To depart for a moment from the agricultural focus of this blog, I’ve been thinking yesterday and this morning about the concept of gratitude, and what part it has to play is leading a fully realized, happy and meaningful life as a human being.
What is gratitude when you really get down to it? Is it a logical acknowledgment of all that has come before, and is setting one up for good things to come – an understanding that without certain, people, places, events, we wouldn’t be exactly where we are right now? Or to what extent is gratitude simply a feeling we get?
Ahhh, balance Daniel Son. I would submit that gratitude is the pursuit of a constant acknowledgment, leading then to an inseparable feeling of gratitude from everyday experience. It seems often that gratitude arises an as “after the fact” recognition – “gosh, I’m glad that my friend was willing to pick me up when I missed the last bus at three in the morning”; “I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today if my 4th grade English teacher hadn’t made me work so hard on editing my poetry”; “mmmm… I am so grateful that my mom decided to brine the turkey this year!’.
For me, it’s particularly interesting to find a balance between acknowledging these specific, powerful instances, and realizing that each of these is the result of any number of preceding circumstances, instances, reactions, people, places, things bumping into each other and rattling around in this universe. To be grateful for the friend who picks you up from the bus stop is to be grateful for the designer of the machine that allowed his car to be assembled on a line in Japan, for the founding members of the school the designer attended, for the friends he or she made at college who convinced them that they should part from their parents’ wishes that they be a doctor and pursue a passion in engineering and design. Not to mention the first person who identified the unique properties of a rubber tree, the city planner who determined when the last bus would run, or the lifetime of events and mishaps that led to you forgetting about daylight savings time.
To be grateful for anything is to be fully in acceptance of all the good and bad that has conspired together to produce any given moment. In some sense then, to be grateful is simply being mindful. It is easier for us to seize on certain moments, when we recognize that we couldn’t have reached point B without starting at point A – but it seems to me that it’s easy to forget that between having an amazing conversation with a friend and missing the bus, there any number of moments that each owe their existence to the infinite moments preceding. Thus, we have just as much cause to be grateful stuck in traffic as when we arrive safely at home, and embrace again our loved ones. The getting home is just one more event stacked on top of all the others, including getting stuck, that are the ever-evolving product of something awfully beautiful: tragic, elegant, and trending towards that which we intend.
Being grateful then may be the choice, in the present, to simply recognize how we got here, and the search for gratitude and mindfulness then the constant dialogue between the nature of a given moment , be it good or bad, and the acknowledgment of a moment’s context. To me, to be grateful asks much more of us than thank you for this, thank you for that. It asks that we push ourselves to take in as much of this world’s great history as we can, and accept all of it, sublimating all that beauty and sadness into intention – an intention to be a part of bending that vast progression of stars and steps towards love, justice, and art. Gratitude is the choice we make to look at all these things and say “thank you” – whatever “you” may mean to you.
I am grateful for my family, for my friends, for all those I have gotten to share these past weeks with (and so much more). I am grateful for friends and family both for the immediate swell of joy and love that I feel in thinking of them, and also because I am trying my darndest to realize how lucky I am that they are all a part of what precedes me, here and now. We all get a story in this universe, we all get a wholly unique viewpoint from which to view the world, and true gratitude to me may be proof that the world is trending towards something good.
I hope this isn’t all too lofty – just thought I’d share some mullings after a delicious meal and wonderful company last night – not to mention blueberry pancakes this morning! Now there’s something to be grateful for!
My love and gratitude to you,