The last words of D.T. Suzuki—the Japanese author largely responsible for the spread of Zen Buddhism to the West—were, “Don’t worry. Thank you! Thank you!” How lovely it is: an old man at the end of his life grateful to the world for all it had given him. For hundreds of years, across empires and countries, through fiction or poetry, regardless of gender or language, people have written about emotions of all kind. Below are five wildly different examples of how they have handled the complicated idea (or expression) of appreciation.

“I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett.”

Robert Browning loved Elizabeth Barrett’s poetry, so he wrote to her in 1845 and told her so. These were his first words in a correspondence that grew to over 500 letters, and they were married nearly two years later despite her poor health (her family then disowned her). Theirs is a message that is at once simple, romantic, and candid: if you love someone’s verses and you want them to know, tell them.

“What's really important here,” I whispered loudly to myself, “is not the big things other people have thought up, but the small things you, yourself have.”

Sputnik Sweetheart is quite a jarring book, often overshadowed by Haruki Murakami’s more acclaimed writing. The line you see is what I consider to be the ultimate form of appreciation: the deep recognition of our own worth in those beautiful fragments of individuality, a true love for the small things that we alone create.

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

One of life’s greatest challenges is to find a topic Jane Austen has not written about exceptionally. Here is one of literature’s most notable masculine figures, Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy, exploding with passion towards Elizabeth Bennet at the end of Pride and Prejudice. He contained himself for thirty-three chapters and then he boiled over, his honest emotion too much to censor anymore.

“Out of this same light, out of the central mind,
We make a dwelling in the evening air,
In which being there together is enough.”

Sometimes thankfulness—for life, a moment, or a person—can be absolutely quiet. Wordless and still. This is the final stanza of Final Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour by Wallace Stevens, and is a wonderful reminder that a tighter hug or a deeper breath—togetherness—shows more gratitude than could ever be forced into a sentence.  

“Even 
After 
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,
'You owe me.'
Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.”

With absolute selflessness, as depicted in this poem by Hafiz, you get this: the kind of unselfish love—as Martin Luther King would call it, “a kind of dangerous unselfishness”—that is invincible. You show the world your love, immune to its reaction, and march ahead no matter what you get back.

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Joe Stephens is the creator of little hunches, an incubator of creative thought and a place where ideas collide and connect. A firm advocate of restlessness, he’s also an entrepreneur, a lawyer, and an Ironman triathlete working on his first book.

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