Saturday, April 14, 2018

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, April 14, 2018 - The Secret to Life

There is one great overarching message which all mythology and religion tells us. It is repeated over and over. Story after story, it is drilled into us. God(s) want us to be grateful. They want our praise, our devotion. They expect total obedience and lengthy worship. At least, that’s how we have interpreted it.
The haphazard character of humanity is so often ascribed to divinity. We love to believe that God feels the way we feel. That God is only interested in being praised for the benefit of an ego. Greek mythology is especially good at making the divine in their stories behave like spoiled children. Worse actually, self-absorbed teenagers.
We historically sculpt the divine into a jealous reflection of ourselves. We know how we like to be praised. We know how good it feels to have a job well done recognized by people we respect. Some of us are obsessed with praise for unhealthy reasons and behave badly, even vengefully, when they don’t get what they need. We assume the same of heaven. We don’t realize that we are still telling those old misinterpretations about the nature of worship, and even sacrifice. We have outgrown our old understandings about the reasons for praise.
It’s to be expected, actually. I assume it’s part of the divine process of embedding gratitude into the culture of humanity over dozens of centuries. First, make it compulsory, then systems develop, over time it becomes habit, eventually we begin to notice the benefits, and finally we are evolved enough to do it on purpose and with full understanding. Isn’t that how every school lesson is learned? I know that’s exactly how I learned multiplication.
If there is a God, wouldn’t It know that humans learn in this linear way? Wouldn’t It present the lesson of gratitude to humanity in a way that we would slowly, but completely, enshroud it into our daily customs and rituals? Spiritual logic would observe that God nudges humanity rather than forces it. As all good parenting does.
Praise is about the experience of gratitude. It’s like the old milk campaign, it does a body good. There are mysterious comforts to the practice of gratitude as well as literal, physiological benefits. When we are all at optimum, both emotionally and physically, what else might our society be capable of? What higher levels of thought await us once we get out of our own way?
When agriculture was first invented, and we didn’t need to spend all and every day using our creativity to gather food, we had brain space leftover for higher levels of creative output. Of course we first used that creativity for warfare. But that’s what adolescents do. Eventually they grow up and higher forms of innovation begin to creep in. Both social and technological. Statistics show that warfare is actually slowly going out of business over time. Wonder why that is.
Today we have the luxury of examining gratitude and spiritual praise to see with hindsight the purpose and benefit of living a life saturated with thanksgiving. Are we finally mature enough as a society to see beyond the history of our rituals and find what they’ve really been trying to teach us for thousands of years? Is it gratitude which finally reveals itself to be the secret to life?
I’ve seen enough sociological and psychological research over the years to convince me there is a special relationship between humans and gratitude. There’s certainly no mistaking it is a central component to all spiritual practice. Plus, it actually feels good. So what do those three facts encourage in you?
It’s hard to feel grateful for things we don’t understand. Things which hurt us or frustrate us. That’s what the practices are all about. Forgiveness, hospitality, nonresistance, empowerment and compassion. These are the platforms which support the existence of gratitude. They enhance our capacity for gratefulness in times when we don’t understand our world. They help us assume that goodness is in the cracks. And goodness then becomes the seed we water.
Be thankful for everything. Literally. Say, ‘thank you for everything.’ Mean it. Find a place inside of you which can spend time dwelling on a belief that all shall be, and in fact truly is, well. Do it every day. Face stress with gratitude. Directly confront misery with it. Use gratitude as a weapon—perhaps the only weapon—against fear itself. I have a deep suspicion it will not only rewire the actual circuitry of your brain over time, but all parts of your reality as you know it.