The word gratitude doesn’t resemble what it signifies. Both the noun gratitude and its adverb grateful seem to me to be passive, inert, easily overlooked. Maybe that is why so few of us talk about it. In a world where so many billions live in conditions which would be considered unacceptable in the US, I have been thinking recently of this word and wondering: Gratitude: What is it?
In these ‘advanced’ times, the collective we has determined that each American is entitled to a ‘basic minimum’ of subsidized housing, food and income. Maybe add in medical care and other ‘rights.’
Some of us rail that it’s too much while others rant that that it’s too little, while still others opine against the right of the collective to make our charitable decisions for us.
In the past, I have agreed with whoever coined the phrase, “the creeping sense of entitlement” that seems to be overtaking this country. But now I realize that the phrase is meaningless for it doesn’t explain anything; on the contrary, it subtly condemns, separates and isolates. Creating an us vs. them dichotomy what not just false but can be hateful.
Still though, I notice a distinct lack of gratitude among so many of us, whether we are entitled or not…so few of us express their thankfulness to be living here…Appearing to focus on lack, in the midst of abundance, concentrating on scarcity.
Dogs know gratitude with each breath- watch them racing, jumping, or simply being with you and you can see the essence of gratitude more as a state of their being than a feeling which dissipates and is gone. Their very cells seem to breathe it.
But I’m less pure than they so I have to ask questions like this one: gratitude: what is it?
No, I think gratitude is neither feeling nor emotion but rather an entity into which I enter during those times of pure joy at the beauty of the aria, the sunset, the rain, the purity of prayer: those rare times when the I disappears into Something Else.
Gratitude is not listed among the virtues of faith- we are taught of the Cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance and of the theological virtues of hope, faith and charity. Gratitude is unlisted among them.
But here is how the Catholic Catechism defines human virtue:
Human virtues are firm attitudes, stable dispositions, habitual perfections of intellect and will that govern our actions, order our passions, and guide our conduct according to reason and faith. They make possible ease, self-mastery, and joy in leading a morally good life. The virtuous man is he who freely practices the good.
One of the countless precious lessons our 4-footed furry friends can teach us. Just spend time watching him or her to learn the firm disposition, habitual perfections of will and ordered passion.