Sunday, December 01, 2013


The word gratitude:

gratitude (n.) Look up gratitude at
mid-15c., "good will," from Middle French gratitude (15c.) or directly from Medieval Latin gratitudinem (nominative gratitudo) "thankfulness," from Latin gratus "thankful, pleasing" (see grace). Meaning "thankfulness" is from 1560s.

The word grace, with which it is intimately linked:

grace (n.) Look up grace at
late 12c., "God's favor or help," from Old French grace "pardon, divine grace, mercy; favor, thanks; elegance, virtue" (12c.), from Latin gratia "favor, esteem, regard; pleasing quality, good will, gratitude" (source of Italian grazia, Spanish gracia), from gratus "pleasing, agreeable," from PIE root *gwere- "to favor" (cf. Sanskrit grnati "sings, praises, announces," Lithuanian giriu "to praise, celebrate," Avestan gar- "to praise").

Sense of "virtue" is early 14c., that of "beauty of form or movement, pleasing quality" is mid-14c. In classical sense, "one of the three sister goddesses (Latin Gratiæ, Greek Kharites), bestowers of beauty and charm," it is first recorded in English 1579 in Spenser. The short prayer that is said before or after a meal (early 13c.; until 16c. usually graces) has a sense of "gratitude."

Over the past few days, my heart has been flooded with gratitude. Because our friend David, who just last week was in a coma and for whom we all greatly feared, spoke with us about the oeuvre of Tarkovsky and how we should watch all of it--"all of it!"--because it was so beautiful. Because of the intelligence and sensitivity, the loving hearts and great energies, of my sons and my daughters. Because I am lucky enough to have smiles and happy greetings from grandchildren. For my wonderful, thoughtful friends. Because I have a friend who has known me for more than half my life. Because of a husband, the words for whose goodness will always be radically insufficient. For many comforts and great pleasures. For an education and a job. For enough, more than enough.

To see the etymological roots of gratitude is to acknowledge that the idea of blessedness, a favor bestowed upon the thing praised, is a part of its conceptual frame. To praise something is to articulate its pleasingness, how it is touched by favor--by God, by one's regard.

We live in a world where one's praise of almost anything must acknowledge how the thing praised is only part of that world, where the act of thanksgiving must acknowledge the radical insufficiency of one's own comprehension of that world; where so much of that world seems to be wrought of pain. Where is the praiseworthiness of this? The blessedness?

Do you know how to think about this? What is the frame in which any of it makes sense?

I am flooded with gratitude. From my window looking into a dark street, I am grateful for, and suffused with, more than enough. Still, I hope to find a way to do something more, give more, to seek a better understanding.


  1. I love these words so much. I want to read them again tomorrow.

  2. So, so beautiful. So much to be grateful for. And let me just say this: the times most wrought of pain for me have proved the most blessed. It is beyond my comprehension. It feels like grace.

  3. I do think about this but cannot make sense of it. Why are some so blessed yet others not? And how can those who seem not blessed still feel so blessed so often. It is a puzzle to me.

  4. Love you mama! I can't wait (!!!!) to see you!



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