Tuesday, November 25, 2014

7:30 BELLS: “Praisegiving” and Thanksgiving

How is praise different from gratitude? Thanksgiving sets off the rounds of giving and expressing thanks for what is good in our lives. But I must confess, these recitations of the “be-gratitudes,” have always made me feel a little “squirrely,” as my father-in-law would say. When my turn comes at the table, the turkey steaming expectantly, I want to bolt. I’ve never understood why. There is nothing wrong, and much right, with saying things like:

  • I’m grateful for the sun and all this glorious world.
  • I’m thankful for the hands that prepared this feast.
  • I’m grateful for the heart that holds love.

Only when I began reading the work of the ecstatic poets such as Mirabai, Rilke, Dickinson, Whitman, did I understand why recitations of gratitude made me “squirrely.” The ecstatic poets essentially praise the world, people, objects, and whatever their conception of the divine is. Praising flows outward, and seems less self-oriented than gratitude. It’s about the world instead of me. Notice how you can drop the subject, I:

  • Praise the sun, and all this glorious world.
  • Praise the hands that prepared this feast.
  • Praise the heart that holds love.

Now this type of giving thanks I love and could do all day. So this Thanksgiving, I’m going to try “Praisegiving,” aloud and in silence, and see if that is my way to resound with the day. So I will start with the Lore of the Bell:

Praise the bells that ring and ring

7:30 BELLS Posts run every Tuesday.
7:30 BELLS Guest Posts run on the second Tuesday of every month.
Winter Bells will be announced next week.


  1. How interesting, Dia. But I think I respectfully disagree. Let me see if I can muster the right thoughts to explain how/why in a way that makes any sense...

    Gratitude seems the more fundamental, more tangible, and less intellectual emotion to me. Hmm, why... I don't disagree that gratitude allows the feeler to remain in the equation, but I think that's its value. First because it acknowledges both sides (in my cosmology, certainly not everyone's) of the Godhead, human as well as divine, mortal as well as eternal, flesh as well as spirit. But maybe more important to me, gratitude is something to be felt. It's a noun. Praise seems to me a verb, something to do. We don't speak of feeling praise... that's what we do when we feel it. Arguing against myself for a moment, as a writer obviously I know the importance of verbs... you are what you do and all that. But (maybe because I'm struggling with writing emotion right now), we have to feel something before we are moved to act... and I have to feel gratitude before I'm moved to praise (or any other equivalent act, like protect, point out, sing about, remember). Having written this, though, I can totally see your argument for praise, too. :) Happy Thanksgiving (and thanks for letting me take up space on your blog to puzzle out what I feel. Some of us only know what we feel by writing it out, ha.).

  2. Also, gratitude feels to me like it celebrates the relationship more. No one, not even a Divinity, can give if there's nobody there with the humility and/or grace to receive. (Which a lot of us, uncomfortable with receiving, may notice this time of year.) Praise can be given to an indifferent god. Gratitude can't. (Or can it?)

    And yet, it seems to me that gratitude is all that's required of us. Praise is optional, and takes many forms: a dog barking, the last maple leaf spiraling from the tree, a writer struggling to catch it in words.

    Great topic. I don't know why this touches a button on me.

  3. Thanks, Joni, for taking the time to share your thoughts. I'm glad that gratitude works for you. So long as we each find our way to celebrate this world and our participation in it, that's the essential thing. For me, praising works better, perhaps because it does take many forms. Also I know that the praise is coming from me, the noun, the subject, but in the declaration of it, I am stepped back, which allows the praise to me more about what I'm praising, and less about me. That works for me. I wanted to share that idea because I think it may give others an avenue to celebrate the world which they might not have considered before. Thanks again for taking the time to share your ideas.

  4. One more thought . . . Perhaps praising works for me because I see myself, the "I of me," as part of the universe and the divine, and not separate from it. Not individual, not something other, or outside.

    Thanks, Joni, for sparking me toward clarity!

  5. Ah, an important difference (or removal of difference, ha). I'll have to think about praise more in that context, but very persuasive!