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Tuesday, July 29, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 11/28/2013 - Updated: 8 months ago

COMMENTARY

Slowing life down and giving thanks

BY KEITH C. BURRIS
COLUMNIST FOR THE BLADE

I saw a film recently in which the protagonist resolves to live each day as if he is re-living it — this time to savor all the nuance, the little smiles and jokes and kindnesses. In other words, the small stuff that makes all the difference.

We slow down our lives to experience our lives. People do this in various ways — church, mosque, or synagogue; yoga, music, transcendental meditation, running.

Imagine if you could really do what the kid in that movie does: Really be in every moment; “make every day your masterpiece,” as the great coach John Wooden said.

Imagine making gratitude the organizing principle — and attitude — of your every-day life.

Thanksgiving is one of those slowing down things we do to try to recapture our lives, like a spontaneous prayer or a moving meditation.

Ever heard someone give such an unrehearsed prayer, maybe on this day?

I have.

It doesn’t have to be grand, or even grammatical, to be eloquent.

Such a prayer can remind, a way that a rote prayer cannot, of what it means to be a human being.

This year, I am going to try just thinking my own Thanksgiving prayer, composing it in my head.

William F. Buckley, who died a couple years ago, lived a full and grateful life. He wrote many books and always as an enthusiast. I have several, a few autographed, usually with the word “gratefully.” Mr. Buckley rhapsodized about Fifth Avenue in New York. He marveled at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He wrote the best prose I have ever read on sailing. His finest book is a little one called Gratitude. In it he writes about giving back. He endorses national service.

I think Thanksgiving is just about everyone’s favorite holiday. It’s not encumbered by gifts, expectations, or any other purpose but gratitude.

We slow down our lives, have a meal with loved ones, and say, maybe to someone in particular, or to the great I Am, or to no one in particular: Thank you.

Just, thank you.

It’s powerful.

Like all of you, I have my own litany. I am thankful for my wife and my three children; for health and the science of medicine; for the maple tree in my front yard; for a couple of churches where I go looking for blessed silence and the brotherhood of man. I am grateful for the First Amendment, for the printed word, for this newspaper in particular, and for people who read and care. I am grateful for the generosity of people in this city and for the heroes of this city. Sung and unsung. There are many.

Dan Rogers who runs the Cherry Street mission comes to mind. Baldemar Velasquez, who fights for dignity for migrant workers, and a better Toledo, comes to mind. Father James Bacik comes to mind. I heard Father Bacik speak last week and was privileged to spend some time talking with him a couple days later. “He is what I think of as a holy man,” said a friend who is a parishioner in his former church — Corpus Christi, adjacent to the UT campus. Father Bacik built that church over a 30-year period, while at the same time sustaining a second, parallel career as a Christian apologist and scholar.

Now retired from parish work Father Bacik teaches at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. His specialty has long been the great theologian Karl Rahner, who believed there was holiness in everyday life, and who thought there was an inherent yearning for God in all human beings, and who said that if you grasp a particular conception of God, it is not God.

Believe it or not, there is a Rahner T-shirt available on Amazon. It says: “Grace is everywhere, as an active orientation of all created reality toward God.”

We live in interesting times.

I am going to Zanesville, Ohio, today to break bread with my wife’s mother and sister and her husband and their two sons. Two of our children are taking a bus from New York City to Philly, where they will meet their brother. We will talk to them, by phone, at length no doubt, and see them all for a week at Christmas.

If I owned that T-shirt, I would wear it under my Christmas sweater. This is not a “Holy Day.” But it is a holy day. Take it slow. Savor it. Live it twice the first time.

Keith C. Burris is a columnist for The Blade.

Contact him at: kburris@theblade.com or 419-724-6266.



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