THANK YOU!—IN APPRECIATION OF GRATITUDE
By Rev. Dr. Arthur Chang
Gratitude is the feeling that I owe my life to everyone and everything. The summary idea for the allness of life is God. “Thank God!” coupled with the feeling of awe for the beauty of sky, rivers, oceans, hills and creatures that envelope
s one’s life. Awe is the awareness of the astonishing gift of beauty that is in, through and all around us at all times. It is what inspired Meister Eckhart von Hochheim (1260-1328) to say, “If the only prayer you ever pray is ‘Thank you!’ it will be enough.”
Gratitude brings the past into proper focus. Nothing is more important in the present than the feeling of gratitude, and gratitude is always a focus on the past, even when it is affirming how grateful we are to be alive. Every reflection is a looking back to the past, even instantaneous ones.
Gratitude reaches back into our prehistory to our ancient grandparents and if we really want to go back into the formation of our galaxies, we can give it a number that our minds cannot truly appreciate of some 15 billion years.
Ancient and not-so-ancient philosophers, such as Cicero, Seneca, and Adam Smith, preached the importance of giving thanks. Cicero and Seneca thought of gratitude as a key virtue foundational to any successful civilization. Are we measuring up? Every morsel of gratitude adds enormously to our happiness.
Judaism encourages its followers to start every day by being grateful for waking up again. Christianity also encourages “gratitude to God.”
Islam’s five daily prayers do not ask Allah for anything. It is to show gratitude towards Allah. These three religions of the Book fashion a unique role for gratitude, which is thanks to God who created this existence.
Gratitude, in the older writings of Theravāda Buddhism, connects practitioners to their past. Today, gratitude and the concept of karma are driving forces behind philanthropic Buddhism in China. Gratitude plays a unique role in Buddhism historically and presently. as it does in Christianity, Islam, and Judaism,
The value of gratitude is as essential to the soul as the air we breathe is essential to our bodies. To lose the eye of the artist is to lose the exquisite beauty of the world that we live in. Gratitude enlivens the flow of life and nourishes our souls.
To reclaim more of this soulful flow of life, we may start with the people around us such as family, friends, and coworkers. If they do not exist in sufficient numbers, then cultivate them by never losing a moment to express your gratitude for the quality of joy people bring to your life. In turn, the feeling of gratitude will bring kindness gushing from your life like an eternal spring. Eternal springs give life to everything in their path, and life, in turn, reciprocates spontaneously with its gifts.
In addition to family and friends, think also of your possessions with love and appreciation. Think of the person or people who made them and how much joy you have received from them. What were these people like as children? How is it that a whole world of anonymous people have contributed so much happiness to your life? Think of the foods available to you, when did you grow your own food? How blessed you are that you can give mere money for the labor of others. How long would you survive if you had to do grow all your own food? Think of the doctors and other professionals and skilled people who have made the order of your community possible. Think of the faults you can find with it all and then remember the aphorism of the ancient Chinese sage, Lao Tzu, “The bad man is the good man’s job.” In short, what we criticize is our area of work. Be grateful for it also.
To be grateful is to say a resounding “Yes!” to life—the good, the bad and the indifferent. They have all contributed to who we are. Armed with our body suit of gratitude, we will always have worthwhile work to do and find happiness doing it.
To all who have contributed to making my life what it is (and the whole universe has)—Thank You!