Gratitude – The Happy and Sad of ItPosted: November 26, 2014
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.
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!