Let's Digress

An Open Letter to New Agey People About Gratitude

Dear New Agey People,

I’ve been sitting on this question for a while, and no matter how much internet searching and book reading I do, I can’t seem to find an answer to it.

I don’t necessarily think it’s an overly complex question per se, but I think it’s one of those questions no one wants to talk about. So I’m just going to come out and ask it:

To whom are you grateful?

That’s it. To whom are you grateful?

I hear you New Agey people talk all the time about positivity, the universe (small “u” or big “U”?), the power of positive thinking, Godless spirituality, and gratefulness. I’ve already written about some of those other things here and here, but this time I’m curious about the gratitude part.

I see this “gratefulness” and “gratitude” theme all over the place in various articles, ads on social media, social media posts from people, and even just in everyday conversation.

I already know that older demographics of people and religious people tend to direct their gratitude toward God, family, friends, people who help them, etc. Their gratitude has a specific person, thing, or event that it’s directed at. They’re grateful to God for their numerous blessings in life; grateful to family for help after some life event; grateful to friends for their advice and weekly lunch outings; grateful to the Chickfila employee for bringing them a refill of that glorious sweet tea.

I understand all of that and it makes sense. But I haven’t really seen your brand of gratitude directed anywhere specific other than it being some vague emotion projected out into the ether of the universe (again, small “u” or big “U”?) somewhere. From where I stand, that seems to only make you guys just look like better people or helps you feel better about yourselves when compared to those of us who don’t do it. I don’t mean that to be as harsh as it sounds. Let me elaborate:

  1. Is your brand of gratitude supposed to be some fleeting emotion we’re supposed to tell other people about through various mediums to make us only look like better humans?
  2. Is gratitude supposed to be like humility, where over time we adopt the overall demeanor of being humble? So over time, we adopt the demeanor of gratitude?
  3. Or is it something different, like a specific sentiment that we direct at someone or something for a specific reason?

Personally, from the literature I’ve seen and people I’ve talked to, it only makes sense logically if it’s the third one, even if it’s in a grander, more existential kind of way.

Let me elaborate:

I’m grateful that I’m able to sit and type this, but my gratitude is directed somewhere specific: I’m grateful that I’m living in the best, richest, most prosperous country in this history of the world because I’m able to post this all over the internet and not worry about punitive legal issues thanks to the brilliance of the Founding Fathers for putting the First Amendment in place; I’m grateful for my parents because they raised me in a two-parent household, though far from perfect, but was and is still statistically the best indicator for children being successful; I’m grateful to my employer for having a facility with decent internet, electricity, seating arrangements, and a climate-controlled building; I’m grateful to my delightful wife for encouraging me to write words about things and for being my first editor; I’m grateful to God for all of those things and for all of the other blessings and hardships that I don’t have the time, mental stamina, or phalangeal stamina to list out.

Do you see what I mean? The gratitude I’m talking about has a specific person, thing, or act it’s directed toward. It’s not just an idea I’m telling people about or an emotion that’s being sent somewhere into the universe (once again, small “u” or big “U”?).

So, New Agey people, to whom are you grateful?




I’m grateful that you took the time to read this.

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