Gratitude and joy, Thoreau and Arendt

  Thoreau didn’t preach serenity and joy.  He found them under leaves and in a heron’s flight — in the least meadow or bobbing cranberry in the marsh. His brother John died an agonizing death, yet was also serene, grateful to have lived.

gratitude for life having been given at all is the spring of remembrance, for a life is cherished even in misery . . .  What ultimately stills the fear of death is not hope or desire, but remembrance and gratitude . . .

These are the words of a young Hannah Arendt, writing in Love and Saint Augustine.  They might have been Thoreau’s. 


2 comments on “Gratitude and joy, Thoreau and Arendt

  1. dmfant says:

    and a certain light
    makes anything artistic—
    it doesn’t matter what.

    From an airplane, all
    that rigid splatter of the Bronx
    becomes organic, logical
    as web or beehive. Chunks

    of decayed cars in junkyards,
    garbage scows (nimble roaches
    on the Harlem), herds of stalled
    manure-yellow boxes on twisting reaches

    of rails, are punched clean and sharp
    as ingots in the ignition of the sun.
    Rubbish becomes engaging shape—
    you only have to get a bead on it,

    the right light filling the corridor
    of your view—a gob of spit
    under a microscope, fastidious
    in structure as a crystal. No contortion

    without intention, and nothing ugly.
    In any random, sprawling, decomposing thing
    is the charming string
    of its history—and what it will be next.

    “Distance and a Certain Light” by May Swenso

  2. Steve says:

    “These words…might have been Thoreau’s.” Or Henry Bugbee’s!

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