Opinion: Gratitude

On my way to our apartment once, a man opened the door for me, but lost in thoughts I did not say thank you. "You're welcome!" He snapped and I felt embarrassed. I said, thank you, then. I heard in the news, about a couple of months ago, that a similar thing happened to a woman, but she got killed instead.  I could have been that woman. I have partaken in several conversations where people vented out how much it irked them when someone failed to show gratitude.  I have vented here a few times already on how it pisses me off when someone takes me for granted. So maybe you are like that, too. You want to be appreciated. When you do something nice, you want people to show you some gratitude. As human beings we are blessed and cursed with many emotions. We enjoy love and we battle hatred; we are irritated by hunger, at least I am, and we like the taste of a good cool drink on a hot afternoon. We are also not self-sufficient. We depend on our environment and other people for our happiness. We need healthy dreams to make into adventurous purposes to chase away boredom. We need encouragement and motivation and inspiration. We also crave appreciation because it make us feel needed and necessary. The practice of gratitude is essential to a healthy society.

Have you seen this poem by Hãfez:

And still, after all this time,
The sun never says to the earth,
"You owe Me."

Look what happens with
A love like that,
It lights the Whole Sky.

It is one of those trending quotes. I see it on Pinterest all the time; I probably have it on my inspiration board, too. When I first came across Hãfez's poem,  I was like Amen! Preach on Hãfez!! Then I started seeing it everywhere and soon I was a bit irritated by it. Then I started to wonder why. Why is this beautiful poem upsetting me? I soon found few reasons. Spinoza said in the Ethics that our explanation of our world is based on our limited reasoning of how things are, but it is possible that the world operates in a manner that is outside our reasoning capability. So wise Hãfez personified the relationship between the sun and the earth as a representation of a great and fine human feeling, love. But is it really love? Does the sun and earth feel and operate as we do? And what sort of a relationship is it that one gives everything and the other only takes? This is only a good fit if the giver knows only how to take pleasure in giving and the taker only in taking. It is likely that we do not know anything about the sort of relationship the earth and sun enjoy. But suppose we pretend the sun and earth do feel love, then the question is what sort of love is this? There are several. I propose self-love. The sun does a good job of being itself. If the sun loves anything, it is itself. In being itself, it attracts the earth which enjoys revolving around it in a 'worshipy' sort of way. The earth and the other planets make the sun look more powerful, more fascinating and needed. But in being itself and following its 'heart,' the earth is able to provide a place for plants to grow, for animals to swim and prowl, and for human beings to go about shooting each other for not saying thank you.

But that is probably because as human beings we are capable of many feelings but not always able to understand why we feel the things we feel, or do the things we do. Sometimes we are 'kind' because we need to feel important. And when gratitude is denied us we get angry. Oh! My neighbor just rang our doorbell! She wants my laundry money-card. ARGH! I DISLIKE PEOPLE LIKE THIS! OMG she's lost hers, at least that is what she tells me. All she has to do is go downstairs and buy one. It is as simple as that. But she comes and offer to pay me for my card then borrows it when I refuse to sell it. Why does she have to come and borrow mine? I don't even know her name.  I just put money on that card. Before I went to collect it for her, she said she will be returning it back to me tonight. After I gave it to her, she said she will be returning it tomorrow because the laundry room is about to close. That is a lie. The place does not close for another three and a half hours. Obviously I am not happy with myself. What if I end up having to buy a new card because I did not want to hurt her feelings? I should have said no but I said yes because I felt I ought to be 'neighborly.'  I really need to stop doing these things.

What just happened is a wonderful example of why it is important to learn to give from a good, healthy place rather than a place of expectancy or the need to please others. Wait I will be back...

Because it is time I started following my own advice, I went and took my card back so I could go and check my balance. I wish you could have seen the look on her face. She was shocked. Now I know exactly how much is on the card and she knows it too. Hopefully that is enough hint that I expect her to return my card and the right amount of money. Although, I would not mind if she increases the amount. :) Mother gave me the money to do my laundry and she works very hard to make her money so it would be really awful of me to give it away as though I can afford to. All this summer I have been hand-washing partly because I cannot afford the laundry machine. Here is what I am saying, she did say thank you but it was not enough because I am sitting here feeling 'robbed.' Though she is really not to be blamed. She is being herself, but I am not being true to myself. 

My situation right here is definitely not a sun-earth kind of give and take. Both the sun and the earth are true to themselves. Although the sun benefits the earth, it does not cost the sun anything and the sun is not the sort that has use for gratitude. We need gratitude especially in times when we feel we are self-sacrificing. If my neighbor was some totally hot dude whom I had a serious crush on, and have, therefore, been on my knees praying would  knock on my door, I would have been more than happy to give him my money-card and probably feel like he is the one doing me a favor——even though I cannot afford to do so. But I probably would still regret when I came to my senses. 

The sun shines because it is its nature, it is not doing it because it needs the earth to say thank you. The earth takes from the sun and in return it provides for the grasses and trees to grow, and it does not ask them to show gratitude because it is being true to itself. So the fruits grow and give freely to us without needing our thanks because they are being true to themselves. And my dear Mother has been cooking for me all these years without asking for my thanks because she takes pleasure in what she does and because she loves me very much. And I get angry when my neighbor comes asking for my money card for the laundry machine because I don't know her like that. So imagine if she had not shown appreciation? It probably would have given me enough wrath to snatch the card out of her hands and bang the door in her face. >:) And I would have regretted, of course...or maybe not. When we are true to ourselves in helping others, we do not feel a need for their gratitude, we know it is our pleasure. But all the same it is encouraging when we show appreciation when someone goes out of their way for us. It motivates them to repeat the good action. And in doing so inspire others to do the same. I know there is more to cover on this topic, but for now, I will leave you with these thoughts:  my ramblings/vents on my not very thoughtful neighbor. Argh.

-
jane

P.S. I wrote the above post on Monday evening. It is now early afternoon on Tuesday. My neighbor has returned my laundry card. She doubled the money on the card. Yes, I am awfully ashamed. And I think the reason why she borrowed the card was because the machine had run out. 

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