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Thursday, 12 July 2012


Someone was talking about cats and dogs and remarked on the ingratitude of cats. I think this is probably why I am at ease with them. In contrast, dogs make me uncomfortable. They are smelly and sloppy and jump all over you (reminding you of the time when you were attacked by one) but there's more to it than that. They just like humans too much. It's not natural.

Gratitude makes me uncomfortable. There is a spontaneous, uncomplicated kind of gratitude which expresses itself and then disappears. I am fine with that. But I am always afraid that gratitude will get mixed up with guilt and consequently endure longer than it should. It becomes an expression of loyalty and I am not very comfortable with that either. Loyalty usually comes mixed up with guilt or is used to dump guilt on the object of loyalty.

Children are naturally ungrateful and I think this is a healthy trait. The job of children is to exhaust you, take your love and your money, and then fuck off. They don't owe you any gratitude. If they still love you or at least quite like you after the way you have brought them up, that's surely wonderful and as good as it ought to get.

Children are not insurance policies against your old age, though that is how they have often been treated in many cultures around the world and still are. I always find myself quite angered by this when I encounter it. Of course, I know it's connected to the fact that my mother - as the youngest of seven - ended up with the job of staying at home to care for her ageing (and I suspect, difficult) mother and that, in turn, my mother (more than difficult) rather hoped that I would stay at home and keep her company. It may have been a close run thing that I didn't.

The interest to me of the Japanese film The Ballad of Narayama is that it portrays a culture where old people know they should make way: the story revolves around a man reluctant to carry out his duty, which is to take his mother up to the mountain and - now that she has reached the age of seventy - leave her there to die.

Compare and contrast with the sickly relationship between son and mother in the (amusing, of course) film Goodbye Lenin! .

I suppose one might say of today's Blog: There's gratitude for you!

Added 25 July 2018: Material from this Blog post is included in my book The Best I Can Do (degree zero 2016), freely available from Amazon, Waterstones, and other booksellers

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