Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Rough Draft for a Future Sermon: Unreckonable Gratitude
For reasons that I am not even fully aware of, and from the bottom of my heart, I am compelled to repeat, "Thank you!"
To each of you here sitting in this space, most of whom I have yet to fully meet and get to know, to an indefinite number of people who have come before and left traces of beauty in this life for me to enjoy, and to all of the plants and animals, this Earth, the Sun, Moon and stars, and to all of the energy and matter in the universe that has come together to make this moment and every other moment, I just want to say, "Thank you!"
My list of blessings in this life has been long. The gift of life from our parents is something each of us were granted through no doing of our own, as far as we know or could attempt to prove. We just arrived here into life. I don't even know who all to be grateful to for this life. My parents were most directly responsible, but for all I know I might want to thank my father's employers for giving him a raise, or my older sisters for both being girls, or perhaps the quality control person at the condom factory for being lax in their duties because it was a Friday.
It's not just the simple gift of life to be grateful for, but to be born into this time and this place. To have the privileges of a family with enough money, that values education; to be born into this world by chance male and white and "straight" in a time and place where those attributes often carry benefits.
And I'm grateful not just for the gift of life, but the gifts that have sustained life. To be born on a planet with the right molecular mix in the air, soil and water--where plants grow easily from seeds, with water and a little care, and to be born into a time with domesticated livestock and to be raised to find them tasty.
I'm grateful to those who have created social systems and technologies that have helped to boost up the quality of life for me, even when those social systems and technologies have caused harm to our environment and to the quality of life of others. And I am grateful to the environment and to those people who have been oppressed for suffering through the damage caused by the inherent evils (or evil byproducts) of those same social systems and technologies.
So many blessings have come to me, and to many of us here, and I think it's of utmost importance that we acknowledge those blessings in all their fullness, even if that stings sometimes. Because by being in life, whatever lot we've received, we are each blessed in fundamental ways just to be alive and aware in the universe--as the universe experiencing itself!
That acknowledgment is critical. The gratitude that we can put forth is critical, because it changes our state of being. The existence of gratitude changes our attitude.
In Boy Scouts, in order to use a knife or saw or axe--anything with a blade, it was important to have your "Totin' Chip" card, which meant you'd passed basic safety training. One of the critical piece of knowledge I recall learning was how to safely pass a sharp item from one person to another. When the person receiving the bladed tool had safely gotten a grip on the item, they said "Thank you," as a sign to the giver that the transaction had taken place.
The person who does not say "thank you" in this case is dangerous, because the acknowledgement of an exchange is rather unclear. In a similar way, when we fail to acknowledge the benefits we have (or the detriments we avoid), our danger becomes one of ingratitude, of entitlement. Without changing our attitude to one of gratitude, we may continue to expect that more benefits should be heaped upon us.
Incidentally, how many over the course of the last decade have noticed the patriotic phrase "God Bless America" in speeches or on bumper stickers? Has America not already been richly blessed in so many ways? "Astoundingly so!" a reflective person might say. And yet the prevailing attitude of our country has been one of expectations of greater wealth and economic growth, with little acknowledgment of the blessings thus far received.
As a nation--and equally as important, as individuals--our change to a state of gratitude has the potential to work miracles. When we realize what we have been given, our modus operandi changes. The recognition of our wealth turns us away from habits of acquiring and consuming, and away from resistive re-gifting, and toward generosity. The fundamental gift of life calls us to give and to pass it on. Not simply by giving life to new human babies, but by spreading greater life, energy, and love to all the people and beings with which we come into contact.
By acknowledging the privileges obtained by virtue of having a certain gender, race, class, sexual orientation, ability, or nationality, we become aware of clear paths for re-gifting gifts that never ought to have been bestowed unjustly in the first place. Our privileges can be powerful tools for creating equality. Whenever greater equality is achieved and recognized, the gratitude becomes a chain and the world becomes richer.
We each are given the gift of one life, and we each have whatever time, ability, and energy left to do what we will in the world. Some people have become great leaders and turned their lives into amazing works of justice--people like Jesus, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, MLK, Cesar Chavez, and Dorothy Day. But for every one of those well-known saints, there are thousands of people playing supporting roles in those movements. And for every preeminent social movement, there are thousands of unrecognized or anonymous movements that support the lives of smaller communities, families and individuals.
So...you may be blessed with the skills and opportunities to be a great leader. Or you may be blessed with money, energy or time to re-gift toward important projects. Or you may be blessed with a mind, a heart, a voice, hands, and a body, each of which you can create new gifts.
Whatever gifts you have been given, receive them and acknowledge them.
And then let your life be a Thank You!
lyrics: "If the Sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you."
from Thank You, by Led Zeppelin
colors: Green and gold. (A lush grass-green, and real gold, not Green Bay Packer green-and-gold.)
agape to all,