Who Is Speaking This Hymn of Woven Moon Light?
A Poem of Desire
Dear Wonder Child Blog Readers,
When I first wrote a draft for this poem a couple years ago, I thought it was my soul speaking to the Divine coming in the form of a Moon Goddess. After revising it though I realize I am no longer sure if it is my soul addressing the Divine or the soul of the Divine addressing me.
What do you think?
From behind a veil of shadow and drifting darkness you appear,
dressed in robes of luminous white.
The dark waters of my soul
carries pieces of my broken heart into your lap.
You gather them in your skirts, move silently to the river's edge
and spill them in. And where once there lived fires of grieving
and mountains of suffering,
now the mountains turn into wild horses, shimmering towards the horizon as
an unfolding scroll of revelations and new testaments; and the fires become
flocks of angels swirling in song.
Every night you whisper: I ache to hear your every word, and when you finally
break into whatever it is you long to be, you will see me moving
towards you like wild horses and a flock of angels, and I will lift you up
into myself and hold you as the sky holds the moon,
and we will dream as one as the dawn slowly bathes us
in dazzling light.
A Few Thoughts on What Gratitude Is
And What Happens When We Do Not Feel It
Gratitude is often considered a virtue. For years I agreed with this sentiment. Until, that is, I looked deeper into the etymology of the word virtue. Having researched it a bit, I have come to the conclusion that gratitude is not a virtue at all. Just what I believe it is will be described below. First however, let’s have a quick look-see at what a virtue is.
According to the indispensable Online Etymology dictionary, virtue comes from the Latin, virtutem, which means moral strength, manliness, valor. It comes from the root, vir, meaning “man” from which we get the word virile, which means, manly or heroic.
You can probably see from these definitions, why I think gratitude is not a virtue. Gratitude has nothing whatsoever to do with “manliness” (whatever that is, really), nor with valor or strength. It’s not heroic either. Sure we sometimes have a hard time “feeling” grateful for one thing (event, situation, person, experience, etc.) or another, and sometimes we try to force ourselves to feel grateful even when we don’t feel it, but that doesn’t make it “manly.”
A lot is said and written about gratitude. From Oprah to nearly every other self-help, spiritual, psychological writer or speaker, everyone extols the benefits of feeling, practicing, and expressing gratitude. And underneath many of these experts of gratitude runs a thin (and sometimes wide) stream of guilt and shame for those who don’t get it or feel it. I think this is partially because most people confuse gratitude, the action, with gratitude, the feeling.
What is gratitude if it isn’t a virtue? And what do we do if we don’t feel it sometimes, especially on days like today, Thanksgiving?
Gratitude is related to the word grace (ibid) and means good will, elegance, to sing, to praise, to give thanks. These are actions, not feelings. When I am living my truth—my dreams and desires, or working towards them, then I will automatically express gratitude in how I live; how I take care of my life; how I treat myself and those around me; how I speak, how I act, regardless of how I’m feeling. When I am in a healthy place of self-love and loving you then my movements towards myself and you will be graceful, elegant, like little dances; they will be full of praise for you and me, and the sky, the trees, the ocean; I will naturally be polite, express manners towards you and myself—basic, human decencies will be there just as my heartbeat is there. And this way of being can happen regardless of circumstances or environment because it isn’t a feeling.
But what about gratitude, the feeling? What happens when we take grateful actions but still don’t feel very grateful?
We are trained in society to think there is a problem when we’re not feeling grateful. We feel guilty, less than, like we’re doing something wrong by not feeling something others, or our high-perfectionistic-standards think we should be.
Yet to feel grateful all the time is as unrealistic as feeling sad all the time, angry all the time, happy, ashamed, joyful, silly, guilty, etc. Feelings were not built to last. They come in waves. Of course we can seek out experiences, songs, people, art, and so on, which help us feel more of the feelings we like and, in and of itself, there is nothing wrong with that--if however we do not consider it a moral failing for not feeling something we think we should be feeling. I guess that’s where gratitude has come to be referred to as a virtue—a manly thing. We are supposed to feel it and if we don’t work hard to feel it—just like the outdated and potentially dangerous “male” work ethic; the one that says “never stay in your comfort zone (more on that in another post).” But we can no more practice feeling the emotion of gratitude than we can practice feeling sad. We can practice taking actions of gratitude however. We can practice what to do (and not do) once we’re feeling a certain emotion, but feelings cannot be made to manifest on order. We can invite them in, but they are like spirits, they come and go as they will.
