Friday, April 11, 2014

The Gratitude Tense

From 'A Tale for the Time Being' by Ruth Ozeki - another serendipitous find at my favourite second-hand book store, 'The Book Worm'.

"My old Jiko really likes it when I tell her lots of details about modern life. She doesn't get out much anymore because she lives in a temple in the mountains in the middle of nowhere and has renounced the world, and also there's the fact of her being a hundred and four years old. We don't really know for sure how old she is, and she claims she doesn't remember, either. When you ask her, she says, "Zuibun nagaku ikasarete itdaite orimasu ne."

Zuibun nagaku ikasarete itadaite orimasu ne - "I have been alive for a very long time, haven't I?" Totally impossible to translate, but the nuance is something like: "I have been caused to live by the deep conditions of the universe to which I am humbly and deeply grateful."

P. Arai calls it the "gratitude tense" and says the beauty of this grammatical construction is that "there is no finger pointing to a source". She also says, "It is impossible to feel angry when using this tense."

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