postulate. (in greek this word means “to ask, beg, demand.” one of the most powerful invitations!) to come at the issue of gratitude from a few different directions.
first, over the weekend i read over many of these entries and realized i am writing a lot about impressions, experiences and leaving myself in the middle of them, without giving voice to those with whom i shared the experiences, or, very often, not mentioning who inspired me, etc. so i want to say thank you, thank you, thank you… to those of you with these powers.
one of the most inspiring people in my life is steve smith, an immensely talented martial artist who has studied all over the world. the pervading quality of his character is curiosity and openness to learn. THAT is in the roots of his power. not, “look at what i know,” or “that’s not how to do that.” no, he beckons a student to observe and then asks him/her to seek the hunger in themselves that will lead into a pure movement. so many of us learn a collections of tricks. you could call them skills, because that’s what they are… but when they are not woven into the fabric of being and becoming, into the truly messy quality of an act of creation/destruction… then these tricks will stand merely as a collection of knowledge, of means to impress others, of stumbling blocks preventing you from the organic inhabitation of TRUTH. i perused steve’s website this morning (http://www.thelittledojo.com/) and he’s recently updated it with several awesome videos of different seminars. the primary sense one gets watching them is his own gratitude for his teachers!
i recently learned from someone wise that it’s best to rise in the morning with an initial thought of gratitude, to fill oneself with thanks until that feeling dominates and one is ready to make coffee or whatever. so i tried that this morning and within fifteen minutes found this beautiful expression of gratitude on the part of steve smith, which actually brought me to tears… it is a crisp autumn day outside and maples across the street from my house are finishing up their impressive dance of fire (which the neighborhood was cleaning up all weekend)… and i realized watching these demonstrations of steve that gratitude is one of the heavies, along with love, creativity, generosity… and it was like shackles fell from my eyes. like the sky cleared and burnt light blue to make way for my feeling, and the trees said, “that’s how we feel too.”
isaac newton has the famous statement about gratitude…. a man who truly did not wander off the path of his own peculiarity: i don’t think he ever had sex with a woman (or a man)… he honed his energy with immense focus upon alchemy and ultimately upon physics (which are actually more related than one might think) and played one of the greatest roles in an intellectual revolution… his theory is still very much intact; einstein added to it, rather than edit it… and he said, “i have only come this far because i have stood on the shoulders of giants.” not to downplay the magnitude of his work or to egoplay himself behind this statement so people would think he was humble; no, it was because he understood his interconnectedness with all who came before him, that what he had done (despite its being totally incredible) would have been impossible without his predecessors, the giants.
a group of us in high school were close friends and climbing partners. we did it every day after school, every weekend, every break possible we went climbing together and taught one another and enjoyed the activity though this great companionship. one weekend one of us fell out of the back of a rolling chevy suburban and was crushed on the way to a party out in the country. it was devastating… i remember at jon’s funeral hugging the father of another friend and crying with such abandon that if he had not been embracing me i might have slipped into the void. gratitude. and at the end of the year my friend gabe, jon’s best friend, wrote a letter to his departed climbing partner, thanking him for all he had learned from jon in his too short life and wrote, “i just want to scream, ‘hoooooooooooooooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!'” i don’t think there is a better word for it, for gratitude.
this feeling is the base for truly great action: finding oneself as part of this incredible network, tapestry, and getting to choose what to take from it and likewise what to give. gratitude is the basis of john donne’s poem, in which he says, “…any mans death diminishes me/ for i am interested in mankind./ therefore do not send to know for whom the bell tolls/ it tolls for thee.”