But Joseph, you say, it’s Thanksgiving. We’re supposed to feel grateful. Are you suggesting we shouldn’t feel grateful or express our thanks for our many blessings?
Of course not, what I am saying is we can express our thanks by how we live and treat ourselves and those around us on a day to day basis. When we treat ourselves and others with class, love, respect, kindness, manners, dignity, grace, humor, mercy, sweetness, strength, empathy, and so on—not just with a card and a turkey dinner, we are expressing gratitude regardless of how it feels. Live from a place of grace. Live from a place of self-love and of living your dreams. Gratitude, the action, is about learning to gracefully give and gracefully receive blessings. And gratitude, the feeling, will come when it will, and, in my experience it does come, and yes, it goes too. I have learned not to be too excited when it arrives nor too concerned when it leaves. Perhaps it’s simply sharing itself with someone else after having been touched by the hospitality of your heart.
To close, gratitude is both a way of artful living and a feeling. Gratitude, the action, manifests when we are responsible for our own lives and thus, when we are able to both give the gifts of ourselves and receive the gifts of, and from, others. It manifests because we create it with our actions. Gratitude, the feeling, is wonderful, and yet, will come and go like all other feelings. The trick is not to panic when it isn’t being felt as warm and fuzzily (is that a word?) as we’d like and to keep taking grateful actions even if the feeling isn't there.
This Thanksgiving, let there be no shame in feeling or not feeling any human emotions. Let us simply be who we are: human beings trying to live as best we can. Let us give and receive the blessings of who we are and let the grace of the One flow through us all.
The Fullness of Being Known
The Story of Pathos, Sympathy, and Empathy
Once upon a time there was a sorrowful star named Pathos. He was always suffering and lamenting one thing or another; everything was a drama—real dramas as well as manufactured ones. And often the manufactured ones caused him more acute suffering than the so-called real ones. Things just didn’t seem to go his way much of the time and as a result he lived a life of constant sorrow.
One day, an angel named Sympathy alighted at his side and sat so still that he became like a pond that reflected what Pathos was feeling. Pathos rose and began doing one of his daily, majestic, tragic dances. Sympathy rose and matched him step for step. Pathos smiled the first smile he had smiled in ages as he watched Sympathy mirror and shadow his dance of tears. After a few minutes however, the angel Sympathy vanished without a word into a sphere of light and was gone.
Pathos sat back down in the garden of a million stars and sighed. He felt better. He felt alive—seen. No one had ever seen him like that before. But within a day or so he was back to his suffering and lamenting. It was then that another angel appeared.
This one was named Empathy, and she moved like the morning--gracefully and subtly, with ever deepening gestures. She moved closer and closer to Pathos and as she did Pathos felt like he was being perfumed with the fragrances of lavender and amber. Gradually Empathy moved so close to Pathos that she slipped inside his heart and began feeling what he was feeling. When Pathos rose to dance, Empathy was in his shoes, in his limbs, in his blood and bones. Pathos felt exhilarated. Sympathy seemed to know what he was feeling, but in a reflected sort of way—and that was a wonderful experience in and of itself, for many people don’t ever experience such a thing. But Empathy—Empathy knew him, knew why and how he felt; it was a knowing of identification, for Empathy had, at one time or another, gone through what Pathos was going through. It was an intimacy Pathos had never known before. And so when Empathy finally told him she had to go back to her abode of illuminated darkness, Pathos was understandably distraught.
She took Pathos by the hand and said: “Fear not, we are now one. I have left a little of my light within you, and you have given me a little of yours. We will forever know one another. We will forever be joined by the bonds of sharing both suffering and joy. And if you want to feel me shining within you brighter than ever, then pass my light along to someone else.” And with those words, Empathy vanished like swirling vapor into the moonlit sky.
Pathos stood alone once again. He looked around his world, his stage of drama, and slowly, carefully, with a heart full of being known and touched, began crafting his next scene.