9 November 2021. The Spectator
Gratitude lives in the most beautiful hemisphere of memory. It rises every morning to wind up each one’s sun, and remind us that we are not alone; they say it is intangible, but I feel it has the form of a two-way embrace.
Gratitude is spoken and heard with the voice of affection, with the emotion of knowing that someone cares about us, and the humility of acknowledging what others have done for us. Gratitude is knowing that someone was there to teach us how to colour the world and to show us how to shoo away sadness; someone helped us to build feelings that were worthwhile, to erect scaffolds of freedom and to draw coordinates so that peace would not be lost in the dark night of violence. But in addition to knowing it, it is necessary to feel it openly: gratitude is not a secret to be kept in the niche of silence. I read somewhere that gratitude that is not expressed is like having a packaged gift…and not giving it away.
That is why I am writing this today, as an open letter, as a testimony that I want to give to the recipients who have marked my life and to those who have accompanied it, even if only in fragments, perhaps without even knowing it. I write it also as an invitation for no one to keep their gratitude bottled up: let us not be afraid or vain to recognise that we would not be what we are if life and miracles had not taken notice of us; if instead of staying by our side, they had abandoned us to an uncertain fate, and we would have had to grow up without a tree nearby, or work, live and think alone.
We are what we are because someone taught us to count with our fingers not on numbers, but on the stars; they taught us to play seriously with words and to defend ideas; not to hide from light or darkness, because in both we can be of use, learn from someone, give a glimpse of happiness or sow a handful of fertile soil.
We understood long ago that neither arrogance nor fear are good counsellors, and that ingratitude would make the space where we keep our memories miserable.
We are what we are because we breathe to the rhythm of affection and we are exhausted by all the times we have had to say goodbye; we rebuild ourselves in the encounters – in the sporadic ones, in the intense ones, in the redemptive ones – and we know that we are here and now to be part of the courage and amazement that prefer defiance to habit and translate incomprehension into Esperanto. Courage and wonder, when the extremes of life touch us and the curtains close and open in front of us.
Gratitude does not mean saying thank you or keeping silent: it means making those who have given us so much of themselves feel that perhaps we would not be alive today if they had not rescued us in time; that starting over would be impossible if they had not shared with us their fortitude and their smile; that our hearts would be very hungry if they had not given us a little piece of the mother mass of affection.
This column is for all those who one day helped forge the strength of my spirit or someone else’s; shaped the tenderness of bonds and the courage of hope; and ensured that no matter how strong the winds, we held our souls high. I write this column because I feel, and I confess to the four heavens, immense gratitude for all those who have helped me to reach the last third of life like this, imperfect, with an awakened soul, with skin and eyes sometimes tired… but with an open gaze.