Cultivating a relationship of gratitude towards the world

This short post by the always thought-provoking L. M. Sacasas captured something I’ve tried to articulate a few times recently. How do we approach our existence in a way which is open to it rather than seeking to exercise control over it? The more difficult that control becomes to exercise due to circumstances which precede and exceed the boundaries of our agency, the more important this becomes as an existential orientation:

We have a hint of it in Hannah Arendt’s warning against a “future man,” who is “possessed by a rebellion against human existence as it has been given, a free gift from nowhere (secularly speaking), which he wishes to exchange, as it were, for something he has made himself.” We hear it, too, in Wendell Berry’s poetic reminder: “We live the given life, not the planned.” It is, I would say, a capacity to receive the world as gift, as something given and with an integrity of its own that we do best to honor. It is to refuse a relation of “regardless power,” in Albert Borgmann’s apt phrase, and to entertain the possibility of inhabiting a relation of gratitude, wonder, and care grounded in a fundamental humility. In one way or another, all that I have to say about technology is rooted in this possibility.

I’d like to explore the connection here to Margaret Archer’s argument about the relationship between contextual instability and personal reflexivity. Her argument is that instrumental reflexivity presupposes stability in the context to ensure that means can reliably lead to ends. In the absence of that stability, there is a need for alternative ways to orientate ourselves towards the context. This can involve a turn towards meta-reflexivity, using personal concerns as sounding boards in order to navigate the questions posed by our life, but it can also lead to a turn towards gut instincts and expressive actions to move through life in a sequence of disconnected episodes.

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