Dr. Mardy's Quotes of the Week
Nov. 26—Dec. 2, 2023 | THIS WEEK'S THEME: "Giving Thanks”
Opening Line of the Week
I have loved this opening line since I first came across it years ago, and that evocative phrase at the end—to express his thanks neatly—has been lodged in my mind ever since. Saying “thank you” is always in order, but it’s also important for us to give some thought to how neatly, or even beautifully, we’re expressing those thoughts. As we approach the end of another Thanksgiving weekend in America, the whole idea seems worthy of consideration.
This Week’s Puzzler
On Nov. 29, 1898, this man was born in Belfast, Ireland. Given the name Clive at birth, he was raised in comfortable circumstances (his mother came from a respected Irish family and his father was a solicitor). At age four, shortly after the family dog Jacksie was run over by a car, young Clive adopted the dog’s name as his own and, for the next year, refused to answer to his given name. He eventually accepted Jack as a substitute, and that became his nickname for the remainder of his life.
An early reader, he so loved the stories of Beatrix Potter that, by age ten, he began writing his own stories. By adolescence, his interest in childhood fables broadened to Norse and Greek mythology. In 1917, during his first year at Oxford, he interrupted his studies to serve as a WWI infantry officer.
He returned to Oxford after the war, graduating in 1923. In 1925, he began teaching at Magdalen College, where his writings and his research earned him an international reputation as a classical scholar. He retired from teaching in 1954 to focus exclusively on his writing. In addition to a series of seven fantasy novels collectively known as The Chronicles of Narnia, he wrote many books on Christian apologetics, including The Screwtape Letters (1942) and Mere Christianity (1952).
He also played an influential role in the careers of other writers. In a 1965 letter to a friend, J. R. R. Tolkien wrote about him: “The unpayable debt that I owe to him was not ‘influence’ as it is ordinarily understood, but sheer encouragement. He was for long my only audience. Only from him did I ever get the idea that my ‘stuff’ could be more than a private hobby. But for his interest and unceasing eagerness for more I should never have brought The L. of the R. to a conclusion.”
In a 1948 letter to a friend, this week’s Mystery Man offered this thought:
Who is this person? (Answer below)
Giving Thanks to the Good and the Bad
Having just celebrated another Thanksgiving Day, the quotation in this week’s Puzzler makes the intriguing suggestion that we should be grateful not only for the good things in our lives, but also the bad. The idea is not as strange as it might initially sound. In a 1939 speech at Princeton University, the German novelist Thomas Mann expressed it this way:
In his speech, Mann went on to add:
“Yes, suffering, too and perhaps most of all, can teach us to be grateful. We might almost go so far as to say that the source of gratitude is the power to suffer; and that a man’s capacity for gratitude is in proportion to the suffering he has gone through.”
The Puzzler quotation and Mann’s observation are both consistent with the idea that we should be grateful for everything that’s happened to us. The pioneering self-help author Wallace D. Wattles articulated this thought quite nicely in his 1910 classic The Science of Being Rich:
“Because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
If it’s possible to be thankful for everything that’s happened to us, can the idea be extended in the opposite direction to suggest that we might also be thankful for all the things that have not happened to us? This might strike you as unusual at first blush, but it is based on an important oxymoronic idea embedded in the popular saying, “Be careful what you wish for, it might come true.” In Journey From the North (1940), English writer Storm Jameson put it this way:
This intriguing notion that what we desire may not be the best thing for us has been explored by thinkers from the earliest days of civilization. In Aesop’s 6th century B. C. fable, “The Old Man and Death,” for example, the moral of the story reads:
“We would often be sorry if our wishes were gratified.”
And a century after Aesop, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus echoed the sentiment when he wrote:
“It would not be better for mankind if they were given their desires.”
This week, let me bring my remarks about thankfulness to a close by mentioning one other thing. Before I do, though, please forgive me if my remarks come across as a little “preachy,” and please don’t misinterpret what I’m going to say as some kind of veiled political statement. So, here goes:
If you’ve recently found yourself feeling as much animus or anger as gratitude, remember that you can’t be both hateful and grateful at the same time without doing some major collateral damage to your soul.
Okay, enough said.
For you American subscribers, I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Giving thanks, as it turns out, is far more complex than simply “counting our blessings.” I hope you factor this into your thinking as you reflect on this week’s theme. And as you do, here’s a sampling of quotations to stimulate your thinking:
The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest. — William Blake
I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. — G. K. Chesterton
A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues. — Marcus Tullius Cicero
If the only prayer you say in your entire life is “Thank You,” that would suffice. — Meister Eckhart
Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns. I am thankful that thorns have roses. — Alphonse Karr
In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. — Albert Schweitzer
We are in a wrong state of mind if we are not in a thankful state of mind. — C. H. Spurgeon
The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life. — Robert Louis Stevenson
Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. — William Arthur Ward
Be thankful for what you have—you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough. — Oprah Winfrey
A good home owes it, as an expression of thankfulness for its own happiness, to try and make up something of the lack that is in other homes. — Julia McNair Wright
For source information on these quotations, and many others on the topic of THANKFULNESS, go here.
Cartoon of the Week
Answer to This Week’s Puzzler:
C. S. Lewis (1898-1963)
Dr. Mardy’s Observation of the Week
Thanks for joining me again this week. See you next Sunday morning, when the theme will be “Adventure.”
Regarding My Lifelong Love of Quotations: A Personal Note
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