Tuesday, January 8, 2013

the Tiago effect

English clergyman and metaphysical poet George Herbert (1593 - 1633) is credited with the observation, "Living well is the best revenge."

Despite this mildly acid observation of human behavior, Herbert is described by Wikipedia as a man "noted for unfailing care for his parishioners, bringing the sacraments to them when they were ill, and providing food and clothing for those in need."

"Living well is the best revenge" speaks to the human potential for revenge-seeking and to the claw marks left in the wake of its delights. It suggests that living well is best ... best in the matter of revenge and, by extension, anything else.

But who can say what "living well" entails? Certainly there is no shortage of philosophers or spiritual observers who can drone on and on ... but when a (wo)man makes some honest effort to apply the yardstick within, without anyone else's solemn and saccharine admonitions, what does it mean to "live well?"

I am not about to add my saccharine nonsense to the nonsense that already exists, but I ran into the question yesterday and felt duly flummoxed and tongue-tied and wishing I had some really kool and convincing response.  Well, I didn't find it and maybe that's the point.

Yesterday, I received a donation that was channeled through this blog and its "donation" button. Such gifts don't appear often, but when they do I generally feel a surge of gratitude mixed with wonder. Something within wants to say a very direct and thorough and honest "thank you." And, although the "donation" agency is programmed to send out a thank you, I like to send a personal note that goes beyond the knee-jerk.

But yesterday's donation came from someone I do not know and for whom I have no address -- someone named "Tiago."  A Google search came up with no useable information. How was I supposed to say thank you to someone I could not say thank you to? I felt strangely blessed without any person or entity to whom/which I might respond. It was like picking up a ringing phone and there is no one there. It was a gift ... from no where. I was grateful ... and stuck with my gratitude.

"Living well..." -- that's the best I could come up with. But anyone who may live well is hardly the kind of person who would lay claim to living well. The hope, the prayer, the longing, the whatever-it-is that "living well" might be circles back on itself and leaves the petitioner empty-handed. Sure, anyone can do the moral or ethical blah-blah stuff, and there is something to be said for correcting mistakes, but what does living well mean in concrete terms? In what way can anyone adequately express gratitude?

I am equipped, like others, to prattle this and expound on that, but the reality is that I am stuck ... stuck with gratitude and a sense that gratitude is just a sensible course about which no one can be sensible. Bloviating about gratitude is like one of those sappy books that bloviates about "love." What is better -- bloviating or loving, bloviating or gratituding? And it's not anything forced. It (loving or gratituding) just is and only later on do people write books and blogs and otherwise posture.

OK ... I'm stuck with the Tiago effect. Stuck with gratitude for a gift that inspires an even greater gratitude for pointing out the wonders and impossibilities of living well.

"Thank you" feels like such a sissy response ... weak and limp as a wet wash cloth.

Weak, weaker, weakest ... it's all I've got.

From one breath to the next ... thank you very much!

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