Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gratitude 2011

"Perhaps respect and gratitude are more important than we may think, ranking near the top of those modes of action we call ethics," writes Frances Cook, after describing Buddhist ethics.  Linking these--respect, compassion and gratitude--as Buddhism does, suggests that without respect and compassion, gratitude is empty, prone to be a celebration of selfishness.

There's some sense of that combination beyond selfishness in Thanksgiving traditions of family and extended family.  (I recall a few Thanksgivings comprised of a motley collection of people who had nowhere else to go.)  And in the ritual turkey dinners for the poor and homeless.  So it might be a necessary combination beyond the holiday, linking compassion, respect (for others, for the planet) and gratitude.  

I've been quoting Joanna Macy's essay on gratitude pretty much every year at this time.  Considering the news of the world these days, here are the most appropriate paragraphs:

"That our world is in crisis--to the point where survival of conscious life on Earth is in question---in no way diminishes the value of this gift; on the contrary. To us is granted the privilege of being on hand: to take part, if we choose, in the Great Turning to a just and sustainable society. We can let life work through us, enlisting all our strength, wisdom and courage, so that life itself can continue."

"The great open secret of gratitude is that it is not dependent on external circumstance. It's like a setting or a channel that we can switch to at any moment, no matter what's going on around us. It helps us connect to our basic right to be here, like the breath does. It's a stance of the soul...."

"There are hard things to face in our world today, if we want to be of use. Gratitude, when it is real, offers no blinders. On the contrary, in the face of devastation and tragedy, it can ground us, especially when we're scared. It can hold us steady for the work to be done."

Happy Thanksgiving in advance to U.S., belatedly to Canada.

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