Opinion: Gratitude II

My last opinion post, "Gratitude" is  unconventional in that it reads like a complaint and brims with sarcasm. Not usually what one writes under the topic. Having been struggling with the definition of the complex emotion for some time now I allow myself some liberties. I would not contemplate it too closely in the past because I was afraid that should I do so, my world would collapse. I think myself very happy, but the foundation of this emotion rests heavily on thankfulness: for that which I have been blessed with——a lot. A heavy awareness of what I have been  given and a sense of burden on how overwhelming it all is. But how do I define gratitude? It is being able to see what we are, as the generosity of that which is greater than ourselves. It is knowing that all we possess, and that which we inhabit, and that which we hope for are but precious gifts. Health is priceless as is the ability to feel, to be, to taste, to breathe, to laugh, to hear the music of pain in words or tears, to hear the awe-inspiring music of a beating heart. And it is overwhelming to know oneself in the possession of such grace, so freely given. How dare we ask for more then? Because, surely, to wish for more is to be extremely ungrateful? That was the scope of my anguish: I dared to want more and I felt shame and guilt for these feelings. I have come to see what you probably already know, that wanting more, when understood, is only the urge to learn more of that which we possess. A need to investigate the good that it can do. It seems, therefore, that to practice gratitude is to use that which we have been given as a platform to challenge ourselves to go further into ourselves. In my last ramblings on gratitude I kept emphasizing on being true to oneself, like the sun is to itself and the earth is to itself. The problem is that unlike the rest of nature, of which we are part, but from which we like to distinguish ourselves, we do not know ourselves and for that matter it is difficult to practice true gratitude, that is, being true to ourselves.

Wanting is only a disease when it control us rather than we it. So that it drive us further from ourselves and from being truly happy——desiring that which is insufficient and sacrificing that which is priceless to attain it. We chase after happiness, something we feel is essential to our well being, without having spent much time trying to learn what it is that actually make us happy. And hence we follow blindly, pursuing what others have promised to be contentment, only to attain it and be horribly disappointed. But surely, our desires can serve us better when we take the time to learn of ourselves and question why we are, and by what means. If we do take the time to observe life, does it not become clear that any true sense of peace and fulfillment is owing to that which is our natural composition: a practice of immense kindness. Surely, it becomes obvious that the yin yang of life is giving and taking: breathe in, breathe out. That there is getting in giving, and giving in getting. Surely, giving of ourselves is to be in sync with what we are and to practice our purpose is to be significant.  For all we are is that which is freely given, and our daily survival is dependent on the generosity of our world. We are heavy dependents on a source of transcendental generosity: the oxygen we breathe; our ability to walk, to speak and communicate with others; to feel our pains flow in salty liquid down our cheeks; to feel the rain bounce playfully on our heads.  Practicing being of merit, is, therefore, being true to self. Simply put, it is being grateful. Gratitude is knowing oneself as the composition of an overwhelming generosity––the donation of sperm and egg, that were themselves the donations of a long generation of others, developed in the  bodies of others, nurtured by wonderful emotions that are not on the market. Taking in air and releasing it in awe. To be thankful is to practice that which we embody: the gift of life.

We are unique identities with incomparable formulations. We see things not only through the experiences we have had and the communities that raised us, but also through the complex and intriguing genes that formed us, as well as several other things we may never know. To practice gratitude is to take time to learn something of our individuality. Who are we? Jane Akweley Odartey is my name. But who am I? The body, mind, and soul?  That an unmatchable identity. Gratitude is learning of my mind, learning to see myself as I am and see the world as it is. Gratitude is unrooting the answers of who I am, to discover what my purpose is so to travel that path. Some say it is all a  coincidence——that we have no purpose,  and perhaps it is so. But I look around me and all things that are beautiful, that are happy, exist in a complete state of serving a purpose. The sun is magnificent is it not? The bees are inspiring, no?  For to be true is to be unique, and that which is true is that which is dedicated to fulfilling its objective. Gratitude is learning what makes us significant and insignificant only so we can dedicate time to being of essence.

 I have long believed that kindness is not selflessness but selfishness based on the conviction that what we give comes back to us. But now I wonder, if our lives are gifts, is not giving back a way to deserve being, a way to relieve the self? Is not being a tool for the pleasure of another, a satisfaction for one's self too? Is not being a capsule of good, a redemption of self? Then being of service is being true to self. The question then is how do we give and what do we give? Remember my neighbor? The one who came for my laundry card and I was very annoyed with? Why could I not give to her without seeing that it is not to her I give but to myself. Perhaps it is because I do not know myself and for that reason I harbor foolish fears. Or perhaps I do not understand how to practice balance. Or perhaps it is because I do not fully know how to be grateful, for if I practiced gratitude, I will know that the gift that I am must be reciprocated. Our lives, the blessings that they are, and the unique beauty of our individualities which translate to our talents, do not end with us. They must pass through us to others and into our world. As life has passed through others and through nature to us.

My previous pains from a not very good practice of gratitude resulted in being overwhelmed and thus afraid of being fully at the mercy of that which is incomprehensible to me, I call it God. It felt like a debt and knowing I could never pay, and not wanting to be a slave to what I felt I did not ask for, I thought thankfulness is never forgetting and gratitude an obligation, not a choice. And, therefore, to douse any need to be more is to not sink further into debt. But I feel that I was wrong to see it as such. Like the understanding Potter reached in J.K Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince——conceived by Dumbledore's patient explanations that how we fulfill our destinies are our choices, i. e., free will——and Potter thought, it is like "the difference between being dragged into the arena to face a battle to the death and walking into the arena with your head held high." We can face our lives with our head held high. Despite fear, we can learn something of who we are and spend our time fulfilling our purposes; being true to ourselves. Or we can deny who we are, get dragged into the arena and die with the belief that we never had a choice.

To make use, as best as I can, the free gift that is my life, is to celebrate life and to be thankful. Here is an example. I take immense joy in several things. I enjoy dancing, I enjoy making things with my hands, learning, thinking, letting my imagination go as haywire as it pleases. For all these joys I am grateful. But I tried to stifle how to be more because I was afraid that to be more is to be arrogant. To be selfish. And yet I see now that the improvement of these joys is my calling.  Hence I must allow myself to seek to understand them; to learn more deeply of them is to appreciate them and in so doing I can be true to myself and, therefore, gift of myself easily. Okay here is a less abstract example, let us say you and your friend are crazy about all things Japanese, especially their kimono. But you are both rather low in funds. Then something awesome happens and your friend could visit Japan! You are happy for her and cannot wait to hear all about her experiences. You know she will give you all the deets straight. She comes back, not just with the excellent narrative you expected, but a kimono for you! Gratitude is not putting that fine piece of art in your wardrobe only to admire and letting it eventually serve as food for the moths. Gratitude is wearing the heck out of that kimono. Gratitude is telling anyone who admires your kimono about your dear dear friend. Gratitude is being inspired and challenging yourself into finding ways to also visit Japan for yourself. I bet your friend would be incredibly happy should you send a postcard and a picture of yourself wearing her kimono from the exact location she purchased it. She would probably feel incredible if you were to include words like "thank you for the inspiration and motivation!" And how do you think she would feel if you brought her something very thoughtful too? And what if you bring something  for someone else you know who love all things Japan? You would only be doing things you love, being true to yourself, practicing gratitude.

I wish you a gratuitous September.
Jane Odartey


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