude for things that have never occurred to me. Take John Updike’s thankfulness for decomposition in "Ode to Rot":


“All process is reprocessing;

give thanks for gradual ceaseless rot

gnawing gross Creation fine while we sleep,

the lightning-forged organic conspiracy’s

merciful counterplot.”


One seldom associates Tom Disch with spiritual matters. He could be offensive when the subject turned to religion. But here are some lines from “Abecedary”:


“S is the Sight of a Thanksgiving feast,

And T is the Turkey, which must weigh at least

Thirty pounds. U is Utopia. V . . .

V simply Vanishes – where, we can’t see –

While W Waves from its Westernmost isle

And X lies exhausted, attempting to smile.

There are no letters left now but Y and then Z.

Y is for You, dear, and Z is for me.”

1 comment:

Thomas Parker said...

I am thankful to have a "place" to visit every day, confident that my interests will be expanded and my prejudices prodded. In other words, I am thankful for Anecdotal Evidence and its proprietor.

Have a happy Thanksgiving, sir!