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“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.” 

– Seneca

He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” – Epictetus

Gratitude is a powerful feeling that is like emotional balance, and gives the Ronin a strong life stance.

Those who are desperate and greedy, are unsure of who and what they are, and so, seek an identity from their possessions, and meaning from their retirement fund. They are all controllable, like the jackass following the corn cob held a few inches before its face forever. Those who are grateful for what they have enjoy a profound freedom and rich life.

I  have described objectifying your negative emotions and imagining them as beasts you must face in the arena. But gratitude is different. Gratitude is one emotion we want to keep inside when in the arena. It is a solvent for that dark twisting mass we find in our gut when the shit hits the fan. There may be times when you think that you have lost it all, and that it will get worse, it might, but cold, wet, and shivering alone as you might be, you can still unfold the memories and be grateful.

 When a group is in a survival situation, the one who can still find beauty and be grateful will be the last man standing. And if not grateful, then what? What is your feeling? What better feeling would you rather have?

Most imagine their lives as a minor role in an everlasting sitcom and so, are shocked when life writes them out of the play. I would have you visualize yourself as an extension of infinity. When you are doing this, infinity is like a vast ocean. You are only a wave upon this ocean, a bit of energy expressed as a wave, soon to sink back into the ocean of infinity, but always part of it. Life should not be taken for granted. It is so fucking incredible. Even if you are homeless, it is beyond words, and there is no limitation on your ability to collect beauty and be grateful.

How foul it is that men who could have dared at least somewhat, if not greatly, and experienced so much, are made slaves to such a drab life, that in their last moments they have little to remember with joy, and so many die saying, “..and yet, and yet.” It doesn’t have to be that way. We have discussed how beauty is limitless and free for the creating, and it is enshrined by the act of gratitude. When you die, you should be grateful, and while you live, you should be as grateful as if this day were your last. 

I have to believe that in the movie Blade Runner, that the dying android was grateful for, “.. all the sights these eyes have seen,” as they, ” vanish into time”

You will have a lifetime of incredible sights, if only you will notice. And oh so many of them could have been framed and hung on the wall of a gallery, if you but had a camera behind your eyes. Well you do, and the gallery is your memory, and its name is Gratitude.

For myself I am exceptionally “grateful,” that my wife is so healthy, that my children and grandchildren are doing so well. Also there is the good feeling and complete awareness of being not-dead. Gratitude is the feeling I have when I contemplate the adventurer of my life, all that I have done, and those who love me and that I love. I feel good just writing that paragraph. It makes me feel grateful.

Hopefully you can contemplate the above and know the feeling I wish to convey. Gratitude is a state of mind where there is no neediness, no greed, and no status seeking. I imagine this is almost buddha like. It is an emotion, I don’t care what they say. It causes the feel-good juices to flow in your brain. If you practice, which is part of our mnemonic, it will change your brain, and present you with a superior emotional armamentarium. You want this when you get a phone call from your doctor, and the first thing he says is, “I hate making calls like this.”

Those are the kind of things that happen to me now. When I was younger I would look out over the city and say, “All I need is food to eat, a place to sleep, and a challenge to meet.” This was a good feeling. And I am grateful that I had it then. Perhaps when I was young the only link I had with gratitude was through nature. Seeing all that there was beneath the vast blue dome when I was a child alone listening to the summer birds.

Now a form of gratitude is seeing your children on the stage doing the grammar school Christmas presentation. To summon gratitude, imagine that life is going to turn out exactly as you fantasize. So that you will find a winning lottery ticket, your marriage will evolve to a dream like state, and all the politicians from the opposing political party will turn to dust in the sun.

Now hold that feeling. And know that for this moment, for you, it is all true.

And in keeping with that do the following: under Beauty I asked you to take one iPhoto a day. Not a Selfie, but of something beautiful that you have realized or created. Now I am asking you to look at them once again and consider the following quote. 

When colour goes home into the eyes,

    And lights that shine are shut again

With dancing girls and sweet birds’ cries

    Behind the gateways of the brain;

And that no-place which gave them birth, shall close

The rainbow and the rose:

Still may Time hold some golden space

    Where I’ll unpack that scented store

Of song and flower and sky and face,

    And count, and touch, and turn them o’er,

Musing upon them; as a mother, who

Has watched her children all the rich day through,

Sits, quiet-handed, in the fading light,

When children sleep, ere night.”

I love this poem, and I used to have it on my wall. I am amazed at Rupert Brooke’s knowledge of how our experience is a part of us, as well as what we pass through. And now, as an old man, with so many boxes of memories to unpack, I can feel the poet’s words.

It may be that when you took the iPhoto, you were doing it only to satisfy the exercise. Now study it carefully and summon a feeling to go with it. If that doesn’t happen easily, then later today, when you take another photo, it might be when you have a feeling you wish to recall.

Remember that emotion drives us, not logic or reason. When you store “feeling,” in your photos, and learn to access emotion and feel gratitude for the life you have photographed, you are building a powerful energy, that will take you far. So be grateful to the universe. Thank all the actors in your “play,” even if they’re idiots, charlatans, and clowns, although that is hard, for they are a part of your life, and sustain you in the dark moments of the soul.

Share that photo. If you are having an experience of beauty, take a shot with your iPhone, and message it to a friend or someone you care about. As I write this, I am in Mexico over watching La Paz Bay, this morning I sent an iPhoto to my daughter-in-law.

That felt good to me. Now you try it. [Not to my daughter-in-law, but someone you care about.]