I pray that his land is blessed by God:
with heaven’s gifts from above,
with the deep waters stretching out underneath;
with the gifts produced by the sun,
with the gifts generated by the moon;
with the best fruit from ancient mountains,
with the gifts of eternal hills;
with the gifts of the earth and all that fills it …
Deuteronomy 33:13-16 (Common English Bible)
This, it seems to me, is the way to see our world. If we saw it like that, perhaps we would stop exploiting it in such a mindless way. We are dependent upon these gifts, but they are gifts and need to be treated as such.
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.
‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you.’ … It is an idea given to our civilization but so far not accepted.
Wendell Berry, ‘Peaceableness toward Enemies’, in Sex, Economy, Freedom and Community