Sunday, November 20, 2011

A Few Thoughts On Thankfulness

As a fifteen-year-old I went through a phase of reading - and mostly enjoying - the novels of Pat Conroy. I'm not certain, but this may have been spurred by my mother's occasional quoting of a line from The Prince of Tides.

"I'm angry at everybody. I have this all-consuming, titanic, free-floating rage at everything on the planet."

While it would be an overstatement to say that I have an all-consuming, titanic, free-floating thankfulness for everything on the planet, it almost feels like it. For the past few days, no doubt in part due to this collective exercise, I have been considering how blessed I am to live where I live, to know the people I know, and to try to lead a deliberate life. This morning when I stepped outside it was the particular, clinging cold that occurs just after a fall rain. But as I walked up the hill the clouds broke into tatters, and the moon and stars filled the spaces with silver.

The beauty of the night sky, with its ethereal clouds, pearlescent moon, haughty stars, etc. etc., is a difficult thing to write about, though I've no doubt Pat Conroy could get a couple of good, fruity paragraphs out of the experience I had walking up the hill this morning. While I take myself either too seriously or not seriously enough to attempt a physical description, I will describe my thoughts at the time.

1.) I recognized my own miniscule finiteness in relation to the heavens.
2.) Seeing my brother's headlamp inching along far below as he walked to a different section of woods, I was happy for the weekend we'd been having together and hopeful for our deer hunting prospects.
3.) Returning to the sky and the wind and the peel of moon just the color of a rind of cheese, I felt my heart beating and the cold air curling in against the skin of my chest, and my breath, warm and quick from the climb, came in foggy puffs.
4.) In short, I felt truly alive, aware of myself and aware of the world, and more or less in love with the whole deal.

My biggest issue with most portrayals of transcendence is that it is often linked to the annihilation of the self. To be fair, authorities on the matter suggest that the self does not enjoy being annihilated, so perhaps my concerns are actually evidence of personal limitations. But transcendence as I've experienced - and I can think of no better word to describe this morning or other such moments - arises from myself and my understanding of who, where, and how I am.

The quote I opened this post with was played for laughs in the Brown household, but looking over it now, I don't think it reads like humor, at least not primarily. I haven't gone back to any of Pat Conroy's novels since my formative years, and glancing at one of them does not entice me. Even with more than a decade between me and them, I catch a whiff of melodrama bordering on bathos. (See The Lords of Discipline in particular.) At the time I barely noticed. If not quite ripping yarns, they are certainly engaging, and occasionally the overwrought style works for a passage.

I am thrilled that for reasons I can no longer remember I really liked those books, and I am thrilled that I don't anymore. It may seem like a small thing, but the fact that I have changed in a hundred small and large ways stuns me, and the possibility that I may keep changing, and that as I do I may have more times like this morning on the hill, is one of the more amazing things going. All of this is to say, I am thankful for time, and for my sense of time - for my past, especially for my present, and for whatever future I have.


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