Samain Joe and SeoAh Moon
Hakarat hatov, Hebrew for gratitude, literally means recognizing the good. My friend Bill Schmidt often quotes Meister Eckhart, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” In the 1980s I had a Jesuit nun as a spiritual director. She suggested I keep a gratitude journal because, she said, gratitude is the root of all spirituality.
As the Hebrew suggests though, there is a step just before gratitude, recognizing the good. We can live a life full of bitter disappointment amidst a bounty that would make others cry for joy. One Hasidic author I read said, “For example, a person has a drive to make ten million dollars and (regrettably) achieves it. Now he wants twenty…he nullified the value of the ten million in his mind.” Getting to Know Your Soul, Bilavi Mishkan Evneh.
Or consider our home here in Conifer. We have running water, indoor plumbing, a boiler, a gas stove, a microwave, a refrigerator. We have food in the refrigerator. We have a car in the garage. Three different perspectives on this seemingly so what list: 1. a person living in a refugee camp. 2. a person living in a favela in Rio 3. a homeless person in Denver or right here in Conifer. Not so so what now, is it?
But. We could look up the mountain, see the mini-palaces some folks have built up there and say, “We would be truly happy if only we could live there.” Or, when we see the occasional Maserati or Lamborghini or Ferrari on the mountain roads, which we do, we could say, “How much better life would be if only I had one of those.” This would be nullifying the ten million dollars.
“Rebbe Nachman of Breslov writes, “Gratitude rejoices with her sister joy, and is always ready to light a candle and have a party. Gratitude doesn’t much like the old cronies of boredom, despair and taking life for granted.”” Alan Morinis, Jewishpathways
How much better for our souls to recognize the love Kate and I share, the dogs that grace our lives, the material blessings we have, and they are blessings in the most theological sense of that term, as the good surrounding us, supporting us, allowing us to feel joy.
Enough is a close cousin of gratitude. When we recognize the good we have and that it is enough, then we can be joyful. Happy? I don’t know. Up to you. But joyful and satisfied, yes.
I am grateful right now for the sound of Gertie sleeping, the miracle that is this computer on which I write, the electricity that powers it, that I woke up this morning, again, that Kate woke up, too. I’m grateful that the air is cool outside and that we have heat inside. I’m grateful l had fruit and vegetables and protein for breakfast. I’m grateful I had the chance to help Jon load the trailer last night. I’m grateful for the time with Joe and SeoAh and for the chance to participate in finding Murdoch. I’m grateful to live on a mountain, in the mountains, with Black Mountain always out my study window. And this list could go on, and on, and on.
So. My prayer, “Thanks.”