Sunday, December 10, 2006

Gratitude sets the stage for Joy...

I’ve done some thinking about the relationship of sorrow to joy and I’ve concluded that what happened to me and my sister (referring to an early post on Joy) offers some insight into how we might prepare to receive Joy.

It seems to me that the first step must be Gratitude. A recent study published in the Seattle Times describes a scientific method for being happier, and it doesn’t involve drugs. It suggests that unhappy people can become happier if they begin a discipline of gratitude, if they think every day of at least three good things that have happened to them during the day.

Feeling grateful to someone who has been kind, feeling thankful for the benefits of everyday life, saying thank you to the universe for its beauty ---gratitude is a gift we can give no matter what our circumstances.

Remember how good it feels when someone writes you a thankyou note for something you have done for them? It makes me feel great and it makes me feel grateful in return for that person’s thoughtfulness. I believe that when we give the gift of gratitude, we prepare to be surprised by Joy.

Another step in setting the stage for Joy, I think, is recognizing the connectedness we have to one another. I call this Hope, the sure knowledge that we are part of the inexhaustible stream of life, that we belong in this universe, that we are part of Creation, part of life. And when we give Hope to ourselves and to others, I believe we prepare to be surprised by Joy.

The third stage, perhaps, is Love, reaching out in kindness and support to our companions on the road, whether we agree with them theologically or politically, whether we think they’re nice people, whether we approve or disapprove, whether we receive from them what we would like to receive. Giving Love without limits is yet another way, I believe, to prepare to be surprised by Joy.

So we prepare for Joy by expressing Gratitude, by finding Hope in our connection to others, and by giving Love wherever we can. Kind of another Trinity, maybe, one that gives legs to our sense of relationship with the Divine and our human need to do something to make that relationship real.


Anonymous said...

So beautiful!

LinguistFriend said...

Trinity? Eeek!

LinguistFriend said...

I have been trying to think how to respond to this besides in the facetious mode, since it deserves better.
First, I have nothing agaist the trinity or the number three, which in fact is my favorite number. Any number that can get away with something like
1 + 2 + 3 = 1 x 2 x 3
deserves well of us, if only for the sake of its ingenuity.
Second, this (your) sort of discourse has much insight and charm, and a sort of courage; it is on a level that ministers, clinical psychologists, and a few other groups (school counselors?) are privileged to engage in. There is something to it, despite people like me who are more comfortable with things like psychophysical scaling. If everyone had to figure out such steps in life on an analytic level before acting, of course, noone would get married, and neither would babies be conceived or born, with or without the benefit of appropriate rites. We're stuck with saying and acting on things like "I love Mabel!" (disclaimer: I know noone named Mabel). They do not analyze situations or communicate perfectly, but they keep the world moving so that there is hope of learning to do it better.
Third, now that we are coming up on Christmas, it needs a rationale for those of us who cannot attribute much sanctity to the Saturnalia and Germanic rites behind our Christmas rituals, and are not sure about the idea of a messiah. In practice, of course, Christmas is focussed mostly on children, who for most of us constitute at some point our greatest expression of faith, of belief that somehow we can make things work out, both for the world in general and for those we bring into it. That is not messianic faith, but it is faith of a sort that we can and must share with many peoples.

ms. kitty said...

LF, often you add so much richness as you comment on my posts that I am quite bowled over. Thank you for the dignity with which you endow my efforts to communicate insight without sounding too shallow.

Joel Monka said...

Excellent post! I, too, believe that gratitude is something we should practice more often- I wrote about it in my own blog, CUUMBAYA: My favorite word of reverence