In “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,” a quirky little book by Marie Kondo, the author describes her technique for eliminating clutter in our lives. She advocates that we should take hold of every single one of our possessions and ask ourselves if it “sparks joy”. If not, we are to thank it for its service to us and discard it.
Kodo’s suggestion that we express our gratitude to inanimate objects for their use, reminds me of the scene in the classic film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, in which a grizzly old prospector, played by Walter Houston, has his younger partners pause and turn around to say “goodbye” and “thanks” to the mountain where they have struck it rich.
It is also seems similar to the Jewish tradition of kissing prayer books and other sacred texts as a way of expressing our thanks and affection after we have finished using them.
While the idea that we should say thank you to ordinary objects that we no longer need or want sounds odd; I don’t think it’s silly. Rather, it seems like a practice that helps to cultivate an attitude towards life that is filled with acknowledged appreciation. Moreover, a person who gives thanks even to the objects in their life, will be likely to feel and express gratitude to other people as well.
The Jewish tradition teaches that true happiness doesn’t come from the acquisition of riches. It is to be found in appreciating what we already have. As Ben Zoma taught in Pirkai Avot: “Who is truly wealthy? One who rejoices in his or her portion.”
May this new year of 2015 be one in which we all cultivate appreciation and find new ways to express our gratitude to God and other people for the many blessings in our lives