Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year Thoughts


I listened today to an interview with a woman who’d survived a plane crash that claimed the lives of many of her fellow passengers. She recounted how a man told her afterwards that God must have had a special reason for saving her, that there was still work for her to do down here. My immediate reaction echoed her own. She said:

“I was quite troubled. It felt like I was saddled with a lot of responsibility ... to figure out, ‘What is this work I'm supposed to be doing?’ And then the flipside is, God didn't have any more work for all those other people, and I don't believe that.”

She decided, instead, to try being grateful every day for what she did have so that she could live with as few regrets as possible. It was hard, she said, because she was not in the habit of paying such close attention to whether she told her husband and children all the time that she loved them. But then she’d think, “I might not come home at the end of the day,” and she knew it wasn’t so hard after all.

My own mother used to thank her God each night for the day just passed, remembering to include each one of us in her gratitude. She began each morning with a similar reverence and taught us to do the same. Though I don’t share her belief in one omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent God, I still can see the benefits of gratitude, of wonder, attention, kindness, and appreciation.

I can’t subscribe to a deity who is circumscribed by human thought, whose borders are as narrow as our own. That kind of god frightens me as much as the idea of one so immense and powerful that to know of it would bring instant annihilation. I prefer to admit I don’t know for sure, that I’m open to suggestions, to discoveries, to experiences, to ever-widening horizons and to change. I choose to see an echo of the largest thing in the smallest, to recognize the life force in all things, and to be grateful for what I know I have—five senses that tell me how to survive in and enjoy my world, the ability to reason and explore and to think for myself, the chance to know happiness and love, sorrow and loss, and to know they are irrevocably linked because this is a world of duality, of relativity. It is enough. And because I could lose it all tomorrow, for today, like that plane crash survivor and my mother before me, I am grateful.

8 comments:

steven said...

wow pauline - thankyou for this sweet piece of thinking and writing that mines down to a real essence of what this place is all about and why we might be here. i have no idea how much time i have here and what it might look like but what i now know is that the ability and freedom to bring whatever goodness i wish into this world is available to me. so i'll go with that and do what i can do. peacefulness. steven

Brian Hayes said...

"gratitude, of wonder, attention, kindness, and appreciation"

"happiness and love, sorrow and loss"

"to reason and explore and to think"

2011, ey wot!

Brian Miller said...

i do know this...gratitude keeps out hearts tender...

Barbara said...

There's nothing like living in the present moment and remembering to be grateful for being here.

Happy New Year, Pauline!

Judith said...

A great post to start off the New Year, reminding me of so many hard-won understandings that I forget over and over again ---
Thanks, Pauline

Dulce said...

Admirable words which make me think and wonder what about me too?
As long as we are here today, we are safe
Lets' pray it remains like this for as long as fate wants...

Pauline said...

Steven - and you do that with such grace and beauty! Thanks.

Brian H - bring it on!

Brian MIller - it does, indeed.

Barbara - Happy New Year to you and yours, too.

Judith - me, too. That's why I write them down ;)

Dulce - there may be a reason for all this but I'm content to watch and play while I'm trying to discover it :)

Marion said...

I'm so glad I scrolled down and read this post. I needed to read it today. Lately, I have focused more on the things I don't love rather than the ones I do.I'm beginning to take the loved things for granted. Time to give my head a shake! And with this lovely, thoughtful piece, I intend to practice gratefulness today. Thanks, Pauline!