13 October 2015

A thank-you note, naturally

This was first published in the ‘Daily News’, October 12, 2009.  The following day my mother passed away.  She was a giver, her students and almost everyone who was blessed to be her friend would agree. 
There are those who write and those who read. I write and read. Some who do not write, but read, write to me now and then, making a comment, disputing a claim, inquiring after my health and sometimes even insisting that I should write about something that is important to them.
So I have a small readers’ club of sorts, all connected via email to me but not necessarily to one another. I enjoy communicating with this ‘club’. I appreciate all. I have my preferences though. I am not fan of everyone. I am a big fan of an old lady.

Yesterday she sent me a short email: ‘I just read this in my evening prayer book: “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is ‘thank you’, it will be enough.”’

I thought it was from the Bible. I did a quick search and came across a man I had never heard of. Eckhart von Hochheim. He was commonly known as Meister Eckhard. He was a German theologian, philosopher and mystic who was born in 1260 and died in 1327 of the modern era.

Wikipedia has it that Meister Eckhart had come into prominence during the decadent Avignon Papacy when there was tension between the Franciscans and Eckhart’s Dominican Order of Friars and Preachers. He was tried as a heretic by Pope John XXII. He died before verdict was issued subsequent to a trail which he made memorable with his reasoned arguments.

The 19th Century philosopher Schopenhauer compared Eckhart’s views to the teachings of Indian, Christian and Islamic mystics and ascetics while some assert that Eckhart’s sermons closely approach Buddhist thought, according to renowned translator of Buddhist texts, “so closely indeed, that one could stamp them almost definitely as coming out of Buddhist speculations”.

All that is stuff for academics and theologians. What was important is the ‘thank you’.

It occurred to me that we expend more energy in complaining than in being thankful. It is not that we need to keep thanking people and being thankful for what we have, either to a divine entity or circumstances or the contribution of people known and unknown, deliberate or not. The point is that we hardly ever stop to reflect on gratitude or reasons for thankfulness.
I asked myself some questions.

When did you last reflect on the things your father did to make you who you are? When did you remember what your mother did for you? Did you remember your teachers? What has the fact of being born in this beautiful land given you and if there has been some benefit, have you been thankful, have you showed gratitude to land and man/woman?

Have you ever paused to appreciate the breathe that you take, considering the fact that there are those who have to make home and world at the foot of a mountain of trash? Haven’t you seen enough un-limbed people to value your fingers, hands and arms? What have you given that make you feel you have a right to expect things to be given to you?

There are things to be thankful for. The eyes that allow me to read the poetry of Hafiz of Shiraz, the tongue that allows me to declare ‘you are precious to me’, the fingers that make me press thought on key and churn out word and phrase, the ears that made it possible for my friend Nishad Handunpathirana to mesmerize me yet once again with his chosen instrument, the Dilrubha, the feet that makes it possible for me to take a stand, the spine that allows me to be straight, the skin that is made for caress, the nose for the fragrances that will mark moment, personality and event and the mindless heart that can love and love and love despite being knifed and knifed and knifed in bloody as well as bloodless ways. I can turn all these elements into one singular fact: speck of dust.

Yes, speck of dust. Small. Insignificant. Irrelevant. And still of a magnitude that warrants a million utterances of gratitude but is ‘equivalenced’ by a single, once-in-a-lifetime ‘thank you’ whispered with utmost and incomparable purity.

Thank you Aunty. I am blessed to receive.



Anonymous said...

Thank you ! we are blessed to read .