Giving Thanks

A freemason, neither believer nor churchgoer that I know, told me: "Every morning, I thank fate that I am alive, I give thanks for the new day that is given me."
      It is the common prayer of believer and unbeliever; for prayer is just that - giving thanks. Obviously it is easier to address someone, but not indispensable. Prayer is first of all a confiding contemplation, a grateful meditation on the natural order of which we are a part.
      Sigmund Freud worried about the fragile delicacy of the psychic machine; one can also marvel at it: it works! One may lose patience with the misfiring of the universal machine, but it runs.
      Is it not fair - I was tempted to say loyal - to express this joyous amazement? We curse fate when it is against us, why not thank it when it is favourable? Is it not just that we let our friends in on our joy? We owe them that much, since we share with them our ill humours and our sorrows.
      Besides, by recognizing our good fortune, we enjoy it the more. Like those who pinch themselves to make sure thay are not dreaming: yes, it's really happening to me.

This happy disposition needs to be strengthened. We must say again and again thank you to the companion who has chosen us, to our friends for being just that, to our children for being born to us, even to the switchboard operator who blesses us with a "Have a nice day!"
      We must make the most of each passing moment. A Zen master once said: "When I eat, I eat." Another master, whose followers were complaining about their meditation being disturbed by noise in the vicinity, replied: "On the contrary, it's because you don't know how to meditate that you hear the noise."

One of my sons is an architect; by following his studies I learned to look around me. What marvels one discovers if only one looks up at building fronts! One still has to look up, be it furtively.
      I am lucky enough to live in the centre of Paris. How many thousands of times have I crossed the Seine with my head buried in my overcoat collar! Until the day I realized that I was thereby distracted from a marvellous jewel of liquid light that offered itself to my gaze, provided I looked at it.
      A glass of cold water becomes a miraculous gift if one pays attention to it; a slowly savoured fruit is a gift from heaven; an open patch of horizon suggests the exhilaration of freedom.

In The Last Emperor, Bertolucci shows the Chinese sovereign bowing each morning to the four cardinal points: one bow for the earth, one for the sky, one for the moon, and one for the sun.
      I prefer this ritual to that of the African king who climbed up on a crate and spat four times to signify his contempt for all the kings of the earth. A fine way to start the day!

Albert Memmi, translated by RW