You shouldn’t have to die for people to say good things about you in front of others, but you basically do. If you want people to say good things about you in writing, you need to make sure that before you die you become famous, at least in a small circle that has its own website.
There isn’t enough expressed gratitude in the world and probably not enough gratitude period. We are, most of us, with some exceptions, self-absorbed and self-regarding creatures to begin with. We’d like to think that we’ve stretched ourselves through work and virtue rather than admit that we stand on the shoulders of giants. We don’t thank the giants because that would make people notice that we’re actually kind of short.
Adding to our fallen self-regard, our society promotes the idea that we make ourselves, for good or ill. Randians and virtue ethicists do this, for different reasons (the Randians for bad reasons, the virtue ethicists for good reasons), but they both keep us looking at our own choices and decisions. Catholics and cultural conservatives emphasize personal responsibility in reaction to materialist philosophies that deny it. This too keeps us looking at ourselves.
The editors of Ethika Politika want to encourage gratitude, for the living and the un-famous, as well as for the dead and well-known. We are starting a series called “Mentors and Heroes” in which writers can offer public thanks to people who’ve formed and helped them. Susannah Black’s tribute to Hadley Arkes was the first.
Some subjects will be well-known to readers and some known to almost no one. As editors of a website, we’re not unaware of the value of celebrity in drawing readers, and of the fact that celebrities can be due thanks too, but we’re also aware of how much celebrity culture has affected Catholic life and want to play against it.
We’d like stories of parents, pastors, teachers, friends, neighbors, strangers on whose kindness we’ve depended, even if no one besides the writer now remembers them, and trust that readers connect with the stories. It would be a poor sort of gratitude that was given only to people whose names would draw lots of readers. If the subject happens to be well-known, that’s all right.
Readers are invited to contribute. The subject must be someone you know or knew who had a direct influence on you. This isn’t a great books series, but a great people series. If you are interested, please write us with a description of the tribute you’d like to write at email@example.com.
You would have 800 to 1,200(ish) words. You would need to make the reasons for your gratitude as specific and concrete as possible. Of whatever virtue your subject was a paragon, give examples that will make the reader see that he was a paragon and agree that he is worthy of your tribute. To make the tribute specific and concrete may be a challenge but that’s the way to give thanks into which other people can enter.
There isn’t enough gratitude in the world. Please help us make sure there’s a little more than there was.