An article called “Gratitude” by Joanna Macy was published in the November issue of Shambhala Sun, appropriately for Thanksgiving in the U.S., and also for the post-gifted holiday season.
But Macy’s concept of gratitude is especially interesting in that it doesn’t change as circumstances do: whether or not you got what you wanted for Christmas, or everyone in your family is healthy, or any of the other good things we are of course grateful for.
Macy is writing about a deeper gratitude, with spiritual and political ramifications.
The article begins:
“We have received an inestimable gift. To be alive in this beautiful, self-organizing universe–to participate in the dance of life with senses to perceive it, lungs that breathe it, organs that draw nourishment from it–it is a wonder beyond words. It is an extraordinary privilege to be accorded a human life, with self-reflexive consciousness that brings awareness of our own actions and the ability to make choices. It lets us choose to take part in the healing of our world.”
“Gratitude for the gift of life is the primary wellspring of all religions, the hallmark of the mystic, the source of all true art. Yet we so easily take this gift for granted. That is why so many spiritual traditions begin with thanksgiving, to remind us that for all our woes and worries, our existence itself is an unearned benefaction, which we could never of ourselves create.
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.
There is so much to be done, and the time is so short. We can proceed, of course, out of grim and angry desperation. But the tasks proceed more easily and productively with a measure of thankfulness for life; it links us to our deeper powers and lets us rest in them….”