“Well, I’m near the end and I just ain’t got the time
And I’m wasted and I can’t find my way home.” — Steve Winwood
We often reach the moment when we realize that we are arguing over the same thing over and and over again. I’m reminded of that Yogi Berra quote about Deja vu all over again. We choose our words carefully and we make points artfully, but often our best laid plans come undone because we just don’t have the right words at the right time. So, we try and try again.
Given all of this, I know this is covering old ground. The most powerful moment of the Anderson Cooper interview that I shared earlier came when Stephen Colbert shared a powerful thought on grief. Cooper asked him if he agreed with the statement that punishments from God are not also gifts. Then, asking whether he was grateful for that thing he wish had not happened.
“I want it to not have happened, but if you are grateful for your life, which I think is a positive thing to do, not everybody is – and I am not always – but it’s the most positive thing to do, then you have to be grateful for all of it.”Stephen Colbert
A visiting priest made this connection last night in a way I had not previously thought of. Essentially he said that gratitude leads to conversion. The world conditions us to exist in a grievance state. It is not fair that he/she has that thing, that success, or that person in their life. It is not fair that I worked harder than that person and that they got something. They got that adulation. They got that recognition.
Approaching gratitude from a non-faith perspective might be difficult, but it isn’t impossible. Essentially, we are given so much and yet so much more is expected. The world has conditioned us to be the oldest child in the prodigal son story. We’ve followed the rules. We did what we were supposed to do. The spoils should be ours in the end.
It’s a powerful story and it’s a powerful draw. So many around us are caught up in this web. Those people are the faith leaders around us. They look at those with the free health care and scream unfair. They look at those with the loan forgiveness and scream foul. I worked hard. I played by the rules. Why are you taking my money and giving it to them?
Except it was never ours in the first place. At least it wasn’t in any real sense if we think of the cosmic forces of the universe. In a cold, hard sense those funds were already taken from our checks. Someone just made a decision about where those resources would be pooled. In the cosmic sense, we really shouldn’t be here in the first place.
My wife and I have enjoyed watching a video series called “What if..” Essentially they ask what would happen if any particular disaster were to befall Earth. Maybe it’s a flood. Maybe it’s a series of storms. Maybe it’s something crazy like a second moon or larger moon. Each one results in a horrible death. Tweak the structure of our atmosphere just a little and you get the same result. Death. Move the planets or change the sun and you get the same result. Death. It can either be frightening or awe inspiring depending on your particular perspective that day.
Now, one could jump off this line of thinking into an environmental hysteria, but that’s not really the point. If we are people of faith then we believe that something more powerful is out there looking over and protecting us. If we aren’t then we know nature is far more complex and powerful than any of us could ever imagine.
The point is that we don’t even deserve to be breathing right now. We get to breathe right now. We get to live. We get to enjoy the bounty of this creation. Life is a gift and no matter which cosmic force we believe created it, we should live our lives at least giving a simple nod to that force. When we realize we are the lucky ones then we also realize that it really doesn’t matter what anyone else gets. Justice obviously should exist and should play into these things, but worthiness of luck is not a thing. None of us are truly worthy of the luck we have been given. Rearrange one molecule here or there and it all disappears in the blink of an eye. So, who cares if someone is given a free phone or a bailout check?