‘I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.’ – E.B. White
Some of us know this feeling: activists by nature, we feel guilty if we’re not diagnosing problems and trying to offer solutions that resist appearing too facile. In a week that began with the death of the remarkable artist David Bowie and is finishing with the first British astronaut taking part in a spacewalk outside the International Space Station, the immediate reaction from some of us is to try to add some new profundity into the echo chamber of social media, hoping against hope that we will stumble upon some unspoken thought. But it’s a fool’s errand, destined to end in frustration with every log-on to Facebook.
So, there are no new thoughts here, no mining for a new social comment; just a moment to be grateful. Grateful that we lived at a time when we were able to appreciate a musical artist’s output. Grateful for his refusal to stay the same, grateful for his ability as a wordsmith, grateful for the moments when we were left flummoxed by his latest reinvention. And as we watch the shots of Tim Peake walking in space, grateful for the scientific minds that made it possible, grateful for the courage of those ready to leave the capsule to float in a most peculiar way.
The artist and the astronaut cause us to pause and wonder. This, at least in part, is what it means to be made in the image of the Great Artist. We are designed to delight one another in our abilities with sound and vision. We know that the world is transformed when we see it through it another’s lens. So we give thanks for those who ‘sit right down, waiting for the gift of sound and vision’.
G.K. Chesterton maintained that ‘thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder’. If he was right, this is a week for high thoughts, expressed 3000 years ago by another artist when he wondered at the dignity of humanity, ‘crowned with glory and honour’ (Psalm 8:5).
We live in an amazing world, surrounded by amazing people, all offered as gifts to us. We don’t need to change everything every day. Some days it’s enough to say ‘thank you’.