Saturday, November 13, 2010

Taking Nothing for Granted

Noticing the winter light as it floods my study and puts a spotlight on the bookcase, I am reminded of the importance of being aware of, and being grateful for, the little things that surround me.

Rather than taking my house and yard for granted, I make an effort to appreciate them, especially when the seasons change. This brings me into the present moment and also signals the positive energy of gratitude.

To be grateful for morning light and quiet time for meditation, to be grateful for organic vegetables and Lynn's soups, to be grateful for my friends and their e-mails--all this and so much more contradicts the tendency many of us have to be critical, negative, and pessimistic. To be grateful is to be positive, optimistic.

Gratefulness, as David Steindl-Rast has eloquently shown, is central to prayer, yet I think we can be grateful without being consciously prayerful, without recognizing God's direct hand in every detail of our lives. I do not believe in a God who micromanages the traffic or weather or other specifics of our lives.

If I remember my scholastic philosophy (Thomas Aquinas, et al.), God is the proximate cause of all that exists. This doesn't mean I hold God responsible for the creation of the TV remote, which makes my life easier, or the allergy remedy I take. In other words, I can be grateful that people have been so inventive in creating technology that eases our earthly existence. And I can be grateful, even more, for the caring and compassion of people.

These are all indirectly related to (and reflect) God, of course, so no doubt when I feel gratitude as a positive response to the natural world and to the human life-world, I am implicitly affirming my theism: I am at prayer without knowing it.
In being attentive to what's before me, I experience the sacrament of the present moment.

Is God necessarily involved? I have always felt that too many people have a limited notion of God as a puppet-master in the sky who helps or harms us. This simplistic and childish theologizing has led many into atheism or agnosticism.

As Thomas Merton discovered in reading medieval philosophy, God is not a being but Being itself ("I am who am," as revealed to Moses), the inescapable and loving presence that ulimately makes it all possible, even if God is not involved in every detail of our lives.

So in being grateful, I want above all to take no one or no thing for granted, the unknowable God included. A good idea as we prepare for Thanksgiving.

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