Zadie Smith’s On Beauty did never quite engage me in the way that I had expected, but here are what for me were the book’s three highlights:
… poetry is the first mark of the truly civilized.
And so it happened again, the daily miracle whereby interiority opens out and brings to bloom the million-petalled flower of being here, in the world, with other people.
It’s like he knows he’s blessed, but he doesn’t know where to put his gratitude because that makes him uncomfortable, because that would be dealing in transcendence – and we all know how he hates to do that. So by denying there are any gifts in the world, any essentially valuable things – that’s how he shortcircuits the gratitude question. If there are no gifts, then he doesn’t have to think about a God who might have given them. But that’s where joy is. I’m on my knees to God every day.
In the last quote it is the book’s male hero’s teenage son speaking and displaying far more wisdom than his father ever manages. There is such profound truth in the equation of gratitude and joy. Being grateful to God – that indeed is where true joy is.