Gratitude – The Happy and Sad of It

??????????   Dave_Boletus_edulis

I walk out the backdoor and slip through a gate, careful not to slip on the mud, as I make my way to our chicken coop. I walk through one more gate and around the side of the coop, where a secret door allows easy access to the nest boxes. Three milk-chocolate eggs are my gift from the hens – Buffy, Wynona, Mary and Dominique, a buff Orpington, silver-laced Wyandotte, Americauna, and Dominique, respectively. Inventive names, I know, especially the last one. I thank the ladies for their gifts and I am struck by a feeling of gratitude, warm and loving.

Earlier in the day, we engaged in a different ritual. Ritual slaughter, although the word ritual is a bit strong. Really we just killed a couple of turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner. We thanked these turkeys for the gift of their flesh which will soon become ours. Feeling a bit melancholic throughout the day, I thought about this side of gratitude. The sad side.

bourbon red turkeys

Both of these feelings come from our recognition of our connection with the world, in this case chickens and turkeys, and the very thin line between life and death. The warm and loving side of gratitude comes from the awareness that this world gives us so much – clean water, food to sustain us, loving friendships, and beauty to name just a few – and awareness of our inseparability with the world all around us. And when I feel this I warm up from the inside out and if it’s a really strong feeling, tears will fall from my eyes. Tears of thanksgiving. The other side for me is characterized by an unexplainable sadness, not profoundly paralyzing but meaningful. It catches my attention. And this, I believe, comes from the fact that death is inevitable. It comes from knowing that everything is impermanent and not accepting that it is so. Although I said above that both of these forms of gratitude are recognition of connection, I actually think that this sad feeling comes from the desire to be separate, to play outside of the rules. But we simply can’t and the dissonance between what we want and what we get is sometimes saddening. And while I would like to think that I am walking around saddened for the turkey, I am actually sad for myself. The turkey was unavoidable reminder that I too will die. Gut wrenchingly sad, right? This inevitable fact is actually where the two sides of gratitude come together and create the entire thing, its wholeness. If we can give up the false and delusion hope that we can somehow avoid one of the most basic truths of life then we can transcend this reality and be truly and deeply grateful for what we have. And what we have is nothing less and nothing more than this breath, this moment, this life, and this thanksgiving.

I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving!


5 Comments on “Gratitude – The Happy and Sad of It”

  1. Kelly says:

    But what if there IS more, Dave, than just this breath and this moment and this created world? The sad feelings do not just come from our recognition of our connection with the world, but also with our deeper understanding that something is not right, there’s a problem, that this is not the way it’s supposed to be. That’s because death was not God’s design for us, but instead it is the consequence of people disobeying God. The problem is greater than what we realize because death is not just the death of our bodies, but also, the death of our souls, and this is what gives us that sad feeling you’re talking about. But God loves us so much that He has chosen to take the second death (the death of our souls) away from those who choose to believe in Jesus. That’s why seeking to be fully aware of this world and this moment WITHOUT being fully aware of our God and Creator is pointless. Not being fully aware of God does not make us more enlightened, but instead makes us more in the dark. You are so right that we have so much to be thankful for, and the most important thing to be thankful for is the free gift of eternal life for our souls through faith in Jesus. It’s the answer to our biggest, deepest problem: the death of our souls. We love you Dave, you know our hearts as we say these words with the deepest love for you.

    • dhlafever says:

      Hi Kelly!

      Thank you for continuing to read, think about and respond to my blog. I means alot to me that you take the time and effort to consider what I have said and to respond from your heart. Thank you and I love you guys too!

  2. Chris says:

    I’m reminded of a passage from one of our favorite books. Guess which one. 🙂

    “My foot slips on a narrow ledge; in that split second, as needles of fear pierce heart and temples, eternity intersects with present time. Thought and action are not different, and stone, air, ice, sun, fear, and self are one. What is exhilarating is to extend this acute awareness into ordinary moments, in the moment-by-moment experiencing of the lammergeier and the wolf, which, finding themselves at the center of things, have no need for any secret of true being. In this very breath that we take now lies the secret that all great teachers try to tell us…the present moment. The purpose of mediation practice is not enlightenment’ it is to pay attention even at unextraordinary times, to be of the present, nothing-but-the-present, to bear this mindfulness of now into each event of ordinary life.”

    I understand that feeling you describe very intimately, “tears of thanksgiving,” an immense awareness of our own mortality, yes, but also a brief glimpse of infinity, and how beautiful it all is. Your turkeys died on Thanksgiving; they were well-cared for, fully immersed in their “Turkey-ness” and in death were not lost but became something different. Our “Human-ness” requires that we wrestle with meaning, peer at the cosmos, and wonder why we’re capable of doing so. But everything in nature tells us simultaneously “pay attention- this is special” and also “this is special because it will end.”

    That is true gratitude, releasing our grip on permanence (as we must) but recognizing the sacred in every minute. The ocean is boundless, but each wave brings sparkling light, a terrifying crash, and a energetic rush of sand along the beach! We do not cry that every wave disappears; instead we delight in the shape and form of every wave that arrives.

    I’ve been enjoying your blog a ton, keep it up! And Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!

  3. Jimmy says:

    a belated response, but what the heck, every day is ripe for giving thanks. thank you so much for sharing this profound experience, david. the post resonates very closely with my experiences and beliefs: the deep sadness that comes from my confrontation with the cycle of life, and the eternal gratitude for being part of something that’s so big, so inevitable, and so much bigger than my ego. i agree with your observation: the true sadness is not in sorrow for the turkey as it is in sorrow for ourselves, and our forced resignation to the forces that make up this wonderful world. so grateful for these forces, and for your friendship.

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