Something Only Humans Can Do

Humans are necessary to this world. They are probably the only sentient beings that can actually say “Thank you.” Not that this belittles the gratitude animals can show to each other and to human beings. But the difference I feel important lies in that humans can actually say so, not only show it.

We can say our thanks to visible and invisible beings. We can offer them on our own behalf or on that of other people. Whereas the silent show of gratitude is confined to the present and the beings involved, to be able to say “Thank you” bridges times and beings present. To say “Thank you” is more than just to express gratitude; rather, it’s a means that creates (or invites) an air of gratitude that embraces beings not present and times long gone or still to come.

There are landscapes in which humans cherish the invisible beings. The interrelation between humans and the invisible beings is seen as fragile as any relation between humans. Prayers and offerings of thanks are seen as nourishing those beings in pretty much the same way as saying “Thank you” nourishes our own relationships. “Thank you” recognizes the indebtedness to and dependence on other people as well as it feeds and nourishes the recipients of thank by publicly acknowledging their importance on us. Spirits, kind beings, helpers are not only acknowledged the same way, they pretty much thrive the same way as we humans do – as they perish when the expression of gratitude vanishes.

The invisible beings – be it some helper, some provider of natural richness, some ancestor, some beloved long gone – can be near or far away. They may be interacting with us right now or be kept in presence by the commemoration the offering of thanks delivers. The question whether those invisible beings are real or not is of minor importance as well as whether they are “out there” or “just” “inside us.” More important is that the acknowledgment of their contribution and influence, the recognition of dependence and indebtedness, keeps those beings in presence and nourishes them. Without that they vanish – first from our world, then from the world.

The human “Thank you” helps keeping times and beings at place. It preserves a way of being, a world of what’s given and what’s not, what’s real and what’s not, what’s permissible and what’s not. It helps keeping the world being, without in itself being a rational construct or an egoistic endeavour. (The human “Thank you” is kindness, not magic; you cannot thank sincerely and egoistically at the same time.) It is the human part in keeping times and places as one world. Without appreciation the world withers and perishes – just like every living being does. The human “Thank you” nourishes the world and thus keeping it in place. It is what particularly humans are suited to do.

 

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