Margaret Visser, “The Gift of Thanks: The Roots and Rituals of Gratitude” (2009)

margaret-visser-the-gift-of-thanks-the-roots-and-rituals-of-gratitude-2009 “. . .The Gift of Thanks is a scholarly, many-angled examination of what gratitude is and how it functions in our lives. Gratitude is a moral emotion of sorts, Ms. Visser writes, one that is more complicated and more vital than we think. Ms. Visser acknowledges that simple politeness is the grease that keeps society running and, conversely, how much hostility can build up among people when words like ‘thanks’ are not spoken.
In Dante’s Inferno, she observes, ‘at the bottommost circle of hell, the ungrateful are punished by being eternally frozen in the postures of deference they had failed to perform during their lifetimes: trapped rigid in enveloping ice, they stand erect or upside down, lie prone, or bow face to feet.’
In The Gift of Thanks, however, Ms. Visser is most interested in the kind of gratitude that is not compulsory or self-interested. She writes about the humility required to be genuinely grateful, and the essential ability to climb out of one’s own head.” [. . .]    –Dwight Garner, The New York Times, November 17, 2009