“For all that has been — thanks. For all that will be — Yes".
These are the words of Dag Hammarskjdld who was Secretary General of the United Nations during the 1950s. He was tragically killed in an air crash whilst still in his mid fifties. I have to say I rather like the sentiment of this quote. For all that has been Thanks. Of course, that is perhaps easy to say if nothing has gone wrong, but should one be grateful for illness, tragedy and the things that go wrong in life? Not surprisingly, I’m going to answer that question with ‘No’. However, I don’t really think that’s what this quote means. Saying the words, I know exactly the sentiment they contain, but it’s difficult to explain. I think what it is about is cultivating gratitude for life in its fullness. We, after all, are here. As Richard Dawkins puts it in ‘Unweaving the Rainbow’ “The potential people who could have been here in my place [or yours] but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here”.
Our very existence, the fact that we’re here at all, is against all the odds. So when we say “For all that has been-Thanks. For all that will be - Yes” we are affirming, very positively, the joy of being alive; Seeing life as a whole, rather than just the good, bad or even indifferent bits. It’s not being grateful for the bad things, but rejoicing in the fact of being alive. In the words of the song we sang at Infants School:
Glad that I live am I, that the sky is blue;
Glad for the country lanes and the fall of dew.
After the sun the rain, after the rain the sun;
This is the way of life till the work be done.
All that we need to do, be we low or high,
Is to see that we grow nearer the sky.
Lizette W. Reese
Years ago it was common practice to say grace before a meal -to give thanks. I must confess that I don’t do this very often. But 1 do think it’s quite a good practice to say thank you for this food, for those who sowed seeds and harvested crops, and reared the animals that gave the meat and milk. To those who transported the food, those who processed it and those who prepared it.
One could add, perhaps, more. But it’s good to be mindful that no food just gets there on its own. In fact nothing that makes life possible just gets there on its own. So gratitude is a kind of mindfulness, and grace is a way of saying that life is not earned but it is nevertheless given.
In October we shall have most of our Harvest Festivals. In a way the Harvest Festival is a way for the community as a whole to say grace. For what we have and for what we are about to receive may we be truly thankful.
Vicar’s thoughts for October 2016