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Posts Tagged ‘Gratitude Week’

Grateful Moment

Grateful Moment- GC Myers 2014

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Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all others.

– Marcus Tullius Cicero

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It’s Gratitude Week here on RedTreeTimes. It’s kind of like Shark Week without the carnage. Or sharks.

Well, there is a little carnage but I can guarantee there are no sharks.

For today’s installment, the great Roman orator Cicero certainly has it right. When you think of the great virtues– honor, courage, loyalty, honesty, compassion, respect, and grace along with so many others– you can easily place gratitude as a contributing factor to each. These virtues are often just gratitude set in motion.

If gratitude is not the parent of all virtues, it is at least a conjoined twin.

I am harping on gratitude this week not just because it is Thanksgiving tomorrow. No, it has become painfully obvious that there is a lack of gratitude, and by extension, the absence of accompanying virtues, being shown by many of our public leaders. This includes one person in particular.

Simply put, this lack of gratitude trickles down ( much more so than any tax cuts!) to the general population and we end up with ugly attitudes permeating our daily life.

Gratitude becomes boastful self-aggrandizement.

Respect is replaced by disrespect and denigration.

Courage becomes cowardice.

Loyalty becomes a transaction where one’s loyalty is given only for as long as the other person remains useful.

Empathy devolves into a mocking of the shortcomings and weaknesses of others.

Responsibility and honor becomes irresponsibility and dishonor. Trust turns to distrust.

Graces becomes disgrace.

And honesty?

Honesty has turned into a sort of mythological creature, like the Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster– seldom seen and shocking when it finally shows itself. Dishonesty becomes the accepted norm and we lose the ability to recognize the lies from the truth.

We become a nation of liars, a land without virtue or honor.

It doesn’t have to continue in this way. We are a nation based for centuries on its virtues, always moving towards doing what is right, no matter the cost. We can reclaim that. We can be a country of virtue.

It all starts with simple gratitude.

Be thankful for all that you have. Express it in your words and, more importantly, in your actions.

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“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” 

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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I thought for this installment of Gratitude Week, I would start with the quote above from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

The name might be familiar. I featured him a post last year, On Stupidity, that has been pretty popular, consistently getting quite a few views each week. He was the German pastor who spoke out against the Nazi regime throughout the 1930’s, later being sent to a concentration camp before being sent to his death on the gallows in the last days of the war. On Stupidity described the sort of blatant ignorance that led to the rise of the Nazis and seems to exist here today in forms. Bonhoeffer also coined the term Cheap Grace which also seems abundant these days. It’s a post that is worth another look.

But the words above from Bonhoeffer offer a different and positive thought, that we receive much more from this life than we ever give in return. Understanding this concept and living with a sense of gratitude gives our lives a richness beyond material wealth.

In that vein, I want to point out that there is a political/economic philosophy that has been out there for some time now, one that has led to the increasing disparity of wealth between those at the top and those in the middle and at the bottom.

It basically labels people as Makers and Takers. In the eyes of those at the top, the Makers are those who control the wealth and means of production and the Takers are everyone else. They believe that no matter how integral a person might be in assisting the Makers amass their wealth, they are only there to take from them.

They see the world as a zero sum scenario where there are only winners and losers. Those at the top are winners and anyone below them are losers. The loser Takers are tools at best to be used in their view. When their usefulness has went away, they are nothing more than dead weight.

It’s a distressing idea, one that I would love to say couldn’t exist, but there is ample evidence to support that this belief is flourishing.

I would like to offer a counter-thought.

In my eyes I see the Makers described above as the real Takers. By doing all they can to gain and gain at the expense of others, they extract joy and compassion from this world, along with dignity,respect, and honor. They take away from the humanity of all people with an extreme selfishness that creates a world of solely winners and losers.

But in my worldview anyone can be a Maker because wealth is not the only factor that makes for a better world. Anyone who acts to better people’s lives is a Maker. Those who inspire, those who teach, those who heal, those who put their own lives on the line to rescue those in harm’s way, those who come to the aid of others in need, those who give what little they have until it strains their budgets, those who volunteer, those who work to least the least among us a voice, those who stand up to power so that our air is clean and our food safe, along with so many others—these are the people who make this world a better place, who bring a sense of dignity to all people.

These are the true Makers. These are the people who create the richness of this world.

Please understand that what you have in this world is the result of being assisted by others. You may be the most fabulous, self-sufficient being in the universe but you have done nothing absolutely on your own.

We are the beneficiaries of the work and care of others.

Let us acknowledge that and be grateful. Be a Maker.

 

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In Gratitude

 

Thanksgiving has long been a favorite holiday of mine. So, for the next few days leading up to that holiday, I thought it might be a good idea to have the blog’s focus be on the subject of gratitude. Instead of Shark Week, it’s kind of like Gratitude Week on the Art Channel. To start, I am running a post from a couple of years back that deals with the idea of thankfulness.

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True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.

Seneca

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This new painting, which is about 4″ by 15″ is a bit of a rarity. It is done on plain watercolor paper without the benefit of the texture from the gessoed surfaces that I typically use, much like my very earliest works. It was a nice change, reverting to working on the smooth surface of untreated paper. There’s a sense of purity in the way the colors flow on and set to the paper’s surface.

Very clean. Crisp.

I call this piece In Gratitude.

The words at the top from the Roman philosopher Seneca very much capture the spirit of what I see in this painting and aspire to in my own life– to be always conscious of and grateful for that which I do have in my life.

I talk and think a lot about gratitude. Gratitude for where I am in the present moment sets me free from dwelling on the past or fretting about the future, both things out of my hands. Gratitude also makes me recognize the importance of those who have played key roles in my life.

Recognizing that one depends on the help, the love and the recognition of others in their life is a key element in finding a level of contentment in one’s life.

We do nothing totally alone.

I may claim that my work is my creation alone but it is, in fact, a compilation of the interactions of my life with those who I have encountered along the way. They have formed my sight, my perception of this world, and given shape to the hoped-for world that shows itself in my work.

And for that alone, I am so grateful.

So, this seems like a simple small painting but for me it speaks volumes.

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