06 April 2011

Where culture meets the divine

"Human beings think; and thankfulness is both deeply emotional and a form of thought. Since it is not a purely natural and automatic response, gratitude has to be taught – first that it exists and is possible, then how to recognize it and the occasions for it, and finally that one is capable of it oneself. ... Being disposed to be grateful may now, if she practices it, become part of what we call her 'character.' Gratitude arises from a specific circumstance – being given a gift or done a favor – but depends less upon that than on the receiver's whole life, her character, upbringing, maturity, experience, relationships with others, and also on her ideals, including her idea of the sort of person she is or would like to be. One can see the mighty influences of 'culture' in all this: gratitude is taught within the context of a specific culture, and is usually carried out through the medium of a manners system. ... Gratitude is not a knee-jerk reaction; it does not cause automatic withdrawal like disgust or vastly heightened physical energy like anger. It does produce a response, undetermine in its nature but very specific in its reason – which always goes beyond the gift to the giver." (The Gift of Thanks, Margaret Visser, 2008; page 287). 
Therein is how we come to know God, through the appreciation of His gifts of providence beyond the gift of the natural environment to the First Giver that He is. Our knowledge of Him does not occur in the natural realm but in the man-made, artificial realm where culture meets the divine in consecratory acts and institutions. 
Sanctity is the divine analogue to the artifice of culture.  

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