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March 14, 2010



To me gratitude is about attending to a moment and noticing -- really noticing -- what we have. I agree that appreciation is part of it. But something of an exchange happens when gratitude is expressed (even silently). We give acknowledgement in return for pleasure. Perhaps gratitude is really directed at that particular moment in time, that unique experience, and the mindful realization that we've experienced something precious.

Helen South

I feel you've missed the mark a little here. Why would I express gratitude to 'nothing in particular'. Gratitude for winning the genetic lottery while some other poor soul starves? Appreciation is the word I prefer - I take time to appreciate the small things and be aware that I am indeed fortunate; and cultivate awareness of the transience of both good and bad that come my way.

I'm not going to offer up gratitude to some non-existent sky god, or even to the universe, which isn't aware and doesn't care. It makes no sense.

Ben Atlas

Thank You!

Clare Grant

I think it's hard to say thank you -- to feel gratitude -- if you don't know who you are feeling gratitude towards. Gratitude has a dark side, too -- the good things have come from someone, and that someone might at any moment deny you your good things. There's a sort of grovelling feeling to it; and if someone is thankful, you suddenly owe them something else.

If I've made something wonderful, I want to see people to enjoy it (or be awed by it, or eat it up or whatever). I don't want them grovelling "Thank you, thank you, thank you" while the food gets cold.

Like Crestofawave, I make a daily journal of three things -- but my blogged lists of three things that have amused or delighted me are not an expression of gratefulness (although a lot of people call Three Beautiful Things a gratitude journal). I think it's more of a nod to wonderous creation. I'm really not thankful at all -- just appreciative.

Tony Murphy

Many of us adults live for the Future, striving, attaining, building something in that imaginary place. We assume the Future is going to be better than the Present. We spend a lot investing in, and reinforcing the belief that a continually deferred Present will bring rewards later. When this belief gets shaken (and the prospect of death is only one way to shake it - divorce, illness, bereavement are others) we get brought back to ourselves and the Present.

I wondered, who am I giving gratitude to? Alain suggests "no one in particular". Maybe it's the people close to, and around us, with whom we share these experiences.


I keep a journal, not as a tool for self-development or 'therapy'; I just do. And since finding myself in a bit of a rut a few years ago, I now never complete a journal entry without listing at least three things for which I'm grateful, things, people, thoughts, anything at all, without which my day may have been less worthwhile. I would recommend this to anyone. With daily practice (yes, in a way it is like religious observance) I find myself more frequently feeling grateful in the moment, and not needing to wait for hindsight to enlighten me. Time after time it is incidents of beauty and of kindness that lift my day, or feed my soul. And of course you don't need to be religious to feel gratitude (and the humility that comes hand-in-hand) - I'm an atheist myself. A grateful atheist.


Are you not, in essence, talking about 'happiness'? We are thankful, appreciative when we are happy, for whatever we believe made us happy. Today we believe the latest ticky-tacky widget made us happy, or maybe making a killing in the markets. But olives and lemons, as long as we hold to these modern era tenets, will never make us happy. Until, as you so rightly point out, our beliefs are reset by catastrophe, impending or otherwise. I do want to be happy today. So cheers, Alain, for making lunch with my colleagues one worth thanking...someone..for. In the absence of a deity, I nominate you.

Michelle Armstrong

When one is young Alain, gratitude is an afterthought, usually so much so that it is too late to say thank you by the time you have realised a wish to. I grew up a Catholic, very involved in the Church, to the extent of playing guitar and singing (along with my five sisters)at Saturday evening vigil mass. Did religion teach me to be grateful? No, I don't believe so. Religion taught me to question everything, to ask myself whether I agreed with the things I was being asked to believe. My father was an agnositic though, so perhaps he played a larger role in my questioning nature than the Church itself actually did. It is one of the major tenets of the Catholic Church that everyone has a free will. In light of that, I do feel that my religion taught me to be a free-thinking person, ironic as that may seem to some. I lost my religion a long time ago.
Gratitude is a very personal thing is it not? As with all things in life, all emotions, all actions, authenticity is the key. Of what use is a false gratitude anyway, to anyone?
Do you really think is it necessary to be approaching death in order to be grateful for the joys of life? Perhaps you are right. Having experienced a close-to-death event in recent years, I have to agree that I am more grateful for the simple things in life in the aftermath of that experience. Personally, I think it is perhaps a willingness to accept the reality of the ephemeral nature of life and to surrender to the inevitability of death that engenders an ability to be grateful for life itself. The nearness or otherwise of death becomes irrelevant then, when it will happen being less important.
In this crazy, high-tech, high-pressure world we live in today, it is difficult to have the time to seek out the pleasures of life. Perhaps people don't have very much to be grateful for nor the time be be very aware of anything other than the basic necessities. Having been on a kind of sabbatical myself for the past 12 months, there has been time to savour the talents of others, and in turn to feel grateful for the simple joy and entertainment that comes from observing the world through the eyes of people more gifted than myself.
When it comes down to it, perhaps it is just a personality thing too. Personality, that ever-elusive element that is so hard to pin down, nature and nurture combined with the sum of all of life's experiences, the thing that makes us all so indivudual, is perhaps the largest determinant of our ability to say thank you.


I never contemplated my ingratitude. Still won't, until the final moment and then it'll all come gushing out - the gratitude and the regrets. Thank-you.


"Would we really need to pause for a moment of gratitude at the oily darkness of a handful of olives or at the fragrant mottled skin of a lemon?"

Why not, why ever not? Or, if not, how is this amputation of feeling different from others, many of which are religious? The compulsion to work, the suspicion that gratitude is idleness - are you really telling me it would be hard to craft an argument to source that chiding voice in centuries of religion?

The problem with language so often is the ease at which it points at things that aren't there. It would be an improvement here, to have even jelly to try to nail to the wall. Who is this "we"? Who has these feelings? Why not say "I"?

Say "I" and we can compare experiences. Say "we" and in so doing tell me what my religion is or means and - because of that grab of territory - coming together is kind of foregone.

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