I'm always a little uneasy around the word 'gratitude." Gratitude is a feeling and it's axiomatic that we shouldn't be told how to feel. I'm generally more comfortable with the word "appreciation" which seems to me more an attitude, an orientation, almost an action, than gratitude.
Nonetheless, I will share for today two quotations that seem pretty worthwhile to me - even though they use the G-word.
Contemporary author Melody Beattie says: "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."
Still more impressively, Lutheran minister and World War II martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer had this to say on the subject: "In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich."
". . . it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich." -- Powerful stuff!
A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe," a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.
Having described the problem, Einstein then continues:
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but the striving for such achievement is in itself a part of the liberation and a foundation for inner security.
Sometimes I take this literally, but more often figuratively. Either way, I think it's beautiful and it does sum up much of what I want and feel:
One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27:4) (NIV)
We live very much outside ourselves. Few people really enter inside themselves, and for this reason, there are so many problems. In the heart of each person there is a small, intimate place [a monk's cell], where God comes down to converse alone with people. That is where each person decides his or her own destiny, his or her own role in the world.
If each of us who have so many problems, in this moment, would enter into this small cell, and from there, listen to the voice of the Lord, that speaks to us in our own conscience, how much could each of us do to improve the environment, the society, the family in which we live. (Archbishop Oscar Romero, homily of July 10, 1977)
“How much you move affects your strength, your power, your balance, how you look, how you think, how well you withstand the high winds and rain showers of life and how long you will stand. Everyone needs concentrated doses of several kinds of movement to remain functional.” – Eric Heiden
Often I feel not-too-good when awakening in the morning. The Dalai Lama apparently recommends that we face our new day like this:
Every day, think as you wake up, "Today I am fortunate to have woken up. I am alive, I have a precious human life. I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry, or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can."
Once again I am going through some very unhappy times with my family. In reaching out to art, philosophy and spirituality for some comfort, I came across a book called Decision Making and Spiritual Discernment, by Nancy Bieber.
Nancy Bieber is a Quaker and a very interesting lady. I've found comfort and nourishment in reading just the few pages at her website.
I've also ordered her book. Here are two sentences from its early pages:
Making decisions is inherently sacred work, even when we don't recognize it as such. Through our decisions, we shape our unique and sacred lives."
I hope that my friend and fellow blogger am will forgive me for a bit of shameless pilfering from her very fine blog, Talking 37th Dream with Rainbow. Just a few days ago she quoted the following from Thomas Merton:
Do not depend on the hope of results. … you may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself.
-- Thomas Merton in a letter to Jim Forest dated February 21, 1966, reproduced in The Hidden Ground of Love: Letters by Thomas Merton