The man who truly and disinterestedly enjoys any one thing in the world, for its own sake, and without caring twopence what other people say about it, is by that very fact forearmed against some of our subtlest modes of attack. You should always try to make the patient abandon the people or food or books he really likes in favor of the “best” people, the “right” food, the “important” books. I have known a human defended from strong temptations to social ambition by a still stronger taste for tripe and onions. –C. S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters
I know that I have written several times before on this blog about the value of thankfulness; it really does seem to be one major key to spiritual life. If yet another inducement to gratitude is needed, however, it is provided by Lewis in the delightful passage above. Being thankful not just for the big things—creation, salvation, sanctification—but for all the tiny, trivial details of life reminds us of what really gives us joy, and that joy points back to the creator of all happiness. What do you love, not because of any boost it can give to your ambition or to your pride, but just because it exists? What makes you forget yourself entirely in pure delight? It is for these things that should thank God daily.
Believe me, I know what it feels like to be delighted in things that I sometimes am ashamed to mention. I’m an English concentrator at Harvard, and yet I like science fiction, murder mysteries, and Top 40 radio; shouldn’t I be reading John Ashbery and Jonathan Franzen and listening to indie bands that no one’s ever heard of? Sure, I can tell this to you, my loyal readers; but would I mention that one of my favorite authors is best known for his Star Wars books to a potential employer or a first date? No, probably not. And that’s because I spend more time thinking about social ambition than thanking God for my own personal tripe and onions.
And this is where gratitude comes in. If we spend more time thanking God for what really delights us, it will be harder for us to get wrapped up in conforming to what other people think. Maybe John Ashbery, Jonathan Franzen, and indie bands thrill you to the tips of your toes; praise God for creating people who could be such wonderful artists, and don’t pay any attention to my reverse-snobbery. If, on the other hand, your leisure reading preferences are more like mine, thank God for the excitement of spaceships and strange new worlds. And if you really, truly do like tripe and onions, thank God for that. Thankfulness of any kind will draw your mind away from the narrowness of your own ego and towards the vast creation, and the vaster Creator.