"The task of genius is to keep the miracle alive, to live always in the miracle, to make the miracle more and more miraculous, to swear allegiance to nothing, but live only miraculously, think only miraculously, die miraculously." — Henry Miller
In Paris, Henry Miller, nearly penniless, was helped along by fellow writers Alfred Perlés and Anaïs Nin. Admittedly, it's exceedingly difficult to be down sauntering Paris as Henry says: "I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive."
That's why it's often a tricky question: What are you grateful for? How would Henry answer it?
What am I grateful for makes it sound as if I am literally counting and sorting it all out among piles of "good," "bad", and "ugly." Certainly nothing particurly went "right" according to expectations this year. In fact, being candid and blunt, I might say 2010's tied with 2001 as the worst year since I've kept historical records ;)
What are you grateful for? may be the wrong question.
Cannot one ooze gratitude for... no reason?
Yesterday I recalled times when have felt intense emotion--let's say guilt, let's say terror--arising and, simultaneously, I'd sense absolute peace "under" it. (Felt under.... as in an undercurrent.) "That's interesting," I observed, "I can be in absolute turmoil plus feel completely "All is well". Both." So that's why I say there's no need to find something definitive to pin the illusive sensation of gratitude on. (Check it out: right this minute despite outward appearances all-pervading peace is right smack floating under here, and there, and always has and is.)
Sometimes I call that peace, Life. So I'm simply grateful of Life, perhaps. What Hildegard of Birgen coined viriditas.
"For the Christian mystic Hildegard of Birgen (1098-1179), green wasn't merely a color. Her blazing celestial visions burst with viriditas, a word translated loosely as Latin for "greenness" or "greening," a word she used eccentrically to represent all of life's goodness. Viriditas was fresh, budding, and vital. It was springtime and the Garden of Eden." - Encyclopedia of the Exquisite: An Anecdotal History of the Elegant, by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins
And, perhaps, grateful of Quintessence.
Quintessence: The Fifth Element
"The fifth element, thought to be the living substance, latent in all things. The alchemists' quest wasn't a hungry hunt for gold, as it's commonly understood. They were after quintessence, the fifth element, one beyond air, water, earth and fire, an elusive link between spirit and matter that permeated all life. Some believed that stars were made of quintessence, as was the human soul. It was luminous, but invisible." - Encyclopedia of the Exquisite: An Anecdotal History of the Elegant, by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins
Instead of making lists of "thank you's" or "I'm grateful for this ____" which can feel contrived to me, what naturally appeals is to bless everything and everyone I come across (silently, but hey if you're feeling exuberant go shout it to the mountain) and this passage written after Henry Miller moves to the fog shrouded yin evoking Big Sur coast of California often comes to mind:
Living in Big Sur obviously had a profound effect on Miller, inspiring him to write: "Peace and solitude! I have had a taste of it, even here in America." The Big Sur landscape gave him "such a feeling of contentment, such a feeling of gratitude was mine that instinctively my hand went up in benediction. Blessings! Blessings on you, one and all! I blessed the trees, the birds, the dogs, the cats, I blessed the flowers, the pomegranates, the thorny cactus, I blessed men and women everywhere, no matter on what side of the fence they happened to be."
p.s. When Henry was in his ecstatic blessing mode, he was still struggling to make ends meet. Again, not grateful for any particular reason than the pervasive, palpable, luminous, invisible, quintessential joie de vivre, the joy of life. Henry thrived at Big Sur, and, later, book royalties started pouring in.
p.p.s. I am also grateful for Encyclopedia of the Exquisite: An Anecdotal History of the Elegant, by Jessica Kerwin Jenkins (blog) because she also includes in her little gem chapters on Miracles, Felines, Giochi d'Acqua, Dark Tower, Boudoir, Trapeze, Blancmange, Wanderers, Alfresco, Aerostation, Sequins, Tea, Swing, Pillowbook, Origami, Lightning and Obsidian among other beauties.
art credits: Wheel of Life Mandala by Hildegard of Birgen (yes, she also music composer and illustrator--would love to have her onboard for a transmedia project, but I digress), Mary Magdalene by Frederick Sandys; exquisite collage Near Three Rivers-Martinique by Jerald Melberg